Every year, around the time of David’s accident, we invite our family and friends to come out to our home for a big party. The purpose of this party is to celebrate the fact that David survived despite the fact that doctors gave him a 125% chance of dying, to tell our friends and family “Thank You” for encouraging us, praying for us and supporting us through the tough times, and to thank God for all He has done in our lives. Every year this party has a different theme. We’ve had a western party, a disco Stayin’ Alive party, a Hawaiian luau, an 80’s party, a Mexican fiesta, a Super hero party, a pirate party… You name it, we’ve probably had it over the past seventeen years. (And if you ever need party decorations, check with us because they’re probably up in our attic!)
Back in August of 2000, David and I were kinda dreading the upcoming first anniversary of his accident. We anticipated that with each passing hour, we’d be remembering exactly what we were doing the previous year. We didn’t want to relive the day of his accident, constantly thinking, “Its 11:00am. This time a year ago, David was leaving the house to head to work….It’s 1:00pm. This time a year ago, David was having lunch with his co-workers…Its 1:45pm. This time a year ago, David was climbing a ladder to check a valve…Its 2:00pm. This time a year ago I got the call from the Emergency Room nurse…” You get the idea. So, David and I got to thinking about how we wanted to spend our day on August 20, 2000. We came up with the idea of hosting a party to say thank you to all of the people who had helped our family over the past year. So many people had gone out of their way to do things for us and there was no way to ever repay them. We wanted to show our gratitude. We invited David’s co-workers, our church family, our friends, the EMTs and paramedics who first responded to David’s accident, his doctors, nurses and therapists, our neighbors… the list goes on. And because every good party needs a theme, David wrote a poem titled, “Ode to an Ear,” highlighting the fact that he lost his right ear in the days after his accident. Our adult Sunday School Class gave us a plastic ear and we placed it in a prominent place in the entryway of our home, in a small wooden coffin. David’s boss brought a big cake that the baker had decorated with an ear and flames. Tacky, I know. But humor has always been a part of our healing process and this was our way of dealing with our situation.
We had a wonderful day, celebrating all that God had brought our family through and the many people He brought into our lives to love and support us in our darkest times. Instead of a day filled with dread and discouragement, we had a fun-filled day, filled with laughter and love.
That’s how our annual Celebration of Life parties got their start. The parties have evolved over the years. Early on, we used to ask our guests to bring toiletry items and we assembled care packages that we supplied to several burn units across the country. These bags were given to family members who found themselves staying in the waiting rooms with only the clothes on their backs. We wanted to offer a form of comfort and encouragement to them. Now we ask our guest to make donations to the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. They hold an annual conference for burn survivors and their families and they even have a program designed specifically for kids and families. The money we collect at our party goes directly to providing assistance for families to attend this conference.
This year, we will be celebrating the 17th Anniversary of David’s accident. We’re having an Italian theme. We’ve been busy making meatballs and spaghetti sauce, making decorations and cleaning the house. We’re gearing up for another great day of being able to say “Thank You” to our family and friends and to celebrate the best gift of all…LIFE!