True North

As I reflect on what might be meaningful to share about my kids’ recovery, I realize how much the incredible support we’ve received has impacted us. Over time, the extremes of their progress seem to moderate, becoming less pronounced from day to day. However, both Jennifer and I are sensing an underlying change within ourselves—a sentiment that can be summed up as “nothing will ever be the same.”

For example, Lauren is steadily improving but struggles with immediate and long term plans: which college to choose, which path to take, and whether to take a gap year. These decisions might seem straightforward from a father’s (perhaps overly involved) perspective. Yet, as the fourth Bramscher child through the “Craig and Jennifer parenting machine,” we’ve increasingly emphasized encouraging our kids to be good people and independent, rather than following a specific path. These paths are never easy, even if passion and enthusiasm can enrich and drive the experience. The traditional push to earn a degree, secure a job, and become self-sustaining seems more complicated now, especially since COVID has altered this generation’s roadmaps.

Reflecting on my upbringing in the ’70s, I’ve always been a hard worker, juggling multiple jobs and struggling with taking time off to nourish the soul. My focus, once married, has always been on being a good provider and father. However, the accident has shifted my perspective on the past, my goals, and my ambitions.

Lately, I’ve spent more time looking at old photos and videos, especially from the era when the first iPhone put a camera constantly in our hands. One haunting realization is how often I’m missing from these family memories—not because I was the photographer, but because I was too stressed or buried in work. There are poignant memories of spending holidays abroad for business while my family celebrated at home—Thanksgiving dinners in London and China, and Christmas in New York, all experienced by my family only through photos.

It’s said that many people when facing the end of their lives, don’t ever regret a business endeavor or accomplishment but regret the time not spent on experiences and simply more time spent with family and friends. This overwhelming shift in focus makes me feel as though part of me died that day of the accident. It forced me into a perspective where nothing else mattered, and I would have done anything to trade places with my children to ensure they had full lives ahead.

Yet, something was also born that day—an opportunity and perspective that I hope to illuminate for myself and maybe model a new, improved behavior and perspective. Perhaps, reflecting on this, it’s the other way around. Maybe my kids have a much better perspective and priority. Would my children have preferred me to be home more, even if it meant having less? The thought pains me, suggesting there’s truth in it.

So, while I intended to write about them, this has turned into a reflection on my own life. The ordeal my children endured is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. However, I do wish everyone could experience stepping outside their lives to reassess what truly matters. It’s easy to let years slip by without consciously adjusting your true north, or even realizing you’ve lost sight of where you left the compass.

At its simplest, I hope you take the time to be with your loved ones. Let them know, as corny as it may sound, how much you appreciate them, love them, that you support them in their path, and that they will not wander far from their true north. And if you can’t change a little bit today, ask for their patience and forgiveness for any time they haven’t been your top priority, because, in reality, they probably are—you’ve just been caught up in doing what you believe is best for them and your family.

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