A Very Special Fourth of July

by CJFosdick on July 2, 2011

July 4, 2000: I was in intensive care in a hospital, fighting for my life. It wasn’t the first time I had been in intensive care from that terrible accident, and it wouldn’t be the last time, either. From 6:00 till 8:00 P.M. no visitors were allowed in the intensive care wing of the hospital, so my family who had faithfully stayed by my bed for the duration of my healing was out, and I was all by myself. It was July 4th and I wanted them with me. I had something pretty special to celebrate. I was alive.

A nurse came in and she told me the man next door, also in intensive care, wanted to see some fireworks so badly, he was sitting at his window hoping to see some exploding. I wanted to see fireworks, too, but was unable to get up or get to the window, so I lay in bed and wanted my family there to help celebrate this special day. I knew by 8 o’clock when my family would come back, I’d be tired and about ready to go to sleep for the night. It takes a lot of energy to stay alive.

I turned on the TV to keep me company, surfed through some channels, and came across the Boston Pops Orchestra giving a concert for America’s birthday. The old, familiar strains of some of my favorite songs filled the room. I lay there all by myself, and listened to songs like “God Bless America”, “America the Beautiful”, and “Yankee Doodle Dandy”. My sense of happiness grew. I was alive. I was alive! This was the birthday of the country I love so much, and I was alive to enjoy it.

I had lived when everyone expected me to die. I said a silent prayer thanking God for letting me live. I grew more sentimental as I listened to the music, thought of past 4ths of July when I was a child and later. I’d had sixty before this 4th of July of 2000, sixty fun-filled, happy celebrations. They all kind of ran together in my mind. A few stood out like the 4th when my daughter of about eight, got thrown off a horse and got a concussion. She and I spent a quiet 4th in a darkened room, while the rest of the family was at our yearly town celebration. I didn’t mind, because she was okay. Mostly my memories of July 4th involved family, picnics, fireworks, kid’s games, and watermelon.

The enthusiasm of the crowd in Boston attending the concert grew, and my pulse quickened. The orchestra started to play “American Pie” which came after my teen years. I had never seen the movie and had not listened to the song much. But the crowd, stood, started clapping, and singing along with the orchestra. I was caught up in the fervor. The orchestra played it again and I found myself singing along. Considering I had seven broken ribs and two punctured lungs I’m not sure I was singing out loud or just in my mind. However, American Pie has become a favorite of mine. The orchestra  finished by playing the National Anthem. The whole experience cresendoed in my mind over and over, growing louder each time. Thrills ran down my spine. I was alive. Life was wonderful, we were celebrating my country’s birthday, and I was having my own party in intensive care all by myself.

Fireworks over the Charles River exploded on the television and I’m sure oohs and ahhs escaped me as the spectacular visions increased. I rang for the nurse and told her to tell the man next door to turn on his TV to see the fireworks he was yearning to see. I imagined he and I sharing this party, separated only by a wall. I never met the man, I don’t know what was wrong with him. Nor do I even know whether or not he lived. But I do know that he and I shared something special that night. The Roman candles and sky rockets glowed, lingered after the explosions, and slowly faded until finally gone. I could almost imagine the smell of fireworks there in my hospital bed. The bombardments increased. The night sky was filled with grandeur; I was filled with wonder. The final glory was the American Flag. When the last light in the sky finally died, I lay back in my bed. I couldn’t wait to tell my family what a fantastic Fourth of July party I had had. “Happy Birthday, America,” I said. “Thank you God. I’m alive. Thank you.”

The July 4th celebration of this year, 2011, will be my eleventh since I celebrated America’s Birthday in in the hospital. They kind of run together in my mind, days of fun and games and watermelon and fireworks. But one 4th will always stand out in my mind, the one I spent in intensive care, fighting for my life. I am still alive, and the miracle of living still resonates in my mind. I thank God once again for that very special 4th of July when I lived instead of dying.

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