“Miracle Man”

Anthony Riske Counseling miracle man.JPG

What happened that you wanted to observe with ceremony?

Last year Zach (my husband) had a near-fatal rock climbing fall in Moab, Utah. We are avid rock climbers and the fall was a freak accident due to gear failure. Zach went into cardiac arrest during the rescue and survived the helicopter ride to emergency open heart surgery as well as lung contusions, several broken bones, and a traumatic brain injury. Our lives came to a halt on that day and we spent the past year rehabbing and in survival mode. Coming up to one year felt momentous - this accident and ‘miraculous’ survival was a best situation scenario for us. After a few months in the hospital and outpatient rehab caring for Zach I returned to work and he courageously worked his way back to full physical health and brain function and has returned progressively to work as well. Approaching one year felt meaningful to me because I recognized that this could have been a year anniversary of something else…. with me visiting a cemetery. We wanted to intentionally acknowledge how the accident changed us and affected a full year of our lives and marriage and also to appreciate Zach’s amazing survival and recovery within one year.  We asked Anthony to create a ceremony to do so with some of our best friends in a meaningful place. 

What was the ceremony creation like planning with Anthony?

The creation of the ceremony with Anthony was a helpful part of me starting to process everything this past year entailed for me- emotionally, physically, mentally and how it changed me. I was nervous because I had never done a ceremony before but he had all of the concepts and ideas and just told me how to prepare my parts. I was asked to write out some reflections to share and that was really meaningful in giving me the space to process on my own and with Zach the week leading up to the ceremony. Anthony did most of the logistical preparation and it was a wonderful surprise to me and Zach. All of our invited friends participated in a different way that he had prepared with them ahead of time and Anthony guided the ceremony space and allowed it to flow naturally. 

How would you characterize your experience during the ceremony?

I was really nervous leading up to the ceremony. I wanted to get it over with and move on. There was no reason to be nervous, it was a beautiful morning in a perfect setting and is a great memory that we have of how we acknowledged the year mark post-accident. 

The ceremony provided a meaningful event for a dreaded day and brought a lot of joy and relief to us. It was comfortable with Anthony as our facilitator, sometimes we all cried, sometimes we laughed and sometimes there was silence. We were able to express our grief, joy, regrets, and respects to this huge life event. 

Did the ceremony impact you after it was over? how so?

The ceremony provided a great platform for processing how this life event affected Zach and I together and separately because we shared with each other our readings before the day. This was super helpful. It also provided a meaningful way to acknowledge the day, without that it would have felt strange. The symbolism of burying climbing gear, throwing things, burning things, being named, and all of the other parts of the ceremony were also beneficial. I wanted to put an end to a season of life and I think the ceremony assisted us to do that in a way. We have been acknowledging how it was helpful in that way and yet how it didn’t stop the ongoing effects the accident had on our lives altogether and we will continue to work through those with new hope feeling like we made it through part one.