When I look back at my life thus far I see so many happy moments, like in junior high when I met my husband Scotty and knew almost that very second that he was the one I wanted to spend my life with, or the day I looked my son Grady in the eyes for the first time and knew that being a mom would be my greatest adventure yet. I could fill a book with memories of those sweet days. Then there are those moments that are just as impactful, but are far darker, the ones that can bring tears to our eyes even to recall them. One of those moments was when I got the call that my husband had been severely wounded by a suicide car bomb while serving as an Infantry Platoon Leader in Iraq. Even though I was filled with uncertainty in those first few moments, the one thing I did know was that my life would never be the same.
God spared Scotty from death, but he did lose his eyesight. The plans we had dreamt up for our life went out the window and I had to quit my nursing job to take care of him. The first couple of months were filled with so much pain, taking sole responsibility for Scotty’s care was overwhelming and lonely and it was hard not to let the hopelessness and doubt take over.
I remember one awful day at the hospital, shortly after Scotty’s injury. He had been whisked off several times for scans and tests; he was experiencing terrible headaches, and on top of that, he was coming to grips with the fact that his world was going to be forever black. On this day, Scotty had been very mean to me, telling me he did not need me and asked me why I kept coming back every day. He eventually just told me to get the hell out. So I left. As I was walking out of the hospital doors, I remember thinking I had lost it all. I’d quit my nursing job and Scotty was on the fast track to being medically retired and labeled a “disabled veteran,” and we would both be jobless.
How could I work if I was caring for him? Images of drunk homeless veterans begging for money kept creeping in my mind. Was that going to be our new life? Were we about to be homeless, with no future, no kids, no joy and no happiness?
As I stepped outside and began my journey to my tiny hotel room, I walked behind the hospital generators which were buzzing so loudly I could barely hear myself think. I was breathing in the cold crisp air; someone could have been lurking around the corner, but I didn’t care. I was fearless in regards to my own life since I had essentially lost it. I was slowly dying with Scotty. But as I looked up at the moon and the stars shining so brightly, I shouted in my own head.
“This will not define me!” It was a tiny step, but I had to start somewhere. I told myself this situation will not define me and that I was going to choose another way for us. The darkness of despair had already taken Scotty and I could feel it pulling me in, too, but I was not going to let it. I was going to choose a different path. I had to.
Through the next two years Scotty and I started the road to his recovery. It was hard and exhausting, but little by little we started to see hope again. About this time we received news I was pregnant. I was battling feelings of total inadequacy. The thought that maybe we should not even have kids was always in the back of my mind. We had hardly survived our new life as it was. I was worried about what people would think of us: maybe it was our burden to carry, maybe we didn’t deserve kids? I worried about things that most new moms don’t have to think about like, how the heck are we getting to the hospital and back home? If I need something or have an emergency, my husband cannot just go out and run an errand for me, so what would we do?
I remember May 11, 2007 well. I started having painful contractions, and my due date was not until May 28. My mom wasn’t scheduled to fly out and help us for a couple weeks, but little Grady had a different idea. Scotty was right there to catch him. With tears in his eyes he picked up our new little boy and breathed in his scent. In that very moment I knew Scotty would be a great father and that I would have the strength to be the mother my boys needed.
On that terrible day, Scotty wasn’t the only one who lost his eyesight. Scotty’s blindness became my blindness and together we have navigated life with one set of eyes. I had no idea how to navigate a world of blindness, but the beauty is that I didn’t need to. All those dark days made me stronger than I ever imagined, all those defining moments gave me purpose and a strength that could only be possible by going through what we’ve been through. My journey has taught me that there is always hope, there is always a reason to persevere and there is always joy to be found.
Born and raised in Pasco, Washington, Tiffany attended Whitworth University with a bachelor in science in nursing (BSN) in 2004. Scotty and Tiffany founded Hope Unseen, LLC, to help assist women in similar situations. Tiffany has appeared on Fox News, CBS, CNN, the Katie Couric Show and multiple radio and newspaper articles. Tiffany travels around the U.S. speaking to groups about her experience and Hope Unseen.