Life I'd hesitate to write off 2014 as some kind of annus horribilus: like most years, it has had its share of ups and downs. Among the good: last week the first of my close friends had a baby, and he is perfect. I put my name down for a house which, all being well, we'll be moving into in the first few months of next year. I saw Beyoncé, Neutral Milk Hotel and Weakerthans frontman John K Samson live for the first time. I volunteered at the 20th Commonwealth Games, and voted for my country's independence (the less said about the morning after, the better). I discovered eyebrow threading. My husband got another book deal, and I made enough money writing about the music I love (something which I've never allowed myself to view as a career choice) to pay a substantial amount of tax for the first time. With the exception of a few colds, a particularly serious bout of anxiety/depression and a tendency to fall over in public while completely sober at the age of 32, I was relatively healthy.
As you get older, you think you learn to accept the inevitability of death, but (HA! you thought this was a #humblebrag) it turns out you never learn to accept tragedy. And most of the deaths that have affected those closest to me this year have been tragedies. My best friend's stepdad; my husband's uncle's partner. The younger brother of another of my closest friends, over thanksgiving weekend; and, this weekend just gone, one of my mother's best friends from college.
Cameron didn't die, although it's not breaking any confidences (he has admitted as much on his blog) to say that there have been times that he wished that he had. It's barely been three months since I got the call: his girlfriend, my incredible sister, telling me that there had been an accident. He had been driving to work on a Friday morning when he came off the road, between Montrose and Stonehaven in the north-East of Scotland, and went into a house. He had 37 broken bones and severe spinal cord damage, and would be paralysed from the chest down.
Last weekend, my sister put on a surprise birthday party she had organised for Cameron in the Scottish National Spinal Injuries Unit here in Glasgow, where he's been since the day after the accident. And it was pretty much perfect. Friends came from as far afield as Aberdeen and Stranraer - some of whom hadn't seen Cameron since it happened - and we ordered in pizza and wore Christmas jumpers. I went through his Facebook music likes and made a playlist, and then sneaked on Kelly Clarkson's Christmas single and "Birthday" by Katy Perry so my sister wouldn't get bored. I say "pretty much" perfect because nobody plans to spend his 32nd birthday in a back-brace getting used to an NHS-issue wheelchair, but as the new normal goes it was a really good day.
I would guess that, from reading the above, you're now expecting my "one thing" to be some heartfelt message of peace and joy, about being thankful for what you have and making the most of every day (Cam has, after all, raised about £5,000 now for Spinal Injuries Scotland following a joke about "going sober for October" in an alcohol-free hospital ward). But the truth is it's still too raw, and it doesn't make any of us terrible people if we can't perpetually conform to the "good cripple" narrative or allow ourselves some time to seethe with bitterness about how unfair it all is. Instead, I'd like to give you something practical I learned at a recent "family information day" hosted by the Spinal Injuries Unit:
The human body is, as Fiona Apple put it, an extraordinary machine, and it has ways of communicating to those with spinal cord injuries when something is wrong and needs attention: a blocked catheter, for example, or a burn or severe sore. Autonomic hyperreflexia is a potentially life-threatening reaction to this sort of crisis: symptoms can include high blood pressure at the point above the spinal cord injury, pounding headaches, profuse sweating and flushing. If it occurs, it is a medical emergency and must immediately be treated. And it's something I had never heard of until about four weeks ago.
Despite how terrifying the condition sounds, I find a strange comfort in the fact that the nervous system is still looking after you even when it's no longer functioning - of course, it helps that all being well it's something I'll never have to suffer from. Perhaps that is a way of being grateful for what you have.
You can follow Lis on Twitter @lastyearsgirl_. This is her blog.