I don’t know who she was. I don’t know her name, age or where she was going that sunny Saturday noon. But a few nights ago I was told that she, an unsuspecting passenger in the car that hit mine that Saturday — died. I had wondered, in the days since, if she and the driver, not much older than I, were alright given the force of the crash. The truth did not set me free, if indeed I had needed it. Instead, her death hit hard and I grieved for a woman I never knew, who was merely a bit player in a sad, now deadly scenario.
I should be used to life’s wayward swings, its errant pendulum. How else could I explain the crazy things that happen in mine and everyone’s life? Could there another explanation for why, leaving my husband for just an hour, I came home to find him dead of an embolism? Was it his crazy luck of the draw or mine; God’s ‘plan’ or the universe blinking? Whichever way we toss the cards, we’ll never get to hold a full house for long. Even if we get a straight flush in our grasp, none of us hold on to it forever.
Accidents don’t come with a bell around its neck.
When I envision that fateful day, just 3 weeks ago, I wonder what might have changed the trajectory of each of our fates. Maybe I could have browsed longer for gifts or took another route home. The mom driving the car behind me, could have taken the kids that usually sat in the empty car seats instead of likely leaving them with her husband so she could run some quick errands. And the car barreling toward both of us? What put them on that road, in the wrong lane and speeding without slowing down. Were they going to visit friends, grandchildren, even an early movie? All I know is that something went terribly wrong that noon hour and a woman is dead because of it. The driver? I have to think a spirit is broken, and a heart is heavier than the weight of all three of the cars.
Just one moment can change everything. A momentary lapse in judgment or ability can happen and, in a blink of an eye, something irrevocable happens. That kind of realization can cause a mighty kick in the gut.
After now five whiplashes, my neck has been around the block but luckily, it’s still here holding up my head. Sure, like a trick knee or a back that aches on humid days, it reminds me it’s very annoyed. Still, I can hardly complain. Through these many, many years of driving, I’ve had a few fender benders. Haven’t we all? I used to joke that there must be a bulls eye on my bumper that invited the whiplash causing fender benders. This time my neck was the least of problems. This time the accident was no laughing matter.
One day your heart will stop beating and none of your fears will matter. What will matter is how you lived. Henri Junttila
Miraculously, I’m still here. Everything is in working order (well, as good as it gets for Boomers) and all the parts are still intact. I can’t help but wonder why I was so very, very lucky, or is luck even part of the equation? As I sat watching coverage of the Harvey and Irma epic hurricane destruction unleashed on Texas, the Caribbean, Florida, it’s easy to be reminded that we are not in charge. Again and again, we see reminders of life’s crazy, indifferent pendulum. Who survived the deep waters, winds, earthquake? Whose house will be left standing when the hurricanes are a wrap?
Be Thankful for another day. You’re blessed to be alive.
This week I hopefully will return my rental and buy, once again, a new but still wild electric blue replacement car. (Hey, I barely got to break in the one year old original ‘blueberry’!) As I wind up insurance claims, corral my wallet toward unforeseen out of pocket expenses, I carry disparate emotions of gratitude, fear and sorrow. It’s hard to dismiss the nameless, faceless, mortally injured passenger from my mind. The view of the three totaled cars, side by side in the tow yard, is still fresh in my mind. The otherworldly sound of metal pounded against metal ignites amazement that anyone survived that hideously demolished black car.
Now I know one didn’t.
I’m probably going to be grappling with emotional fallout of this unforeseen event for a bit. After trauma, we all (admit it or not) are uncomfortably reminded again of life’s capriciousness. We get an unwanted injection of fear in whatever form it takes and a string of ‘what if’s’ repeat in our brain. Yet, what are our choices? Sure, I can remain a wuss about getting back on an actual bike again, knowing I haven’t ridden since I was 14 and now a wipeout would result in a lot more than scraped knees. Ouch.
Getting back into a car isn’t even a question. I was actually behind the wheel the very next day, despite being wary that another errant Christine-like car (remember that movie) would be in my sights. I guess that’s part of trauma fallout. Yet, if there’s one thing I know, from being a single mom, a partner to someone with cancer, then grappling with his death and widowhood – if you can’t beat fear, do it scared.
At some point, anyone who survives near-misses, lost young children or siblings, wonders ‘why them and not me’? Given the crash happened so close to the restaurant my husband took us every year for Mother’s Day, I want to believe his spirit shoved me out of certain death that day. I wasn’t my mother’s favorite, but I’d like to think she had a hand as well in saving her oldest daughter from certain death. Or maybe, just maybe, my kid brother, deprived of every age past 19, wanted me to see my granddaughter’s wedding next year.
That all might all sound a little woo-woo, but I prefer to believe that love is just that strong.