Life, for the most part, is full of the mundane, the obvious, the expected. We go about our daily routines, get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, go to work or school, take care of the kids, make dinner, clean up, go to bed. Repeat. It is easy to become complacent, to take it for granted, to complain about the little things without realizing what a blessing ordinary really is.
And then, in the blink of an eye, everything changes. We are jolted out of our reverie, forced to reevaluate, well, everything, and sometimes just get down on our knees and thank God we are still alive.
Our wake up call happened Friday morning.
One minute we were driving on I-75 just, just north of Gainsville, excited to be starting what was meant to be a two-week road trip around the midwest, and laughing at the trailer full of cute little pigs we had just seen rolling down the freeway.
The next minute it was pouring down rain and we watched in horror as the car just ahead of us spun out of control, hitting two other cars. There wasn’t time to stop. I tried to maneuver to the side but a cement barrier prevented me from driving off the road. There was no place to go, and no way to avoid the semi truck straight ahead. We were going to crash.
That split second before we hit seemed to last an eternity. I remember thinking I guess this is it. We’re going to die now. Oh please God let my babies be okay.
My brain has blocked out the moment of impact and I can’t actually remember the airbags going off, or the Jeep hitting us from behind, or even feeling any pain. I do remember realizing I wasn’t dead, smelling smoke, and hearing the terrifying sound of cars still crashing into each other all around us.
I heard both my girls screaming and felt relief and adrenaline pour into me. My only concern was for my kids and getting them to safety. I remember being confused that the car was talking to me, asking me questions, wanting to know if everyone was okay. The Bluetooth function had automatically dialed 911. I couldn’t answer any questions. All I could do was scream help us, just please help us!
Both girls were crying that their bellies hurt and immediately my mind flashed to every horror story I had ever heard of kids and seatbelt injuries and internal bleeding. Within minutes we were all safely in the ambulance on our way to the hospital.
As it turns out, they were fine. Severely shaken, with some bumps & mean-looking bruises, but otherwise unaffected. Husband and I were both diagnosed with cervical sprains–otherwise known as whiplash–but our x-rays and CT scans came out clear and in a week or so we should be good as new.
But a miracle changes you.
I realized several important truths on Friday.
I am ready for the end
In that split-second just before impact, when I knew we were about to crash and there was nothing I could do about it, I realized I wasn’t scared. I felt a strange sort of peace and sense of calm that could only come from knowing that my last day on this earth is only the beginning of my eternal life in Christ.
That same morning, perhaps an hour before the accident, Trouble had out of the blue started talking about God:“Mama, God died on the cross for you and for me.” “Yes honey, I know. Do you know why God did that?” “Because he loves us SO much.”
We are saved by a most gracious and loving God. When we die, we will go to heaven. When that happens, we will rejoice. We are SO grateful to still be here today, but we are ready to go tomorrow.
We are blessed by an amazing circle of family & friends
Less than five minutes after the crash, for some inexplicable reason, I took a picture of our car and posted it to Instagram and Facebook with a request for prayer. At the time, scared as I was, my only thought was we need to somehow let people know what has happened and we need prayer.
Our friends & family stepped up in a way that we couldn’t even begin to imagine, doing everything they could to help us from afar. They helped us find our car (there were so many accidents on I-75 on Friday that the state patrol actually lost track of our car for most of the day), a place to stay (University of Florida graduation meant that every hotel in Gainesville was booked solid), a way back to Punta Gorda, and then even had dinner waiting for us when we finally made it home. They called and texted and emailed and prayed and surrounded us with so much love we were simply overwhelmed by it all.
There are many times where I take the people in our life for granted, where I nitpick the little things that bug me and forget how fortunate we are to have so many people who truly care. We are blessed beyond measure. I don’t ever want to forget that.
Kindness is everywhere
Every single person we came into contact with on Friday was extraordinarily kind. From the paramedics who went out of their way to make the long ambulance ride as comfortable as possible to the hospital staff who refused to separate us, even when it meant changing up their normal protocol. There were the highway patrol officers who offered to do anything possible to help us get our stuff out of our car even though the impound lot would be closed until Monday and a hotel manager who gave us a discount on the room even though they were fully booked. When Chuck walked to Publix from the hotel that evening to fill our prescriptions, the pharmacy tech actually took the time to drive him back herself, just so he wouldn’t have to walk the whole way back in the rain.
People can be mean and selfish and impatient and rude and it is easy to get jaded. On Friday we saw the other side of human nature, the side that is kind, considerate, and selfless. We were cared for in so many ways by people who owed us nothing.
Stuff is just stuff
There wasn’t a single moment during our ordeal that I felt even the smallest bit of concern over the stuff we had probably lost in the accident. I didn’t care that our suitcases were probably destroyed or that my beloved camera had been in the trunk as well. It simply didn’t matter. Even when we went to the hotel and had to sleep in our clothes with no toothbrushes or even any shoes for Trouble, it didn’t matter. We were alive. My children were safe. Everything else was irrelevant.
It doesn’t matter why
It’s hard not ask what if? What if we hadn’t made that 45 minute stop in Gainesville? What if we hadn’t switched drivers? What if I had stopped at that last Starbucks instead of deciding to wait until Valdosta? What if we had gotten on the road earlier in the morning? What if we would’ve stayed in a hotel closer to the freeway? Would we have avoided the crash?
But the what ifs go the other way too. What if we would’ve been hit from the side instead of front and back? What if we wouldn’t have had our seatbelts on? What if we wouldn’t have slowed down as much as we did? What if we wouldn’t have swerved to miss the first impact? Would we be sitting here today?
The day after the accident, as the girls tried to process what had happened and as the reality sunk in, Trouble kept asking “why?” Why didn’t that truck move out of the way, Mama? Why did we have to crash? Why was that car going so fast? Why didn’t you slow down? Why mama? Why?
We had to explain that sometimes bad things just happen, and we don’t know why. Sometimes bad things happen and there is nothing we can do except accept it, find the good within the bad, and move on. Yes, we crashed and we had to cancel our vacation and we won’t get to see our friends or Auntie Linda and yes, we might be a little sore for a while, but we are alive. We walked away.
When I look at the pictures of our car and know that my two precious girls were sitting in that glass-covered seat, the one that was actually pushed forward by the Jeep that ended up in our trunk, and yet realize they walked away without a scratch, I am completely humbled by God’s mercy. There is not a doubt in my mind that angels were watching over us that day, and I am so thankful. A dorky neck brace and a postponed vacation is such a small price to pay.
The why is not for us to know; all we can do is move forward.
We choose gratitude.
Thank you, dear Lord, for keeping our family safe.