I often say there are three things that will get you through any dark time: The presence of good and wise God, the support of caring people, and a sense of humor that refuses to quit.
I desperately need all three on a cold, dark night as an oncoming car swerves into my lane.
At the sight of impending disaster, the emotional right side of my brain becomes an instant Christian Scientist and shouts, “I don’t want to believe this is happening, therefore it is not real.” The logical left side of my brain screams, “MAY DAY! MAY DAY! Immediate evasive maneuvers required.”
I yank my steering wheel to the right, assuming the driver will correct and get back into their lane. I am so wrong.
I don’t scream. I don’t even pray. It happens fast and the impact is shocking. My windshield cracks into glass spiderwebs. The airbags deploy and mine slugs me in the face then deflates like a popped balloon.
I take a few seconds to gather my wits. Although my right hand aches and my nose hurts, there’s no blood worth mentioning and I doubt any bones are broken. My vehicle seems to have no immediate plans to host a BBQ dinner with me as the main course, so I’m all business. it’s the one way I can be in control in a very out of control situation. My action plan is as follows.
- Check on the other driver whose SUV flipped onto its side. Okay, scrap that idea. My driver door won’t open.
- Grope in the dark for my purse. Find it on the floor on the passenger side. Fish for my cell phone in that purse–a daunting task under the best of circumstances.
The other driver scrambles out of her vehicle, sits down on the side of the road with her cell phone in hand.
- Locate phone. Dial 911. The dispatcher figures out where we are by the location of my cell phone call since I can’t remember the name of the road. I hang up after she tells me the cavalry is on the way.
- Open my glove compartment and pull out my registration, and current insurance. I totally forget my driver’s license but grab the paper for blood work my endocrinologist wants six months from now. Oh yes, and the audio book from the local library. If it were destroyed in the auto accident the library would probably still make me pay for a replacement.
For one second, I entertain the irrational thought that I should gather the empty plastic bags from my lunch at a local sandwich shop. Yup! Gotta make sure the car is clean before you haul it to the junkyard. The front half of the hood is ripped away and parts of it are strewn all over the road but what’s left really should be run through the carwash.
The distant wail of a fire station alarm cuts through the air and I know it’s for us. I often pray for the victims when I hear that sound. I hope someone is praying now because, to my shame, I’m forgetting.
Emergency vehicles of all types soon populate the scene, their flashing lights illuminating the carnage. Radios crackle and beep. My world becomes the inside of my shattered car. I’m asked if I’m injured, was I drinking, on any meds? Do I remember what happened? I try not to take offense at some of the questions. They’re only following protocol.
They all seem friendly and kind though, rather than impersonal like, “Let’s just get this job done so we can have a burger and a beer and watch some early season football.”
At one point, an officer informs me that the other driver had fallen asleep behind the wheel, causing her to swerve into my lane. I feel sorry for her, thinking about all the times I’ve been drowsy while driving. There but for the grace of God and all. But at least I’m the innocent victim so I’ll soak up all the sympathy I can get.
They aren’t too keen on the idea of me crawling over my center console and out through the passenger side so the Fire Rescue boys whip out their handy-dandy tools and go to work. A firefighter retrieves a blanket from the ambulance, drapes it over my head and tells me to turn away from the door–they may need to break the window. Yes, thanks. My choice of hairstyle will never include embedded glass shards and my face appreciates the precaution. He stays and talks, obviously to provide moral support. I could have done fine by myself–I’m used to going through emotional hell all alone. But he is kind of cute so there’s one small compensation for a complete bummer of a night.
Before long, I am shaking. Cutie asks me if it’s because of the cold or nerves. Ahhhhhh, take a guess, buddy. You’re the first responder here. Whatever happened to wrapping blankets around victims to keep them warm and calm?
When they shatter the window, I cringe. It only takes them maybe fifteen minutes tops to pry the door open but it seems like forever. The blanket comes off and I crawl out to find a whole bunch of firefighters standing around watching like a field full of silent cows staring blankly. I could invent a new joke. How many firefighters does it take to get one person out of a wreck? Answer: Two or three plus the one providing aid inside the car. The rest just stand around watching the spectacle because it’s more exciting than playing computer games. I can almost hear their conversation.
“Twenty bucks says she’ll fall over. She looks old.”
“$15 bucks say she’ll start crying.”
“I hate it when they cry. Never know what to do with a crying woman.”
“Don’t worry. The EMTs can take care of her. We just get ‘em out.”
“Wonder if she wants that little stuffed dog on the back seat. It would look great on the dash of our ladder truck.”
I could have done improv comedy right there. “Hi guys. Thanks for coming to my party. I usually don’t start this late or arrive in such a dramatic fashion. Sorry there’s no food. Hey, I see you all shop at the same store. Nice coats. Was there overstock, maybe a huge clearance sale? And the helmets are great. You guys are really happenin.”!
As soon as I climb out the nearest firefighter grabs me by the arms and hangs on. He’s obviously unsure I can stand under my own power and would rather hold me up then pick me up. Am I feeling any dizziness? he asks. No, I’m fine. Just let me get away from this circus.
By now, I’m so cold and tense that even my butt cheeks are quivering. If I had excess fat to get rid of (my deepest apologies to ladies who eat one stick of celery and instantly jump one dress size ) I wouldn’t need a machine to vibrate it off–just hang out here for an hour.
A portly EMT introduces himself and wants to know how I feel. Given the appearance of my car, he recommends I go to the hospital and get checked out. But the last thing I want to do is sit in the ER all night only to have them determine what I already know– that all I have is sprained hand and a couple of bruises. So I need to sign their official, “We need to save ourselves from a lawsuit if the victim refuses treatment,” form.
At least the ambulance is someplace warm. I climb inside and sit down on the bench across from the gurney. The gurney looks narrow and I wonder how they transport really overweight people? I wisely keep my mouth shut due to the size of the EMT that escorted me.
He asks me some standard questions to make sure I am coherent. What day is it? Where am I? What’s my birthdate? Who is the president of the United States? By this time, my older brother arrives, knocks on the ambulance door and enters. I called him for a ride home. He’s probably going to begin a husband hunt for me within the next twenty-four hours. After all, over the past four years, he’s had to bail me out from more situations than I care to remember –most of which were beyond my control. Since he’s also been helping my widowed mother for the past thirteen months, he’s probably begging God for another adult male addition to the family. Well, so am I but that’s another subject entirely.
A second EMT takes my vitals–my pulse is 94–is it any wonder? The first EMT makes a quick call to an ER doc to get their okay on me not coming in and it’s finished. I’m released and on my way home.
I don’t sleep at all that night.
I doubt I could have died in that car crash. Given a different angle of impact, however, I could certainly have been seriously injured. Why was I in the wrong place at the wrong time? Maybe God tried to warn me to not leave work early so I’d miss the accident but I didn’t listen. If I had been badly hurt, would I still be praising His goodness? I don’t know but I hope so. But in the days since the accident, I have seen His provision and grace and realized anew my wealth of blessing. And I have been so thankful for His help and protection that dark, cold night.
What would I have seen in the angelic realm had my spiritual eyes been opened? Did the Father’s hands hold me? Did angels cushion the impact? I don’t have all the answers but I do know there is no place, no situation other than hell itself where we are outside of God’s wise and powerful presence. If our lives are His, nothing can separate us from His love, not even death itself.
My heart goes out to those who’ve not been as fortunate as I was, who wonder where God was in their situation. I shudder to imagine the horror and anguish some people have endured and my deepest sympathies go out to them.
But if we can sense the love, grace and presence of God woven in, over, and around our darkest moments, fears will diminish. Despair is held at bay, and joy and peace, even laughter can wash over the pain.