I was out of state at a writer’s retreat. My husband was texting me the lyrics to Dave Matthews’ Crash Into Me, followed by a bouquet of flower emojis. I never responded because I had a migraine, and instead sought the solace of a dark room for 11 hours. The headache clung on, as they so often do, refusing to go away completely until 5 days after.
My writer friends and I left the warmth of the lakeside cabin, and started the long white journey home. The day before, Saturday, we had passed several cars in ditches, and turned around on the side of the road. I, myself, had narrowly missed hitting a deer that ran out in front of me, followed closely by its baby, another baby, and another female deer. Single Moms Unite, I had thought, glad I had been able to stop in time.
I was grateful that the roads were clearer Sunday morning. Not of snow, but of stranded people. Glad that my people were home safe and warm.
Opening my phone, I saw that I had so many missed texts. Call me. I need to hear your voice, babe. Baby. Sweet words from my husband, that seemed so out of place, given that I had been gone less than 30 hours. I texted back, he didn’t respond.
Sitting in my friend’s driveway, I called him. Do you want to come get me and go out to lunch, I inquired. No, he said, you better come home. Something in his voice made my stomach lilt. What’s wrong, I asked. There’s been an accident, he answered, just a fender bender, but we need you at home. A few blurry questions later, and I was being dropped off. Trying to act casual, not being able to feel my knees. My husband revealed that my Suburban was totaled, two of my daughters had been in it. But were safe.
I said goodbye to my friend, at least, I think I did.
My girls were clamoring at the open door, dresses swaying. I’ve maybe never been so happy to see them, my own little four seasons. Walking up to the door, he kept saying, no one was injured, as if on repeat. I heard him viscerally, eyes on my babies. Counting, always counting, for the number my heart needs to keep beating.
They are really there, I had to tell myself, you’re not just seeing what you want to see.
My six year old sat on my lap and told me her version of the story: “I closed my eyes when the semi truck came at us, then I kept my eyes closed because it was really scary. But then Naomi started crying and crying, and so I knew she was scared too. So I opened my eyes and played tug of war with her until the car stopped spinning and spinning and spinning. Then Naomi yelled, Again! So I played with her until the nice police man came. He said we were miracles. And I am.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is when my heart broke into pieces. When I was humbled by the kind hands of grace, instead of the steel-toed kick of tragedy. That is when my selfishness, and materialism, packed their bags and left this place.
The mechanic’s report said total loss, completely ripped apart undercarriage, frame not fixable due to severe damage and four points of impact. Yet the pictures taken afterward, reveal no body damage to the sections where my husband and children sat. No damage. No injuries. Wrap your head around that.
So now we’re holding, and thanking, and praising, and dancing. We’re I love you-ing, and being grateful, and keeping our mind away from other outcomes. What-If is a dark and dangerous place, and I can’t allow myself to wander down it’s littered paths.
It was only a car that was taken from me. A car. So, nothing, really.
I asked my husband if he realized what his last texts before the accident said to me. He hadn’t, but laughed, because the song he meant to quote was Dave Matthews’ You & Me. “You and me, together, we can do anything, baby. The two of us together, yes, yes……Eyes closed, we’re gonna spin through the stars, our arms wide as the sky, we’re gonna ride the blue all the way to the end of the world….”
And so, we keep on riding.