I do not need to make this big declaration with fancy wording to state that death is something which is feared, everyone is aware of this. Most are afraid of the unknown, of what awaits after this life. That is not me, I know where it is I am heading. No, it is the way in which I will die that I fear. I have often contemplated just how it will be, my send off. How will I leave this world and walk into Heaven? I pray it will be in some pain-free way, but the majority of deaths come to us in some form of suffering. Our bodies decompose, they give out on us, however much we try to delay that inevitable collapse, it will happen. We are material things, we are destructible, and that terrifies us.
“Okay hon, we’re going to lower back your seat and get this board under you,” spoke a man’s voice behind me. Mr. Burns was back outside my car window, he reached in and tucked my arm against my side. Another man appeared on my right, and began cutting my seatbelt. “Hold still now,” I was told as a neck brace was wrapped around me and I was forced to stare through the shattered windshield. The man behind my shoulder, I will never know who he was, had gently gathered my hair before securing the velcro. I remember the comfort of that and a feeling of gratitude, even as a slight hysteria began to well up in my stomach. There was a jerking under the seat and finally a slow descent backwards. The board was slid under me, I’m not sure exactly how they managed that in the cramped space. Straps were placed around my legs and shoulders, securing me to the hard plastic. Then the process of maneuvering me out of the car and down off the machine began. I thought I was going to fall off and I must have uttered this aloud more than once because I remember one of the EMT’s repeatedly telling me, “No we got you, don’t worry.”
They set me on a gurney and slid me inside the back of an ambulance, right alongside my sister. As soon as the doors were closed, they sped off, taking us on the bumpy ride to the hospital, sirens blaring the whole length. “Where’s my sister?” I remember asking, clearly not registering she was in the same vehicle. “I’m here,” I heard her say to my right. Relief washed over me at the sound of her voice being near. I tried to look over at her but the brace prevented me from seeing anything but the metal ceiling of the ambulance and a paramedic’s face that was hovering over mine. He kept pricking my arm, trying to get something hooked inside a vein, but each time we hit a dip in the road he would have another failed attempt. He tried to ask me questions but I suddenly couldn’t speak, my tongue felt swollen and heavy in my mouth, and I couldn’t form a single word. He brought his face closer and stared into my eyes, searching, checking my pupils I realize now, and that is the last thing I recall from that ambulance ride, his dark eyes.
Being unloaded, wheeled into a room, and transferred to a bed, is a complete blur. I remember nothing but fragmented pieces. The flash of fluorescent lights above me. Someone examining my leg. A woman standing over me wiping at my face. My hair being brushed free of glass shards. Shivering, and someone wrapping a blanket around me. At one point a doctor, or nurse asked if I knew how to reach my dad. Then a phone was up against my ear and his voice was on the other side, his questions only answered by my sobs. My mom was out shopping completely oblivious that the sirens she heard were for her own children. She returned home to a blinking light on the answering machine and a message from a police officer stating we had been in a wreck and had been transported to the local hospital. Luckily for her my dad gave a call just a minute after explaining we were not in critical condition, just shaken up, a bit bruised and possibly broken. She made it to the hospital just in time to see me wheeled out of my room for a set of x-rays, and to sit with my sister as they finished examining her. What I remember is being wheeled out and hearing her laughing in the hallway with the police officers, and thinking that the x-ray technician who pushed my bed was very handsome. It was the only moment of normalcy within the whole ordeal.
After careful and thorough poking, prodding, and test taking (x-rays included), we were said to have absolutely no broken bones or internal injuries. My sister was not paralyzed, her spine had just been in shock. At the moment of impact her shoulder belt did not lock, as it is designed to do, causing her upper body to have been thrown so far forward that she hit her right temple on the rearview mirror knocking her out completely. The fact that she was still kept in the seat by the belt around her middle only meant that her back had twisted out of place. Several, several visits to the chiropractor helped to repair the damage of her almost S-shaped spine, but her track running days had been slightly marred. Something I will always feel guilty about.
It took a nurse quite awhile to clean up all the cuts I had received. The left side of my face and neck had been covered in glass. My arm somehow did not break with it’s journey outside the car. The piece of metal that had lodged in near my elbow had caused a puncture wound, basically my forearm had filled with air and debris. I have nerve damage from my elbow to about three quarters up nearing my wrist, and a few battle scars that have now started to fade slightly with time. My knee had not broken, just sprained. It bore the mark of the steering wheel in bruises for over a month after the accident. I went to the chiropractor along with my sister to help treat my neck from whiplash. I discovered about a month later that a piece of glass had healed under my skin sitting right in-between the knuckles of my ring and middle finger. I had it cut out a year after that when I finally couldn’t tolerate the daily reminder of my colossal mistake any longer.
Here is where the real excitement begins.
Much to the shock of the EMTs, police officers, paramedics, and doctors, we walked away from that accident with nothing more than “scratches” and bruises. The report of the scene was that if our car had landed three feet in either direction we would have most likely suffered from fatal injuries. The car would have rolled, we would have been crushed. If we had not gone airborne we would have smashed straight into the machines crumpling the front of our car and been crushed inside. Had my sister’s lap belt not worked she would have gone through the windshield. Upon impact a sharp piece of the earth mover sliced into the side of the car starting near the gas tank and stopping just inches from the driver seat, inches away from cutting into my side. I had blacked out the second the vehicle had left the road, had I not I would have slammed the brakes or jerked that steering wheel causing even more of a mess.
The first on scene, the old man with the kind face, who watched the whole thing unfold before him, was a retired EMT and a member of my church. Ted is his name, someone whose kindness and bravery I will forever be indebted to. The fact that he squeezed himself in near my window speaks volumes of his character. The second on scene was a teenage boy, who happened to be a student of my uncle’s, he had called 9-1-1 on a cell phone, something of a rarity for kids to have back then. He had reported that one of the two teenage girls was dead, he had seen my sister hanging there as I had and assumed the worst. The positive of that report was that we had a plethora of ambulances arrive on the scene, and with so many workers they got us out of that car in record time, even if it had felt like hours to me.
The words my sister cried out before we hit the machines were, “Jesus help us.” And He did. It was a miracle. I should have died, my sister should have died, but instead we were saved. For whatever reason we were saved. Many would pass it off as being mere coincidences, but I don’t, I can’t. The dozen little things that could have happened differently and caused a much more fatal ending, and all the things that did happen, just so, those were from God, of God. I don’t know why the accident happened, why He would allow for it to take place at all. My only guess is that He has more for me to do in this life. I know that is true with my sister because she has gone on to become an amazing elementary teacher, wife, and mother. I am hoping that I can make my own impact eventually, make the fact that I walked away unscathed matter somehow
A short seven months after our accident the older brother of my sister’s childhood friend wrecked just a 100 yards from where we had. His accident was fatal and he died on the scene. Selfishly I felt a tremendous amount of guilt, and I remember yelling at God asking why it was He did not save him like He had for us. Unfortunately I never received a clear answer for that one. What I have discovered, however, is that His ways are not our ways, they are, at most times, beyond our understanding.
There is a song that I love by “All Sons and Daughters” called “Reason to Sing.” The song says, “I need a reason to sing. I need to know that you’re still holding the whole world in your hands.”
He saved my sister from death, and that is a reason to sing.
He spared my parents from grief, and that is a reason to sing.
He gave me a push to live, and that is a reason to sing.