Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Lessons From The Tide

Remember that this experience of life is tidal.
That some days we are invincible
and others, fragile.
And that both are always true.
~Jesh De Rox

For some moments in life there are no words.

Even for someone like me who always seems to be full of them.

On November 9th, I woke up filled with hope.

While I know so many didn't share my sentiments, my anxious heart was a little more steady as I greeted my day.

My daughter was up early, so we were able to take our time that morning to get out the door. 

She lounged in my bed, watching her shows on our iPad, and eating her breakfast. I lounged next to her and sipped my coffee while I perused my Facebook newsfeed getting a feel for everyone's tone regarding that morning's early election results. 

I was mortified by all the hate and backlash from both sides.

I purposed in my heart to not be that way, as I hit the home button on my phone and proceeded to put on "real" clothes to take my daughter to school. 

After I had made myself somewhat presentable, I got her dressed, made her lunch, and bussed her out the door.

We were off.

School drop off that morning went as smoothly as it always does. I dropped her at her classroom door, kissed her forehead, and signed her in on the sheet as I walked out the door to head back home to get ready for work.

The drive back home wasn't anything special.

There were no feelings of premonition or foreboding thoughts. 

There was just the sudden flash of sunlight blinding me through my windshield and the glittering of glass on the road.

I saw something.

A piece of a vehicle. 

I slammed on my breaks and looked to my left.

There was an elderly man standing in a driveway.

My heart was racing as I rolled down my window, "Are you okay?!" I asked frantically, as the smell of burnt rubber hit me like a wall.

"I'm okay," he said, "I just thought I heard a terrible noise like someone crashed across the road."

I looked to my right and there it was: an SUV on it's passenger side near a silo at the catfish hatchery down my road.

The following moments were a total blur. 

I pulled my car over and clicked on my flashers. I got out of my car and began to walk toward the SUV trying to look inside to see if I could see anyone.

I was shaking uncontrollably. I was totally terrified by what I would find.

And then I heard her.

Deep, painful moans.

My eyes searched around the vehicle from where I stood near the ditch and that's when I saw her. She was laying outside the vehicle and seemed to be trapped half way under the SUV.

I gasped.

And then a man appeared in a truck.

He got out and ran to the vehicle, as he yelled at me to call 911 which I was already doing.

The phone was ringing, an officer picked up, I told him to send help.

The rest of the conversation I hardly remember.

I remember rambling in sheer panic and desperation.

I remember telling him things he probably didn't need to know, but he patiently listened to me talk.

I remember the man who came to help trying to lift the vehicle with another man and trying to get her out.

I remember him putting something on her head to stop the bleeding and telling me to stay where I was so I wouldn't have to see her.

I remember the fire trucks coming and the ambulance as it pulled up on the scene.

I remember as they knelt down beside her and then how they all just stood there starring at her.

I remember thinking, "Why aren't they helping her?!"

I remember the police officer gathering all of us bystanders around.

I remember him saying something about how her injuries were "unable to sustain life".

Words I will never forget as long as I live.

I looked around at our small group that had been there as she passed from this life to the other: an owner of catfish ponds, a couple utility workers, her boss and a co-worker who had driven down from their shop, and me-the girl who was too scared to hold her hand.

I went home.

I cried.

I called my mom.

I wished with my whole heart that my mom would have been the one who had been there.

The former emergency room nurse.

The helper.

The woman with the instincts of a first responder.

And since November 9th I have carried that regret.

The regret that I didn't have more courage.

Not for me...but for a woman I didn't even know.

I can't imagine how lonely it would be to die that way.

No family. No one to hold your hand. No medication to ease your pain.

I spent the rest of the week in a haze.

Floundering in my weak human body that craves to "understand" such tragedies.

In the hours and days that followed, I found myself needing to know everything I could about her.

I found out that she had a son and that she was only 36.

36. Years. Old.

I wondered if she had a bucket list of things she'd left undone.

Things she wished she would have gotten to do or see or experience.

I wondered if she was happy and content with where she was in life.

I wondered about the things left unspoken, the hurts that never got the chance to heal, and all of her dark places.

And through the hours and days of wondering and grasping, God lead me to a clearing by the sea of my grief where the profoundness of the following truth hit me like a rolling tide:

This life, dear one, is not permanent. It is not your final destination. So, quit living like there is a promise of tomorrow-because tomorrow's have never been guaranteed. 

While I'm still struggling and still grieving for this woman I didn't even know, I am beyond grateful for the lesson-even if I've lost sight of it over the past few weeks.

It is no secret that Christmas is stressful me.

Co-parenting your own child at Christmas and then having to mix that with your own parents who are co-parenting tends to rob you of the joy you should be experiencing at this time of year.

Granted, we make the most of it.

My mom and dad still spoil my sisters and I rotten every single year, and I am always so grateful for my daughter's co-parenting situation that we have all worked together so hard to achieve.

However, I will still be waking up on Christmas Day without my girl.

And even though we have been at this for three years now, I will be the first one to admit that this is one part of the story that I don't think ever gets any easier.

So, joy is a little hard to find these days.

I find myself wishing my words were kinder and my heart was softer.

And last night as I sat on my daughter's bed having a hard conversation with my almost eight year old who wants to talk about life and death, I realized that I am doing a terrible job matching my words to my actions.

How can I tell her that life is a gift, and the people we get to do it with are the greatest part of that gift if I'm walking around this house like the world's biggest Scrooge?

So, for the next few days, I am going to purpose to be a little less stressed and little more grateful for these moments that we are not guaranteed we are going to have.

I am going to remember how blessed I am to have a big crazy family that makes time for each other, and a husband who truly loves me unconditionally.

I am going to purpose to love people the way my daughter loves people with her pure, unjaded heart.

And I am going to be more thankful for another year spent with all of those I love most.

Especially because I know there is a boy out there who won't get to spend Christmas with the woman who truly loved him the most.

So, this Christmas as you look around your table or your house that is filled with those people who love you the most whether they be family or friends or both-remind yourself to be grateful for that moment and for those people.

Because it can truly all be over in the blink of an eye.

In the blinding sunlight of an instance.

The course of your life and the lives of those around you could forever be changed.

So, hug your kids a little tighter and kiss your husband a little longer and just be grateful.

I know I am going to try.

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