A year ago today, I was ripped from my sleep by a loud chime. My phone. The only words that registered after I answered, were ‘drunk driver, head on collision, and emergency room’.
As I drove the 90 minutes to get there, I prayed. I prayed for my daughter, her friend who was in the passenger seat, and the other drivers involved. I thanked God for the police who were on scene within seconds. (Three were in the area to witness and respond quickly.) I thanked God for the friends nearby who arrived within minutes to be with the girls as the chaos of questions and next step plans began. But mostly, I thanked God that they were alive.
By the time I arrived at the emergency room, the girls had been fully x-rayed, their wounds addressed, and pain medication prescribed. Miraculously, there were only concussions, lacerations, and a whole lot of soreness with bruising to come. They were released with instructions to watch for further symptoms, rest, and take it easy for several days.
My daughter and I were both surprised and really proud of how we held it together that night by using a whole lot of humor. It wasn’t until the next day, when I called the insurance company that the emotion of it all came crashing in.
I was greeted with a warm hello. The woman on the other line was polite and cheerful as we exchanged greetings. I told her I was calling because my daughter was in a car accident the previous night, that we needed to set up a car rental for her, and that I wanted to give them the other driver’s insurance information. That’s when she asked me to give her the details. As soon as I uttered the words, “she was hit head on by a drunk driver”, the polite woman gasped and said, “I’m so sorry”. I immediately felt the lump in my throat and the tears well up in my eyes. She asked about my daughter’s condition. I squeezed out that she and her friend where okay, just very sore. Pulling myself together as best I could, I got through the rest of the phone call all the while thinking that this was not how I saw the week playing out.
Later that day, my daughter and I went to the tow yard to see if we could retrieve items from her car. As she walked gingerly, I asked how she was doing seeing it in the light of day. She said she was okay. She just wanted to get her things. It started to sprinkle as I walked around the car to inspect the damage. The whole front end was crumpled; it was half the size it should have been. The rear passenger side of her car was also dented, a result of the initial driver’s impact that sent the car backwards into another vehicle. And then I looked into the car itself. All the airbags had deployed. Things were scattered and destroyed. The metal that had been pushed into my daughter’s leg was hanging under the steering wheel. Again the tears came. A mixture of sadness at what had happened and gratitude that she was still here.
I’d like to say that from there it was just a few weeks of laying low and all was back to normal. That’s not how it worked. The next seven months brought PTSD, surgery, infections that did not go away, negotiations with insurance companies, and a leaky pipe that flooded my daughter’s room destroying several hundred dollars worth of possessions. It. Was. So. Hard. It was hard for my daughter. And it was hard for me to watch as she was hit with one thing after another. #
A few days ago, my daughter had a party. It was to celebrate that she made it through the year. She invited friends, had queso and chips, guacamole, smores, and a piñata shaped like a car filled with candy. I was so proud and in awe of how she chose to commemorate the year from hell. She chose to rejoice and give thanks. What could have destroyed her, made her stronger, healthier, braver, more resilient, and closer to God.
I love her example. Too often, I find myself marking difficult anniversaries by remembering and ruminating on all the hard, difficult, and sad things instead of rejoicing the good that God so graciously brought out of the wreckage. So this is our reminder, yours and mine, to celebrate. Celebrate that we survived! Especially those things we thought would do us in! Dig deep into the ashes to find the treasures that can be found. And give thanks. Throw a party. Invite your friends. And by all means, have a piñata. They are very therapeutic!