Sunday, September 20, 2015

In Gratitude for an Accident

Gina, my wife, and I are recovering after being involved in a car accident yesterday. We had attended the Idaho Catholic Congress that morning, and Gina asked if we could go home for lunch. She has food sensitivities and didn't think the lunch offering would sit well.

We were driving north on a regular route, when about eight blocks away from home, a car came through the intersection, through a stop sign, and hit us on the driver's side just between the driver and rear passenger door.

I saw the other vehicle about two seconds before it impacted—just enough time to move my body away from the door and brace. (BTW, it's apparently an urban legend that it's better to be completely relaxed in an accident as the tension supposedly causes more damage than if you were completely free from tension and unaware. My chiropractor and a nurse from my parish have indicated that this is not the case.)

I've been in several accidents involving two vehicles. (I think that makes me part of the problem.) I recalled this time an odd visual affect that I encountered in my last accident—sort of a stuttered, or staggered image of the accident taking place. What I mean is that I did not see the approaching vehicle in a smooth fluid motion but almost as if it were a stop-image video. And then *BANG*, and our van was pushed from the lane and into the corner curb.

The point of impact, of course, was crushed, but on the passenger side, the rear axle was broken, and the front tire was completely blown off of the rim. After I checked with Gina to see if she was okay, I said, "Out, out, out," and we both exited through her door. I was concerned that the leaking fluids from the other vehicle might catch fire. After we exited, a neighbor, who is also a paramedic, said, "Do not renter the vehicle, and do not put your head into the door." Our air bags did not deploy, and he wanted to prevent an injury if they went of late (which apparently happens).

I was right there, inches from the point of impact, and I was uninjured—probably a bit out of alignment, but no blood, no broken bones.

The young man who ran the stop sign was extremely apologetic. At a point, we just really didn't know what to say to him other than, "Let's be grateful that we're all okay," and "Make sure to learn from this." He was clearly a good kid who made a few bad choices. And he probably won't be getting a license for some time.

This event has given me a chance to think a bit about attachment. As I was driving home yesterday after picking up a rental, I thought about what part this van has played in our lives. I bought it in 2004, primarily to use for food-bank runs, but also because I had hoped that I might be able to haul around my children in it. Well, I was able to drive my daughter Kellina, but the other children that I hoped would arrive did not. We would have to wait for grandchildren, and we made numerous trips with them to and from Nevada and around the state, We made a number of long road trips, and I have to tell you, it was the most comfortable cross-country vehicle I've ever owned. After a recent trip up to McCall in our Toyota Highlander, I swore that we'd be using the van for any future trips.

As I was driving home in the rental car, I thought about the van as a blessing that was wholly undeserved. For ten years, we have had this vehicle for our trips to diaconal formation weekends, to retreats, to a very long trip for a martial arts test, for visits to grandchildren, and for a few getaways. The van was a gift. And while it is an attachment for me, it is one of those good attachments—one that reminds me of the fact that I am not in control and that I am utterly dependent on God for everything that comes my way.

I don't think it will drive again, but if it does, I will remember that it is a gift, and I'm grateful for God's lesson that even something as simple as a drive home can have repercussions.
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