I peek in the room, and she is propped up on pillows, reading by lamplight left on from the evening before. I come in, bend low to her head and kiss her. It is 7:00 a.m. We have a busy day ahead. I have two presentations before lunch, and my mind is on this. I mentally prepare while multi-tasking, as I do for most things in my life these days. Life rushes, as if on continual fast-forward play.
Later my husband and I drive the forty-five minute commute to work. I know the children are in good hands, hardly giving a backward glance to life back at Grammie’s house, where breakfast is probably in full swing by now.
The morning passes, and my presentations are a carried out successfully. I spend the afternoon in sessions. At 2:45 p.m., I meet my husband in the parking lot. We have ten minutes to make it to the designated pick-up spot where we will meet up with my Mom and Dad and our four children. We pull out from the parking lot, and faintly in the distance, on the road directly behind us, I hear an ambulance siren. “Should we pull over now?” I ask. The wail gets louder. In one minute, it is upon us.
We pull over to let the emergency vehicle go by, and then drive on. Oblivious. Ignorant of what is to come. It is a strange state of reality, of which I have since given over a great deal of thought. In essence, that state of being is one in which life is changing, usually for the worse, even whilst the person is completely, blissfully unaware. I still find it hard to believe that the ambulance emergency technicians knew first, and crossed our path, even while we were still unaware.
We come to a stop sign, and my cell phone is ringing. I can’t find it. It continues to ring, and I locate it at the bottom of my purse. It is my father. He is saying words that do not make sense. Things that do not happen. Like, our van has been in an accident. With our four children on board.
WITH OUR FOUR CHILDREN ON BOARD?
I hear him say the words, but I am now thinking about the ambulance that just screamed passed, connecting the dots. My husband is driving, but his eyes are on me. He is forcefully demanding I tell him what is going on. I am not feeling anything right now, because this is a dream.
It is a dream, right?
We hang up the phone and drive. Blindly. Furiously. As if our lives depend on it. I see the ambulance speed by again, this time it goes through an intersection that we are now approaching in our own car. I am starting to come out of my reverie. This same ambulance just passed us moments ago. I am dumb-founded. It all feels surreal.
We come upon a traffic jam, and suddenly this is all too real. There are flashing lights and police cars. The ambulance has arrived. We cannot get to the scene fast enough. Husband drives on the shoulder of the road until we find a dirt path by which we can cut across all this pile-up of cars. We are now driving across a potato field. We come to a quick stop, and I open the door. It occurs to me I am wearing 2 inch heels. I am sprinting through a ditch full of ragweed and vines, and I run as if my life depends on it.
And there they sit. Our van, loaded with precious cargo, jack-knifed in the middle of the road, the front end crumpled and bent. My mother, crying over the steering wheel. My father still dazed, talking to a kindly gentleman on the right. My daughters, whimpering in the back. My son, tears in his eyes. My youngest, just waking up with the impact of the collision, unharmed and seemingly, unfazed. I plow into the van. I cannot touch them all fast enough. I cradle their heads, and I move in a frenzy between the two sitting in the front, back again to the two sitting in the rear. And as they cry, I hold them. Life, a fragile thread that joins the present with the past and future. Questions of what could have been, replaced by truth of what is not. But for the grace of God.
And suddenly life’s little petty problems just don’t seem so important anymore.
For it is perspective that grounds us. It might not be everything there is to living, because that is to deny ourselves weakness and opportunities to build character, but perspective is that which gives us the truth about ourselves and our situation and then enables us to move forward with a better mindset.
Many months later, after having had a frustrating day- (and I do mean an all-out, ‘throw-in-the-towel’ kind of rough day, complete with two and a half hours of dental drilling, crazy schedules and then at the end of the night, me becoming “that” cranky mother that I loathe due to a few other unfortunate mishaps)- I was reminded again that life is not only about perspectives, it is also about alternatives. I can embrace the life I live, or I can choose to not do so as well. Alternatives are presented to me all the time. I do have a choice to embrace life in all its murky, glorious beauty, or shut off and pull away.
And I am reminded again of those moments, not so very long ago, when my perspective changed, and I chose to embrace.