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A Lesson in the Fragility of Life

Creator:
Published:
December 14, 2023
April 24, 2023
Have you learned how life is fragile? This author learned the fragility of it after a close call on the highway.

I should be dead. That's what I thought as I sat in my car on the side of the highway, my heart racing and my hands sweating. My vehicle had swerved out of control into a perfect 360-degree nightmare, and I was somehow alive. It was all I could think about. I was alive. 

Only 25 seconds before, I was thinking thousands of things:

Am I going to be late? 
These prenatal massages are expensive; I better not lose a minute!
I can’t believe I didn’t leave just five minutes sooner. 
If only that meeting had ended when it was supposed to end.
I should have had the nerve and been more proactive.  
Ugh, I must stop for gas on the way back…

Grumble, grumble; hurry, hurry. 

Then, the car on my right veered into my lane, mere inches from my car going 70 mph. My reflexes reacted, and I jerked my car toward the left side of my lane to avoid a collision. But the road was wet. Somehow through the perfect combination of light-slippery rain, the rubber of my tires, and the weight of the car, or something entirely inexplicable, my car suddenly started spinning.

There was no honking. Only speeding cars. I looked out my front window and saw oncoming traffic going highway speeds. The car was out of control. It was out of my hands. “Well, this is how it ends,” I thought, uncharacteristically stoic and resigned. And then sadness swept over me. I apologized to my unborn baby, whom we had named James. I kept my eyes open: I'd face death head-on, I decided. 

I held my breath for the inevitable impact. But it never happened.

Instead of a crash hitting me from any direction, my little Toyota landed neatly in the apron, as if I had just pulled over for a picnic. I was completely unscathed. None of the cars on the road hit me. I didn't even bump the wall. 

My immediate thought was: Wow, this baby is meant to live. My second thought was: I needed to go to church to thank God for sparing my life.

But then I remembered I was running late for my prenatal massage appointment, which only a few minutes ago, had felt like the best thing happening to me. 

Until that is, being alive was the best thing happening to me. 

I took a deep breath. I noticed one of the cars behind me stop. A semi in the distance was slowly braking. They saw all of it. I wondered: what did it look like to them? Did they see the miracle too?

The car that had pulled up right behind me was a red sedan. A lady in business attire, who looked a lot like Halle Berry, opened the door. I opened mine and exclaimed. “Did you see that?! Did you see what just happened?” 

“Just breathe. You’re okay. Just breathe! Breathe.” 

Sounds simple, but at that moment, it was rather profound. I could breathe because I was alive! And my baby was alive! She drove off, waving. Was Halle Berry my Guardian angel? What was going on?

I closed my car door. Do I just go ahead and try to make my appointment? I certainly couldn’t stay there. So, I got back on the highway. The road suddenly felt less crowded. The light rain was evaporating. The sun was peeking through the clouds. And the wet asphalt was shining. 

Was this a miracle? A lucky break? Fate? Coincidence? I had no idea how I had managed to avoid crashing into other cars or into the wall – I truly had no control over my car as it spun out -- but I knew that I had been given a second chance at life. And with that realization came a flood of emotions: relief, gratitude, awe, and wonder.

When I arrived at the spa, I was late. But more awkwardly: I felt a little irreverent. I should be down on my knees, thanking the divine for sparing me! I should be in a chapel lighting a candle!  Instead, I was continuing with my day, going through the motions. The motions of a pampered pregnant princess, in this instance. 

The masseuse asked how I was, and I just said, “I’m good!” Because how do you tell someone that you just almost died without sounding unhinged? How do you tell someone that you have no idea why you're here, or how you're here, or what the purpose of all this is? All the existential questions were washing over me at once.

It wasn’t exactly a relaxing massage, but I suppose my pregnant muscles were appreciative. Because there's something kind of strange about surviving a car crash and then going to a prenatal massage appointment. It's like the universe is trying to tell you something, but you're not sure what it is. 

As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into a month, and then two, I went to work, did my nesting, and continued to grow uncomfortably large as my due date approached. But there was always a little reminding me that life is fragile and can be taken away in an instant.

And a few weeks later, the most fragile example of life was quite literally in my hands. His name was James. I took a deep breath once again and felt thankful to be alive.

Years later, I understand that there is no such thing as a "safe lane.” We can follow the rules, go the speed of traffic, wear our seatbelts, take precautions, and make all the plans. But we are really at the mercy of forces beyond our control. So, every day, I try to make a choice. I try to let go of my need for control and put my faith in something greater than myself. And to be honest, it’s hard. It’s hard to trust that there is a purpose to my existence, that I am here for a reason, and that I must do all I can to fulfill that purpose. But I know I don’t want to waste precious time doubting that I’m here for a reason — even if my purpose reveals itself one slippery road at a time.

Creators:
Maria Walley
Published:
December 14, 2023
April 24, 2023
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