When we got home from church yesterday, I changed into an over-sized T-shirt and told the kids: “I’m taking a nap. Do NOT wake me up unless someone is bleeding.”
I fell asleep within 15 minutes.
And then the doorbell started ringing. And someone kept knocking. And the kids, when they finally charged into the bedroom, said, “We can’t tell who it is, Mama. But he won’t leave.”
It was Stephen, a friend and photographer at the paper.
“Rick’s OK,” he said.
“He had a wreck. I can go get him if you need me to … ”
No. No. Oh my God. Let me call him. I’ll go.
Rick had tried to call me. But I was the liturgist on Sunday, so I’d muted my phone. Then, after church, I forgot to turn the volume back on.
I called Rick.
“It’s pretty bad,” he said.
My husband is a veteran photojournalist. If he says a wreck is bad, well … yeah. It’s probably pretty bad.
“I need you to come get me,” he said. “But don’t bring the kids. I don’t want them to see this.”
He was driving north on a state highway. A woman tried to cross that highway right in front of him. He swerved, but still hit her.
I got there and I looked at the truck and I looked at her car and I listened to the state trooper and all I could think was …
My husband hiked out of the desert without water and summoned help for me. He could have — hell, probably should have — died out there. But he survived that so that he could be killed by a Ford Fiesta? Really?
Last night, after Rick and I drank lots of alcohol and talked about how he couldn’t stop thinking about how he could have died in a stupid car wreck, I wrote a really mean and hateful post addressed to the woman who pulled out in front of my husband in her Ford Fiesta.
Honestly? I’m still mad at her. She just set me back six months where the whole near-death PTSD thing is concerned — just because she didn’t want to pause at a yield sign.
She almost killed herself and my husband. And for what? The ability to beat a Chevy Silverado traveling 60 mph on a highway?
Because that’s what it boils down to. She was pulling a beat-the-train move. Only instead of crossing tracks with a train coming, she was crossing a highway with a Chevy in sight.
And then a friend — someone I met only in the past year — messaged me and said, basically — “You’re better than this.”
As in — Don’t bash the woman in such a hateful, mean way. (People, I even made fun of her name. I was THAT mad.)
And then I went and looked her up on Facebook and it looks like she doesn’t have much in the way of family or a support system and I thought, I am such a bitch.
The thing about almost dying is that it makes you so incredibly aware of just how vulnerable we are. You can be hiking and taking pictures of cute little pink flowers and then be almost dead within 24 hours. Or you can be visiting your cousin in south Arkansas and run into a Ford Fiesta on the way home.
I think what most upset me is that Rick was in that part of the state because his cousin — one of the sweetest, most good-hearted men I’ve ever met — was just diagnosed with Stage 4 bladder cancer.
So here’s Rick, on the way home, pondering mortality and his cousin and the desert and … WHAM. Near-death by Fiesta.
It’s OK if you laugh. Really. We’re journalists. Even I have to snicker at the thought that my Superman husband who hiked out of the Chihuahuan Desert to save my life almost damn near met his end due to a Fiesta. Sorry. Journalists need a morbid sense of humor to do what we do.
I think what got me is that I was all — Well, we’ve had our near-death experience in the desert. We should be cool for at least the next few years. I mean, what are the chances of nearly dying twice in less than a year?
And then you can Google the story about the two women hikers who were lost and saved and then accidentally drove their car into the water and drowned.
Surprisingly, one big-ass tragedy — or near tragedy — doesn’t mean you’re suddenly immune from potential death. Go figure.
Life is fragile, my friends. It’s precious. Enjoy it. Live it to its fullest.
But SLOW DOWN. Don’t be the Ford Fiesta headed on a collision course. Your kid gets a tardy? So what? He or she still alive to get it. You’re late to work? Meh. You hate rush hour and just want to get home? Well, focus on getting home safely.
Dear Woman in the Ford Fiesta: I know you that you couldn’t have known that we already almost died. And I know you didn’t have a death wish when you shot across the highway. At least, I hope not.
But please. You. And others like you.
Life is fragile. We are fragile. Slow down. Relax. Breathe.
We’re here for only a short time. Let’s not make it even shorter.
Most importantly, let’s make our few years here on Earth count.
p.s. I owe so much to my family and church family. We appreciate and love you. And, you, dear friend, who messaged me last night? Thank you. You reminded me of who I am and want to be. God bless you.