Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
~ John Donne
I was driving home from work. Just another night that followed a dreary, gray January day. Same old, same old. Ennui had set in, and an overall vague depression.
At least I was almost home. Though my house was now empty; all the family that lived there besides me had moved across the country. So even the prospect of home wasn’t that thrilling.
I was in the middle lane, three exits from mine, on the Meadowbrook Parkway. I got over to my right, just like I’d done thousands of times before.
Only…my car wasn’t turning right. My car was turning left. My body filled with the ringing of adrenaline before my brain realized what was happening.
Maybe I’d gotten distracted. Please tell me I’d gotten distracted. I turned the wheel right again, and this time, my car started waving around the road like a belly dancer.
Then time seemed to stand still. I lost a friend whom I won’t name. He lost control of his car on a highway. In those split seconds that felt like forever, I clearly remember my own voice in my head: “This is how (friend) died.” I heard it as I veered further and further to the left, and as an SUV whizzed past me to my right.
I knew at any moment I’d hear the horrid sound of metal crunching, as other cars would follow the SUV and smash into mine. Then I heard a screaming in my head:
FOCUS! GET AWAY FROM THE MEDIAN!
I was so close to the median. My car wasn’t responding to anything that I did. It was dancing all over the parkway, dancing towards the concrete wall at a rapid speed.
I cried out in a voice so terribly weak from fear the shortest prayer I’d ever uttered, “Jesus?” One word, a prayer for help, a prayer to not be scared, and a prayer for my soul if I died. One word was all I had time for; I had to FOCUS.
Every ounce of adrenaline that I had and that I could summon, every bit of strength that was in me, I threw into fighting with the wheel to go right. I willed the car with my entire body, mind, and soul to GO TO THE RIGHT. It felt like when you first try to get the teacups to spin at an amusement park, the same resistance.
Finally, it responded. It spun around, but it went right until I stopped with a crash. I’d smashed into the guardrail.
And time stood still again.
I wasn’t dead.
I turned my head to the right. Every single car was stopped, many feet back. They waited. I put my car in reverse, terrified to have it move again, but knowing I could go really slow, at least. I looked at the guardrail and was amazed to see that it was fully intact.
Not one car moved as I backed up, and turned my car around. The entire ride home, I couldn’t stop shaking. Finally, I was home. Before getting out, I told myself not to freak out if my car was destroyed. I was alive.
Holding my breath, I looked at my car.
Nothing. Just a little paint missing.
I broke down and cried like I never had before.
Why hadn’t I died? What had just happened? No one pays attention on the roads anymore. It was rush hour. How was it that only one car came even close to me?
How was it possible that I lost control of my car so completely, yet walked away with not a scratch on me?
These were the questions that haunted me throughout 2008, when I wasn’t being haunted by my dreams. That is, when I could sleep at all. The adrenaline that filled me that night never left. I am just now learning how to breathe all right while in a car.
That night was just the beginning of the hardest year of my entire life, even beating out 2004. But it was also the beginning of the most amazing year of my entire life. The year that “I walked through fire and didn’t get burned.” Looking back on it all now, where I was a year ago…let’s just say I’d never want to relive it, but I am so glad that I kept fighting. After that night where I lost control of my car, but fought it, and lived, I knew that I had it in me to fight, and fight harder. And then fight even harder.
I know so many of you have been to hell and back this year. Keep holding on, keep pushing through. Hang in there. It’s scarier than lying down, and it’s scarier than hiding. But it is so, so worth it.
Here’s to a new year. We can help each other through this one from the very beginning 🙂