It happened in a second, and the realization that everything could have changed, hit me like a punch to the gut.
Gracie was behind me with Tyler by her side, and I was leading the caravan as we drove down the road to the far corner of the property. I was in the family van and she was following in her little truck.
I was startled to attention by the blast of her horn, held down in panic. I looked in my rear view mirror in time to see her barreling down the dirt road toward me.
With a turn of her wrist she became airborne as her little truck flew off the road and up the hillside.
I slammed on my brakes, jumped from the van, and ran to the truck that was perched precariously at a sharp degree angle, with the driver’s side door jammed shut by a small tree.
I had heard the crunch on impact and knew she hit the embankment at a dangerous speed.
As I ran to the truck I felt the Earth tip and my stomach lurch, uncertain of what I would see when I looked in the window.
I felt myself exhale when I saw the movement of blond hair and brown hair over the edge of the seats.
Shook up, but ok, Grace and Tyler climbed up out of the passenger side door; a laborious task given the angle of the truck and the shock they were feeling.
They stepped out.
Grace was in tears.
“I tried to stop,” she sobbed. “I had no brakes.”
I pulled her to me and hugged her hard as she continued…
“I kept stomping on them and nothing happened. The truck kept gaining speed. I pulled on the emergency break and that didn’t slow me down either. I didn’t know what to do. I tried to find the safest place to crash.”
Her body shook with sobs as the adrenaline from the close call rushed through her veins.
All I could think, as I hugged first Grace and then Tyler, was how different this could have played out. In that moment life as I knew it could have changed forever. I wanted to throw up as the fragility of life hit me like it never had before.
Oh, what could have been.
Thank God for seatbelts.
Thank God for guardian angels.
Thank God for His hand in the time, place, and details of that crash.
All I could think as I drove the kids back up to the house was:
What if she had lost her brakes on the highway as she was traveling 65 miles an hour.
What if she had hit another driver…with children in the back seat…rather than a tree.
What if it had been a less knowledgeable, less secure driver behind the wheel, like our permit driver, Miss Molly.
What if a life was lost.
Even now the “what ifs” take my breath away and make my heart race.
But God is gracious and His plans are divine.
Both kids are ok…shook up, but ok.
Experiences like this one are powerful reminders of the fragility of mortal life and of what is truly important. How differently this story could have ended. So many people I know have experienced that unexpected, life-changing moment when an illness or accident changes the course of life as they know it. It can happen in a moment.
That unexpected lab result,
The life changing phone call from a family member,
Or the midnight knock on the door by the police…
Future days are not promised to us.
In a moment our world can be rocked forever.
I left the scene of the accident with immense gratitude and a powerful new perspective. The stresses, worries, and irritations of earlier that day seemed shallow and insignificant in the face of such potential loss.
How blessed I am.
Forgive me Lord, for needing a heart-stopping moment like this to see it.