Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A celebration of Life

My last semester at school I had to take an English class.... I was required to write a couple of large papers, one of them being a narrative essay. I know this is lengthy and you don't have to read it, but I am choosing to post it because this month is when it happened 4 years ago. Although it was a difficult period in my life, and because of it I will be forever changed, I am a stronger person now than I was before.

I believe one of the biggest challenges when faced with trials, tribulation, heart ache, and sadness is to ask yourself "What can I learn from this?" instead of questioning "Why me?".

The Day my Life Began

“Thanks Bree,” I hollered as I dashed hastily down the spiral of stairs. I could scarcely contain my happiness as I looked at Bree’s car which sat parked in front of me. Reluctantly I let out an almost silent giggle. Tyler and I had been dating for 6 months now and I was ecstatic to finally be able to see him again. It took weeks of careful preparation and the moment had finally arrived. Fortunately I was lucky to know a friend like Bree who would lend me her car for the weekend. Although it was nothing more than a small forest green geo metro I could have cared less. I released the driver’s side door and heaved my suitcase into the back seat. After doing a quick run through on my mental checklist I was sure I hadn’t forgot anything and settled myself behind the wheel. I took one last look at Rexburg and headed for the highway

The sky was the perfect shade of blue and the sun shone brightly through the dirty car windshield. I reached over for my sunglasses and turned up the sound system which was playing one of Bree’s mixed CD’s that I hadn’t heard before. As I listened to the music I found myself becoming more anxious to get there. I decided to call my mom because I knew that chatting with her would help pass the time on my trip to Boise. We talked for some time, but regrettably the phone conversation seemed to only last long enough to get me through Pocatello. I was in disbelief when I looked at the clock which only read 10:30AM. Remarkably, I was making good time. I gazed out the window to the thirsty countryside which seemed to echo a longing for better days of moisture. It always amazed me when people proudly proclaimed that Eastern Idaho was ‘God’s country’. How could anyone declare a landscape so lifeless to be awe-inspiring, breathtaking, or even beautiful? As I reflected on this predicament, my thoughts were turned else-where and I decided to call Tyler.

“Hello?” he answered. I smiled because I had by now memorized the sound of his voice. Usually I could detect a smile over the phone while we talked, but today his voice sounded a bit raspy and rather exhausted. This didn’t concern me much since I knew he was working outside mowing lawns for his boss Evan. “Hey babe,” I said in a sweet flirtatious voice, “How’s work going?” I knew I was just making small talk, but it didn’t matter because I had no reason to rush through a phone conversation. “Pretty good,” he said. Now I could hear that playful smile. “It’s been really hot today. I’ve been cruising through each job so I could be done by the time you get here. Where are you?” I found myself engrossed by his words and almost didn’t hear the question. “Oh, I’m just outside Twin Falls. I’ll probably be to Boise in about two hours or so.” “Gee!” he exclaimed, “you’ll be to my house even before I get there. You must be speeding. You better watch out, I wouldn’t want you to get a ticket or anything.” I laughed. “I’m not speeding, just making good time that’s all. Besides the last thing I want to do is a get a ticket in someone else’s car.” “Good,” he replied “I’ve got to go back to work, but be sure and call when you’re close.” “I will,” I assured him and with that I closed my phone.

Refreshed from my phone conversation with Tyler I redirected my attention to the entirely boring scene of the familiar flat interstate. While I sang to the radio and consciously checked the speedometer to make sure I wasn’t speeding I noticed a semi truck that for some reason had swerved in front of me. I tried to peer into the right-hand lane to see why he felt so inclined to cut me off, but there was nothing in my view which gave him reason for this irrational lane change. Impatiently I attempted to remain calm as I waited for him to signal that he was going to move back to his right-hand lane, but no such signal appeared. “This is ridiculous,” I thought to myself, “He’s going ten miles under the suggested speed limit and I don’t want to waste any more time!” A bit agitated, I turned on my right blinker and moved over into the slow lane. I was half way past him when I noticed that he suddenly had on his right blinker as if to move into my lane. I rapidly began to panic as questions raced through my mind. “Does he see me? Is he planning on waiting until I pass him? Do I have enough time to slow down so he can get over or should I speed up? What is he doing?”

Suddenly, it was as if I were watching a horror film in slow motion. The weight of the enormous semi truck seemed to crush my car like a teenage boy crushing a can on his forehead. It smashed against my side slicing through the body of the car like butter and then propelled it 180 degrees around where it shattered the right passenger’s side. My neck flung frontward because of the blow and my eyes were squeezed tightly shut as the thought of death wandered through my head. When I thought it was over I managed to pry my eyelids apart only to witness the car spinning violently around like a Frisbee thrown at full-speed. I could hear the tires from the car screeching on the pavement and prayed silently that no one was behind me…

After what seemed an eternity the car came to a halt on the right side of the interstate. Smoke poured out from under the hood of the car and I sat in pure shock with my hands still firmly gripped to the steering wheel. My knuckles were white and realized that I had been holding my breath. I let out a trembling exhale and tried to comprehend what had just happened. I somehow managed to pull my hands away from the steering wheel to open the door. I stepped out to survey the damage to Bree’s car and instantly knew it was beyond help. I reached for my cell phone and slowly dialed Tyler’s number. He answered casually saying, “So, I guess this means you got a ticket?” I tried to hold back tears. Searching for the words I finally whimpered, “Tyler, I wish that was it. A semi truck just hit me and totaled the car.” All of a sudden I began to sob uncontrollably as the events took impact on me. “Are you okay?” he asked. Between the tears and short inhales I somehow answered, “I think so. I have to call my parents though and let them know what happened. I’ll be sure and call you back. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet…. I love you.” “I love you too,” he responded.

I glanced up trying to blink the tears from my eyes and saw a man walking towards me. He was wearing a red T-shirt and some khaki shorts. His hair was grey and when he came closer he asked, “Are you alright?” I nodded yes a couple of times, but clearly I wasn’t. He pulled out his cell phone to call the police and after doing so introduced himself as George. He was a truck driver coming the opposite direction, Eastbound on Interstate 84, and had witnessed my accident. George was kind and his voice was tender. I was still in shock and crying hysterically. George tried to calm me down by asking my name and where I was from. When I informed him that I was a student at BYU-I, he told me that he had a daughter my age. He looked at me with sympathy and quietly asked in a gentle voice, like that of a father, “I know you’re quite upset. I would give you a hug, but I don’t want you to be any more scared than you already are.” I shook my head and replied, “No, you don’t scare me. I could really use a hug.” Then George reached his arm around my shoulder and gave me a quick squeeze. I knew his intentions were pure and the hug provided great relief. It was then that I was able to control my breathing and slow down my tears. By now the police had arrived.

I gave my statement to police officer, who was clearly certain I wasn’t at fault. He arranged for me to ride with a close friend of his to Boise, seeing as how Bree’s car wasn’t going anywhere soon. As I climbed up into the silver Ford 350 truck with two complete strangers I pondered on what had happened. I sat quietly in the truck as thoughts floated through my head… “Why had I survived that accident? Why did it happen to me, I hadn’t done anything wrong? What will I do now? I don’t deserve this. ” I was reminded of one of my Book of Mormon professors who challenged us to read each chapter with personal application in mind.

Suddenly I remembered a scripture in Mosiah 23: 21 which read: “Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith.” I recalled my professor explaining that bad things happen to good people. The reason the Lord lets ‘bad’ things happen to the righteous is because he is providing them with opportunities for personal growth. “Was this the Lord’s way of making me stronger?” I highly doubted it, but a nagging feeling reprimanded me to consider otherwise. Perhaps I was looking at all this in the wrong way. My Heavenly Father didn’t let me die; I wasn’t seriously injured or even paralyzed. This was an opportunity for growth. Somehow I was going to learn something new, accomplish something incredible or become someone I couldn’t have been without this experience. The only problem was I didn’t know how. I lifted my eyes upward and realized that the truck was slowly coming to a stop.

When we pulled into the parking lot where we were meeting Tyler, I felt a sense of relief. My body was aching, my eyes were puffy and swollen, and my hair was tussled, but it didn’t matter. Tyler’s arms were outstretched as I clang my shaking body close to his. He stroked my head and held me tight, as if to keep me from ever leaving him. My lower lip quivered and I tried to swallow the large lump in my throat. After a silent moment had passed I looked into his striking blue eyes and understood how incredibly blessed I was. I was alive and loved.


Wii are the Nelsons said...

thanks for sharing that...how scary...I'm always scared about that happening to me...once in Chicago I was in a lane with trucks on either side of me...

Lance and Becky said...

I was in an accident due to a semi my 2nd year of college we rolled 6 times across the highway. We needed the jaws of life to get my friend out and she had to be air lifted to boise. Those Idaho roads can be scary. It's amazing to come out... makes you greatful. Thanks for sharing

Cherie said...

Scary! But a beautifully composed piece of work too. Good job on the writing assignment. It is always nice to read something someone wrote with a lot of heart. I'm glad you weren't killed or hurt badly.