Monday, June 23, 2008

The Wreck

On Mother’s Day, The Engineer, the kids and I were driving home from his parent's house. We were only 3 or 4 miles from the driveway when we saw a SUV on its side in the middle of the road. Jeff yelled for me to call 911, and I tried, but the cell had no signal. I got out of the car and conveyed this to him. I saw other cars coming down the road, so I ran down the road to flag them down so they wouldn’t hit our car. Once they were stopped, I asked if they would drive back up the road and call 911. The second car that stopped turned around and headed back up the road.
The Engineer had run up and looked into the car. “There’s no one in there” he yelled back at me. I was relieved. The driver must’ve gotten out. Moments later he was back, looking shaken. “They’re gone” he said, shaking his head. “There is nothing we can do.” I couldn’t comprehend what he was saying. “They are on the road on the other side of the car”, he said.

“Did you check for a pulse?” I asked, moving toward the SUV.

“I tried to talk to them, and got no answer”, he said “You don’t want to go over there”

“Did you check for a pulse?” I insisted, rounding the end of the vehicle. I scanned the road, there was debris everywhere. I didn’t see anyone. The Engineer looked pointedly at what I had taken to be a large pile of debris. It was, in fact a human body. It was so folded up and contorted that I didn’t even realize that it was a person. The legs were folded backwards, up onto the body and the arms were at strange angles. As I got closer I could see blood coming from the nose and bubbles in the blood. “He’s still breathing.” I told him. But I could see that the blue eyes were open and staring into the unknown.

Another car was approaching from this side of the car, so I jogged past the flag that car down. I stayed there a few minutes, stopping traffic before an older man from one of the cars I’d stopped on the other side told me to go back to my car.

On my way back, I stopped and knelt in the middle of the road. I put my hand on one of their hands. I could see that the blood coming from the nose was bright red, indicating a lung injury. There were still bubbles, so they were still breathing. I said “We’re trying to get you some help, OK?”, there was no response, but I said “I’m going to pray now, OK?” I don’t remember now what I prayed, just something to the effect that I knew this person mattered to Jesus. I didn’t pray long before The Engineer pulled me away.

Back on the other side of the SUV, drivers of the other stopped cars looked through the rubble with us, hoping to find the drivers name. We found a prescription bottle with a man’s name on it and assumed that was the identity of the person on the road. Shortly, the local VFD pulled up and I ran to the engine to tell them the situation. He got on the radio to try to get an ambulance. I returned to the crowd and someone had found a purse.

“Is there someone else?” I asked, looking around. “That is a woman’s purse, is there another body?”

“No, that was the woman” The Engineer said.

I just looked at him, shocked. I had not even realized that the person was female, the body was so crumpled.

There was an off-duty police officer amongst the gathering crowd, so I asked if we were going to need to stay to give any kind of a statement. He asked if we had seen the wreck happen, and since we had not, told us that we could go. He offered his theory on what had happened. There was a rut in the shoulder of the road, and pointing that out he theorized that the car had gone off the road for some reason, she had overcorrected and the car had rolled multiple times. Since she was not wearing her seatbelt, she was ejected through the passenger side window. We went back to my in-laws house.

The driver died at the scene before the ambulance could arrive.

I have had trouble since then with sleeping, although it is far better now. I was, and is, the single worst thing I have ever seen in my life. I learned later that she was a mother and a wife. I know her name, her age when she died and that she was a mother and wife, and that is all. Her death has impacted me greatly.

Strangely, I don’t seem to struggle with the “why” of the accident. I know that God could have prevented the accident but did not, and for whatever reason, that does not freak me out. She chose not to wear her seatbelt and I think she could have made it if she had. And I “get” the free will thing that we have going on with God, I really do. I know that “the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike”, so the fact that she was too young to die, about my mom’s age, isn’t what bothers me the most.

So here is what bugs me the most, and it just shows how completely selfish I am. I don’t know why God allowed me to see it. I don’t understand what I am supposed to learn from this experience or do with it. Someone (not a friend) suggested that it was so that my family would understand the importance of seatbelt safety. NO – this woman’s life was worth way more than that, besides, I never even put my car in gear unless everyone is securely buckled.

One of the things that I have regretted, since moments after we left the scene, was that I didn’t stay with her. I don’t know for sure if she could hear me or not, or whether she was a Christian or not, I just know that if it had been someone I loved in her position, I would’ve wanted someone to sit down on that center stripe and hold her hand and talk with her and pray with her until they were sure that she was gone. And I could’ve. I was too scared, which sounds ridiculous now, but at the time, seeing her all crumpled up like a used tissue, I was afraid. I did not like seeing how fragile we really are. I was afraid of her humanity. I know, in my head, that we are all human and fragile and that life is short, but to have to confront it so graphically, my fear won over my compassion. I have decided, in my head, to not beat myself up about this, because I know that guilt is of the devil, but there are still times, especially late at night that it keeps me awake.

I am not what you would call a people person. The Engineer is, he never met a stranger, and is super friendly. He genuinely likes to be around people. Me, I could easily become a hermit. I actively have to remind myself to wave to the neighbors when I see them, and I don’t feel any need to have people over to my house all the time. And despite that, I had never thought of myself as unloving. But I wonder now, is that what I am supposed to be learning from this? Once thing that struck me at the time was how very wrong it was for a person to die all alone in the middle of the road. But, in my anti-socialness, am I allowing, or even forcing, people to live all alone? Are there people near me who are hurting and I am so wrapped up in myself that I don’t even notice? ( I KNOW that the answer must be yes). So my challenge now is how to live as a person who loves Gods children every day.

When you see me, if I am wrapped up in myself, tell me to love God’s kids. I really am trying.