“It could have been a lot worse,” my colleague said, concluding her tale about returning from vacation and finding her sewer line had backed up into a downstairs shower.
Immediately I thought of the day before, when two of my kids and I had witnessed — and very nearly been involved In — a scary accident. I couldn’t count how many times in the previous 18 hours I had relived the events, imagining what if scenarios.
What if I hadn’t been 100% focused on driving? (How many times have I had to referee arguments or dole out admonitions in the car?) I wouldn’t have had the wherewithal to swerve off the road when the car in the opposite lane came careening towards us, bouncing off the guardrail at least once and crossing the double yellow lines a couple of times.
What if there was no shoulder on that section of the road, as there isn’t along so much of that particular route? I know this because I actually was in an accident on the very same road more than 20 years prior, when an oncoming car coming downhill around a corner blinded me with high beams and I overcompensated to the right, catching the guardrail which was snug up against the side of the road and riding it for 50 feet, somehow rendering my car undriveable, yet leaving me mostly unscathed.
What if the woman’s car, when it careened off the road and down into a ravine, hadn’t gone directly between another guardrail and a cluster of boulders, instead ramming head on into either one?
All of this probably transpired in five seconds, but it seemed surreal, playing overandoverandover in an endless memory loop – and reminded me of watching the kids play arcade race games where they drive off cliffs, through trees, into other cars, yet they still finish the race. Real life isn’t like an arcade game, though!
What if the other two guys behind the woman hadn’t pulled over to help and I had to be the one to go running down the hill through the brush, rather than simply being the one to call the police, relaying messages from down below? I wouldn’t have wanted to make a decision about pulling someone from a vehicle – and imagine if it was on fire – with two of my three children trailing me, because of course they ignored my command to stay in the car.
Soon, we could hear sirens in the distance. One of the guys at the bottom of the hill had helped the woman out. She seemed to be in shock, but okay. The airbag hadn’t even deployed. Police, EMTs, and a fire truck came. We talked to one of the officers briefly, answering, “Of course – click it or ticket!” when he asked my kids if they were wearing their seatbelts.
I know my boys were working through their own mostly unspoken what if scenarios, too, since there was much trouble going to sleep the night before, and I had been shushed by, “I can’t talk about it, Mom. I don’t even want to think about it,” when I thanked God during our dinner and nighttime prayers. The only thing that had been uttered aloud was, “What if we were all killed, what would our brother do?”
Good thing we didn’t need to find out. As it was for me 20 years ago, as it was for us the day before, as it has been all the days in between, and as it will be from this day forward, the hand of God is there to hold us, guide us, and protect us.
…though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand. ~Psalm 37:24 NIV