NOTE: this blog is raw, no editing, first thought, first word. And since it involves the rawness of realness, I felt OK with leaving it be.
My life has a funny way of having moments of “embodied Irony.” A moment like that crossed my path earlier this week. I had written the post about being in search of a bigger God and had set up my blog to auto post it. Well between the writing of the blog and the posting of the blog I had a miraculous experience: I survived a serious car accident.
A 4:30 p.m. on Palm Sunday, I was heading out from a friends’ house to get to evening Mass. I am far from a good Catholic or even a faithful follower of Jesus, but the events of Holy Week and Sacred Rituals of Easter and Passover are vital and important to my own spiritual l journey. So, I was pulling out of the gravel road onto a state highway. I looked left, then right and for some reason decided to go left to stop by a convenience store for an afternoon cup of Joe. I pulled out and there it was – a 1990 black Honda Accord traveling at about 60 miles per hour.
Time stopped or at least felt like it slowed down. I knew Juno and I were going to get nailed by this car so I reacted the fastest way I could: I simultaneously slammed the gas pedal to the floor (hoping to only have only the tail of my car hit) and I used all my strength to reach around and move Juno from behind the driver’s seat, pressing her against the rear passenger door (thereby putting her as far away from impact as possible). All of this occurred in 2 seconds or less…
The car slammed into us, never even hitting the brakes before impact. Then it became surreal: metal twisting and bending; pain and searing fire erupting through my body; the shriek of a terrified dog; spinning around and around with dizzying force; then a second or two of pure stillness.
Then I heard the voice of a young person, “holy shit that is a lot of gas….get out, get out, man!” I only remember scrambling to get my seat belt off and nothing happening. I was stuck and in blinding pain. The door had me pinned in. I just remember screaming out to God, “Give me strength NOW, help me, Lord, save Juno. I don’t give a shit about me but save HER!!”
The seat belt unclasped.
I flipped over into the back of the car, grabbed Juno by her harness, and we literally fell out of the car stumbling about 30 feet away from the car. I could not breathe and pain was setting my body and soul on fire. The rest is a blur. All I remember is asking a bystander to call my friend and have him come and take my dog to the ER vet hospital.
I also remember Juno being right next to me, tight up against what I would learn were my fractured ribs. She did not move. When the paramedics approached me she growled but then let them touch me. My friend Hugh came and did what he is great at: exhibiting grace under pressure and jumped into the Solution. He just said, “I’ve got Juno. The paramedics have got you.”
Then the pain took over…all over; searing, fire like, pained breathing, burning on my face and arms. Later I would learn it was the air bags and a few fractured ribs, one vertebrae fractured (L4) and another compressed (L3), bruised lungs, scrapes, cuts, and soreness all over, covering me like a blanket.
Out of all of this too, I learned I have a “shaded area” in my lungs that appears not to be affiliated with the accident. So, the accident afforded me the chance to learn that I need a biopsy on a shaded lump in my lung.
As I said before, my life is Embodied Irony.
The doctors, the State Police, the paramedics, the firemen…all said the same thing: by the looks of the car, the driver should be comatose, paralyzed or dead and that the dog should definitely be dead. The passengers in the other car are fine. They were released after a few hours of getting checked out in the hospital and they left with their lives and some soreness. My insurance will pay for their car and their medical bills, but will not cover any of my expenses; that one is up to me and God.
Me, as I said, a few fractured ribs and the fractured vertebrae. Juno has a few bruised ribs, internal bruising, and a nasty gash on her tailbone with 3 staples holding it together. Her prognosis and mine remain the same: full recovery.
So, here is my Life: technically I am homeless as of April 1 (the generous friends I was staying with allowed me a month longer than expected). My two job prospects are stuck in limbo so I am unemployed right now. I am grateful for my friend Hugh McGee and the bed he is offering me at the blessed “last house on the block” known as Rivendell Recovery Center to spend some time recovering. I have a few bucks to my name. My recently purchased 1997 Ford Escort did her duty in offering metallic protection, but sacrificed herself in the process – my car gave her life for mine. Even my car was Christ-like. Tee Hee. So I am without a car.
But I am alive and oh so grateful, but the pain is, well, a PAIN. But I lived. For whatever reason and I know it was a God thing, God saw fit to allow me more time in this body. Others have died in car accidents that were far greater and lesser in degree of damage. I will not enter into that “why me” questioning phase. It does no justice to the Experience, to God or to the thousands of others who have been wounded or traumatized far worse than I. I am no hero. I am no soldier. I am no martyr. I am just a man who is grateful he was given another day of life. I am grateful I have the ability to even feel the very pain I am in. I am blessed not because I am special or unique, I am blessed simply because of the perspective and experience. In truth, I was just as blessed the day my son died 13 years ago. Asking “why” suffocates my ability to see all of life as a Gift, all of life as an opportunity to know and make known the God I am loved by.
What. “What” is what I have been asking God – as in “what am I supposed to be doing now that I have this experience under my belt?”
First thing is I gave my life back to God for the umpteenth time, praying that God take my life and use it for the good of people and the planet and for divine glory. That was the only thing I felt I could do right now that was tangible and proper; surrendering and practicing faith now seem appropriate. And in this situation faith is practicing courageous trust in God.
I am awash in gratitude.
I am tattooed with God’s grace.
And all of this happened during a very Holy Week and in-between a solar and lunar eclipse – so these times are charged, quite potent and abundant in spiritual transformation. The grand universe and the world is indeed still spinning and even in my little world, well it is spinning wildly as well.
The truth is I love God more today than yesterday; more madly, deeply and truly. As those who have experienced God within traumas can testify to, it is transformative at minimum. I know now more than ever that I am one with God. This week I experienced Divine Providence so intimately and profoundly through all the wonderful medical staff and the friends that inhabit my world. Let me say it in writing: I have AMAZING friends; those who visited, prayed, texted, sent word, emailed, called, Facebooked, ran errands for me, did things for me that I did not even know I needed done. I am a BLESSED man. I am graced indeed for I have done NOTHING to deserve any of this.
My life is Grace Embodied; my life is Irony Embodied.
As you look at the picture, I ask that you whisper prayers of “Thanks” on my behalf. My prayers for you are as you look at the mangled car you will know personally that God is alive and active in your life, pouring out grace upon grace into you and your circumstances.
I pray my accident becomes a testament of God’s love FOR you…and that all of us in richer ways taste and see the Goodness of God.