I had put on my favorite jeans that morning. I am short and athletically built, so I tend to have a difficult time finding a good pair of jeans, but these were just right. It was bright and sunny outside, but brisk, so I was wearing my new maroon sweater and my comfy, worn, and well-loved bomber jacket with its perfectly vintage shade of faded blue and its faux fur-lined hood. I couldn’t have imagined that only a half hour later I’d be watching the paramedics shred that same treasured jacket to pieces, and begging them to leave my jeans alone.
We had been driving down the main country road in Gasport, NY towards Lockport, going the speed limit, 55, in our little green beater of a Honda Civic, when a stopped Dodge Ram in the opposing lane unpredictably turned left onto a side road and slammed into the oncoming traffic— our car.
The next thing I remember is watching from the inside of our car as it became swallowed up into this mammoth truck, sliding under it. It all felt very “out-of-control,” and it was strange to know that, though I was whole and alive one moment, I was very likely to be gone, just gone, within seconds. My husband was driving, and I was in the passenger seat— I took the brunt of the hit. I had never before, and have never since, had such a certain feeling of impending death. When the crash itself didn’t take me, Jeff and I were left in a silent, slow, buzzing haze within the car. Outside our windows was this huge wreck, and all this commotion, but in this space there was this eerie slowness, as we looked at each other, and ourselves, and tried to find out if we were okay. I found it harder and harder to fill my lungs with air. I felt as thought I were slowly suffocating and I wouldn’t be able to hang on to consciousness much longer. Black splotches were filling up my vision. I told Jeff I loved him and then, as I stared at the darkening dashboard, I was overcome with an intense sadness. This one overwhelming thought kept repeating itself in my mind: I never got to be a mother. I never got to be a mother.
I had been so sure of this next step in life. I had felt in my every bone the call to be a mom. There was so much love in me, unspent. I couldn’t understand dying with this bank of love ready to burst out of me, unable to share it with the children I would never have. I wasn’t afraid of death, just sad, so completely sad.
Fire-fighters came on the scene and busted through my window, connecting the chaotic brisk world outside with the silent buzz of the crushed prison that our car had become, and we were both pulled into separate ambulances. It was at this point that I began to feel myself coming back into the world. Later I’d find out that I had broken my sternum and injured my neck — both very painful, but non-fatal, injuries. Jeff had broken his toe. I became very nauseous from all of the pain medicine, and still have a very clear memory of Jeff limping to the corner store a few days after the accident to get me Saltines and ginger ale.
In case you are wondering, the paramedic did manage to shimmy my jeans off of me, but they have since been donated, because those “perfect” jeans never quite fit the same way again after that first baby. But that’s okay. I am a mother.
I’ve heard it said many times that people feel they’ve been spared death in order to fulfill some great purpose on this earth, and perhaps they have. Perhaps I have. I don’t know. I don’t claim to know how these things work, or what great purposes are in store for me. I don’t claim to have any more of a reason to be allowed to continue living than the many who do not survive these accidents. What I do know is this, that through this experience I have gained a sense of gratitude for everything I have in life. I have gained the chance to spend my unspent love. I will aim to manifest that gratitude for the rest of my life, no matter how long I have, and to spend my love lavishly, as though it will go to waste if I don’t.
Love is itself unmoving,
Only the cause and end of movement,
Timeless, and undesiring
Except in the aspect of time
Caught in the form of limitation
Between un-being and being.
– T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton (excerpt)