A couple of years ago, my husband and I were almost killed in an RV accident. It was a warm, fall afternoon and David was driving me and seven of our friends to a University of Florida football game. The passengers were talking and laughing and eating when, without a second’s notice, the right front tire blew out. The speed of the RV and the force of the blown tire caused us to veer across three lanes of traffic. Miraculously, David was able to control the RV and avoid hitting any other vehicles.
When the tire blew, I was sitting in the passenger seat and was not wearing a seat belt. I was thrown to the floor and two of our guy friends fell on top of me. The weight of their bodies acted as an airbag and protected me from flying forward or flailing around the RV.
As the RV careened to the side of the road, David spotted a culvert. Knowing that if we hit that culvert, the RV would crumple like an accordion, David looked for a flat piece of land to steer the RV and hopefully make it come to a stop. When we hit that piece of grass, the RV went airborne and we landed in a field.
The period of time that I laid on the floor of the RV, from when the tire blew until we landed in that field, seemed to move in slow motion. I could feel every inch of highway beneath us. I felt the weight of my friends so heavy on my chest that I could hardly breathe. I closed my eyes and prayed. “God. Please keep us safe. Stop this RV. Please, stop this RV.”
When we finally landed, I laid motionless, unsure if I were dead or alive. I opened my mouth to call out David’s name, but nothing came out. No sound. No noise. When I felt a tear roll from my right eye into my hairline, I assumed I had been spared.
The silence was broken when I heard David call my name. I couldn’t get up with all the weight resting on my chest. I raised my left hand toward the driver’s seat and stretched my fingers. When I felt David’s hand touch mine, the energy of his love flowed through my body and I struggled to get up.
As my friends hoisted themselves off of me, I sat up and looked around. The cabinets had come unfastened from the walls. The refrigerator blocked the hallway to the back bedroom, where three of our friends had been resting. It looked as though a tornado had ripped through the RV.
The rest of what happened is a bit of a blur. When the EMTs arrived, I was standing in the field next to the RV. I felt dazed and confused. One of the EMTs, worried that I was in shock, asked me if I was okay. I wasn’t sure.
I looked down to my side and asked, “Is there a pig standing next to me?” I was worried I was seeing things.
“It’s actually a hog m’am. You’ve landed in a hog farm.”
“Well, in that case, I think I’m okay.”
We were all rushed to the hospital, where we were treated for our injuries, some more severe than others. When the chief of neurosurgery came in to examine my husband, he asked if he could shake his hand. He said David was a hero.
The doctor had seen numerous fatalities from RV accidents. Most of the time when a tire blows, the RV rolls over, and the passengers are thrown around inside, much like towels in a washing machine. Because David was able to keep the RV upright, we all survived.
I’d like to to tell you that our lives after the accident were rosy and filled with deeper relationships with our friends. But after nearly a year of dealing with insurance companies and lawsuits, David and I were emotionally worse for the wear.
As time went on, perspective allowed me to see that accident for what it was – an awakening.
An awakening that life can be snuffed out quicker than you can blink your eye.
That sometimes even if no one’s at fault, the human condition requires that blame be placed somewhere.
That if you come that close to dying, but are spared, you have more work to do on earth. So get busy doing it.
But don’t do your work too quickly. You want to make sure you’re still needed here a while longer.
That when you elude death, love is one of the first emotions that rushes through your body. It reaffirms your space on earth.
I also realized that heroes don’t only exist in books and movies. Sometimes, you’re lucky enough to married to one.
When last Christmas rolled around, it had been a little over a year since the accident. I couldn’t think of anything that I wanted. No material gift would ever have the same meaning. What more could I ask for? I survived. My husband survived. Everyone survived.
There was nothing I wanted more than peace, love, and an opportunity to continue living a meaningful life. And those are things you won’t find under a Christmas tree.