The impact was sudden and fierce. But the fear didn’t set in until I saw the vehicle that rear-ended me rolling toward me.
“I’m not ready to die,” I prayed out loud. Then I closed my eyes and let faith wash over me.
When I opened my eyes again, the silver SUV was inches from my door. Miraculously, it was standing on its side instead of on top of me. I released the breath I didn’t know I was holding and let fat tears roll down my face. I was shaken, and I was angry, but I was alive.
The fact that this wasn’t the first near-fatal car crash that I had survived did not escape me. This was the fourth time I defied fate and logic and walked away from a car wreck with minor scrapes and bruises.
None of the crashes have been my fault, so I’d like to think that somehow a higher power took pity upon me and protected me each time. But millions of innocent lives have been lost in mangled automobiles, so why have I been spared?
I’m a survivor.
That’s what people tell me, anyway, and maybe they aren’t wrong. Besides avoiding being the victim of vehicular manslaughter/homicide, I have made it through other life-threatening situations that could have, and likely should have, taken me from this world. Not the least of which was a suicide attempt in my early teen years. My stomach rejected that notion, and every single pill, as I vomited profusely for what seemed like hours.
But there were other instances that could have landed me six feet under. The assault in the park, the home invasion, or when I accidentally started a fire in my basement could have all led to my demise. When lightning struck the pier, every hair on my head and body stood on end, but I was not harmed. In all of these situations, I lived to tell about the near-death experiences.
While we waited for the police to arrive, witnesses and passersby ensured that everyone was okay and could get out of their vehicles. I can’t move for a moment. Not because I am injured, but because I am gobsmacked that I have been spared yet again.
Shouldn’t the time I nearly drowned in the community pool because my foot got stuck between the ladder and the wall have done me in?
How about the severe asthma attack in eighth-grade history class? Or the time I fell down a flight of twenty stairs in high school and should have broken my neck but broke my tailbone instead? Undoubtedly, the time I was choking at the breakfast table and my poor daughter had to run upstairs to get her naked, wet father out of the shower to come down and perform the Heimlich Maneuver should have been my ticket to the afterworld.
In all of these instances, I begged either verbally or silently for my life to be spared. And, in every case, my wish was granted.
Hell, I’m even a cancer survivor! That’s right! I spent years raising money and awareness for cancer research and programs, only to be blatantly stupid about the fact that the disease was looking back at me in the mirror. The diagnosis came at a time when I was getting ready to move to the beach permanently after years of longing and planning. I left the doctor’s office, sat in my car, and cried.
What the hell? Didn’t the fact that I devoted so much time and energy to volunteering earn me a pass? My daughter surely thought so. But it doesn’t work that way. Many remarkable people who’ve done far better things than I have lost their battle against cancer.
But not me.
I won my battle, and I survived. I’m three years cancer-free. Every time I get a scan, I think, well, maybe my luck won’t hold out.
But it has.
The police and paramedics have arrived, and a young man with kind eyes asked if I was okay. I assured him that I’m fine but suggested that he not take my blood pressure as I was sure it was extremely elevated. He nodded. There are others to attend to at the scene.
The officer who took my statement told me I’m lucky. He’s not wrong; I just don’t know why. Then I looked around and realized that every single person involved in this multicar accident is standing outside of their cars, living, breathing, alive.
Could it be that the God that I prayed to wasn’t sure whose voice He was hearing, so he gave all of us a pass? Maybe I’m not special after all. Perhaps my near-misses (shouldn’t they be called near-hits?) aren’t all that unique. How audacious of me to think I am any more deserving of nine lives than anyone else!
But here I am, just a couple of bruises on my arm, even though the car that hit me tore my bumper clear off and left my poor car battered.
I called a cab to get me and take me home as the tow truck took my car to the dealership body shop. I needed to go pick up another vehicle to continue with my errand. I recalled seeing a white taxi just moments after the accident. The driver already had a fare, but the phone number was plastered there on the side of the cab in big, bold, red numbers. How convenient!
The dispatcher said it would take half an hour for my ride to arrive. I swore under my breath, knowing that my nephew, Liam, was waiting for me at the airport, and I was going to be late. I texted him, and he told me not to worry, that he still needed to retrieve his luggage.
Then I got a call from the taxi driver, letting me know he was a block away. Only twelve minutes had passed.
When I opened the door to get into the cab, I was a little taken aback. Shame on me for thinking that a man named José would automatically be Hispanic. He was whiter than me, and I’m a redhead. We made small talk, and I felt my irritation slipping away when he commented on how fortunate it was that no one was severely hurt. “You’re a survivor,” he told me. He was right, of course.
When we arrived at my home, he slid my credit card through the reader. When he handed it back to me, he asked me if he could give me a little book of prayers. I accepted the booklet; it couldn’t hurt to acknowledge that it was likely prayer that saved my life only an hour before.
I hopped in my husband’s car and headed, once again, to the airport. The radio was set to a seventies station, and Gloria Gaynor belted out how she would survive. Of course, I joined her in song and got some interesting looks from other drivers on the road.
I didn’t care.
When I eventually pulled up to the curb at the airport, I texted my nephew to let him know I had arrived. He replied that he’d gone to use the restroom and would be right out.
While I was waiting, I pulled up my pictures on my phone to show Liam the damage done to the car. In the process, I stumbled across a video clip I made about being a cancer survivor for a webcast earlier in the year. It gave me goosebumps.
I listened to my voice telling my community that being a survivor meant being around for the important milestones. Things like seeing my son get married, watching my grandson learn how to ride a bike, being able to move to the beach, and spending time with my husband.
When Liam came out to the car, I popped the trunk so he could put his bag inside. When he got into the car, he hugged me and said, “I’m so glad you’re okay! You’re a real survivor; you know that?”
What can I say? He’s right. For some reason, I have made it through a lifetime of turbulence, and I’m still here. My purpose may not have been fulfilled yet, I suppose. I must still need to do something great, although I have no idea what that is.
Perhaps it’s not one big thing. Maybe, instead, it’s a bunch of little things. It sounds conceited, but I’ve been told many times that I have touched someone’s life or made a difference. I don’t know about that. But I do know that I look for the good in everyone, and I try to help people see that good in their own mirrors.
Could that be why I am a survivor? I’m not sure. But I do know that after years of opportunities for the grim reaper to escort me away, I’m still here.
I’m still alive.