The Birthday I Almost Didn't See
This is a special birthday for me. Not because it’s been a special year, or because it’s some milestone number… but because it almost didn’t happen. I almost didn’t get to celebrate this one.
Recently I had a pretty intense experience. It was a Friday morning and I had just dropped my kids off at school. I left preschool just as I always do and headed down Main street… just like I always do. I passed the same funeral home I pass every single morning, and I proceeded through the green light of that same, familiar intersection… going only about 25 miles per hour. When I was directly in the center of the intersection, I turned my head to the left. There was a minivan going very fast directly towards me through a red light. It was as if time stopped… or at least slowed dramatically.
The front of that minivan was so close to me, to my driver's side door, that I bet if I held out my hand I could’ve touched the hood of that thing, or at least touched those dirty headlights. It seemed there were only inches between us. At most a foot. I can still see it perfectly in my mind – how the sunlight shone on the hood, all the scratches, and the bit of chipped paint. I can still see her – the driver – stretching upward and over, looking in her rearview mirror. She was moving her mouth, talking, or perhaps singing, I don’t know. She was wearing a white knit winter hat and a dark coat. She had absolutely no idea I was there.
It was a slow, drawn-out moment, and it looked like I wasn’t going to escape this one. It seemed, in that eternal second, this was how my life was going to end. It was the blink of an eye, but somehow my mind knew what was happening. My heart sank into the pit of my stomach. I didn’t scream or yell in fear. I just sighed out loud.
“Shoot…” I said.
“Shoot.” I didn’t hug my teenagers goodbye this morning. I just hollered “love you” from the other room. I didn’t kiss my husband before he left. I just let him hiss my forehead while I packed lunches. “Shoot...” All I did was hurry my little ones this morning and complain about how slow they were going. “Shoot...” I haven’t called my brothers in forever. I didn’t text my mom back yesterday. “Shoot…” I haven’t been to confession this month or examined my conscience in a little while. I haven’t said I’m sorry. I haven’t asked forgiveness. I haven’t loved anyone like I wanted to. “
Shoot…” Time was up.
The air of regret was so thick in my car at that moment that it alone could’ve killed me… suffocated me. But the strangest thing happened. Somehow that speeding minivan right at my door didn’t actually hit me. And no, it didn’t slam on its breaks. There was no screeching of tires or dramatic jerk or swerve. There was none of that. But somehow that thing smoothly ended up BEHIND me in the lane I was driving in. Somehow it was going the exact same speed I was going as if it had been following me the entire time.
I’m not a science expert but it seemed to defy the laws of physics. I’ve replayed it in my mind a thousand times since that day, and I just can’t figure out what happened. It was as if some invisible hand reached down, and gently repositioned that van so that is was behind me… and not about to t-bone me.
I know it sounds crazy. I do. And I know what you’re thinking…. the van must’ve turned the wheel and did some crazy Ricky Bobby maneuvering. But the driver wasn’t even looking at the road. She didn’t see me. And she was way, WAY too close to me, going way too fast. There should have been an impact. But there wasn’t.
The simple fact is: it was a miracle. I know it was a miracle because at the time that this happened I was listening to a podcast about the Rosary. The priest who recorded it was talking about how people who pray the Rosary have special protection that follows them and their families. He was saying that a heavenly favor rests upon them and that they should EXPECT miracles. I pray the Rosary every single morning, but honestly, I wasn’t expecting a miracle like that.
But I’m so grateful it was given to me. I’m so grateful my last words weren’t “shoot,” or that my last feeling wasn’t one of regret. I’m so grateful I still get to drop my kids off at school and drive that same familiar route. I’m so grateful when I pass by that funeral home that I’m not lying in there. I’m so grateful I get to celebrate another birthday, and hug my kids, and kiss my husband, and reach out to my brothers. I’m so grateful for the chance to love better and live better.
I know I said that the way that van defied physics was a miracle…. but the truth is, the bigger miracle was the way it opened my eyes and my heart to the gift of fleeting life. That van didn’t touch my van. It didn’t leave even a scratch… but the whole ordeal impacted my life like a thunderous jolt, tossing me far from indifference and distraction.
When I made it safely through that intersection I pulled into a Rite Aid with shaking hands and a pounding heart. And I just sat there for a minute, and I cried. I couldn’t wrap my head around what had just happened, but my heart knew…. The Hand of God led me safely through the valley of the shadow of death. The mercy of God granted me a second chance.
So you see, today, as I read all of these wonderful birthday wishes from all you awesome friends, I’m appreciating each and every one of you, and thanking God for you. I'm enjoying my family and appreciating all that life has to offer. Nothing about this day has been taken for granted. Not one single thing. In fact, turning 42 feels like the best dang thing that has ever happened to me.
Thanks for all the well wishes. I’ll be praying for you all in my Rosary tomorrow….