A dozen or so years ago my husband and I were suddenly crashed into by an unlicensed driver who had no insurance. To make matters worse, she’d had her license taken away from her and was in a borrowed car. Being 19 years old, she had no financial worth or responsibility.
We were on our way to my nephew’s wedding in the museum district of Dallas, Texas, which is rather slow on Saturday mornings in the winter. It seemed so unlikely that someone would run a red light and hit us so hard that we spun around five times, causing me ten hits to my head and other body parts as our car violently twirled round and round on the almost empty street.
In seconds our life as we knew it endured a radical change. Our car was totaled with wheels flipped horizontally. I was trapped and couldn’t get out on my side so I said to my spouse, “It seems we are still alive and I smell smoke, so we’d better try to get out on your side!” He responded by coming out of a trance and opening his door.
After spending the rest of the day in the local ER and being clearly instructed that the next day would be worse, and that it would take some time to feel right again, we confronted the reality that the only thing between us and being stranded and hurt on a big city street was my credit card. We hailed a cabbie who graciously found us a hotel.
Since our car was quickly pronounced totaled, we rented a car since we needed to get back home to seek continued medical treatment. The drive home was excruciating and I got ice packs at a pharmacy and somehow made the half day’s drive home.
On my first day back at school, I had no real voice and could barely toddle into the room. I waved for the students to gather at our “meeting table” and they got strangely quiet as I related a brief summary of why they would need to be helpful for a while to let me get my strength back. One child asked, “Is your car OK – I notice it’s not in the parking lot.” I whispered, “It’s totaled, but that’s all right. We’re alive, and that’s all that matters.”
Suddenly a guy yelled out, “It’s like the treasure song!” The he started singing, and the others joined him in a rather subdued rendition of the first verse of Life is the Greatest Gift of All – a verse we had sung in Music class. It is also called Brother James Air. As they sang, “. . . so treasure it, and measure it, with deeds of shining worth” it took a supreme effort to not just melt into a puddle of tears.
I assured these marvelous students that they had it figured out – cars were just “stuff” whereas life was golden. I’ve never stopped being proud of them for their clarity of understanding about what was important in that situation! Amazing:-)
We somehow made it. My dear friend who had recently retired came at mid-day to take over and finish the day out as I had very limited endurance. As the months rolled on, I began to think the pain and energy crises would go on forever. My sister sent me a card which reminded me, “The sun also rises, and the sky still turns blue. . .” which I looked at every day.
My good friend Mary D. had helped me at various points with things as simple as shampoo or as complex as just the right body pillow to bring some degree of comfort. She realized I was in a funk and got a beautiful jar, then another container full of beautiful rocks. Each day I moved one rock to the lovely jar to represent the process of getting better. The idea was that by the time all the rocks were sitting in the ornate jar I could expect life to be better.
I’ve used this a number of times since then to help myself and others deal with long-term issues whether it be health or other issues in life. The vision of slow transition from one very plain jar to another one of great beauty allowed me to accept the slow process of weaving health back into my life again.
My health is fine now, and I was able to apply what I learned to my husband’s bout with Stage IV cancer for several years. We live pleasantly now, although I still have bad knees and a few other mild limitations. I do still refer back to “the treasure song” when I’m in need of a reality check, and I come up with the same conclusion each time. Life is indeed good, and it’s worth taking the time to let things change for the better.
Copyright by Hildra Tague. Contact the author for print or online republication.