Breaking bones and some barriers

Posted: Saturday, December 26, 2015 8:00 am

If someone asked you to describe the best days of your life, how would you answer?

The list would usually include four or five of life’s biggest milestones such as meeting that perfect someone, the birth of a child or landing a dream job. Mine would include the day my high school sweetheart proposed in a letter, the birth of my kids, finding redemption and my first book being published.

But, sometimes, the best days of our lives aren’t romantic, beautiful or full of snapshot moments. Some of the best days are bittersweet marked by misfortune, strangers and a community rallying to say, “I’m so glad you’re OK.”

The best day of my life was Dec. 15, because I walked away from a car accident with a few bumps and bruises and breath in my lungs. My kids were shaken but safe.

Like any other day of the week I was already thinking of appointments, my family’s schedule, laundry, deadlines and what to make for supper as I drove down 17th Avenue to drop off my kids at school.

One moment, I was doing what I always do. The next, I found my Suburban sliding into oncoming traffic as I prayed for the safety of my kids, doing everything I could to control my vehicle and brake before slamming into a pole at 45 mph. My head connected with the rear-view mirror and dashboard, and I was then catapulted back into my seat. Air bags failed to deploy.

Strangely enough, this became one of the best days of my life because it included strangers.

A woman who saw the accident stopped. She stood outside the driver-side door of my Suburban in the freezing cold making small talk to calm my fears and reassure me that my children were OK while we waited for the ambulance.

The best day of my life included the courage of my son, as the officers told me just how brave 9-year-old Elijah was as he cared for his little sister. They were so grown up as they strapped themselves into the seats by my head and we drove away in an ambulance.

The best day of my life included the emergency room doctor who opened my eyes to just how important that day was.

He met me in the emergency room with a smile and a statement I’ll never forget.

“Heather, today is the best day of your life. Do you want to know why? Because you’re going to walk out of here. Most people who show up in the ER after being in a car accident like yours or worse don’t get that chance. You’re going to be OK, but you’re going to need help,” he said as he liquid-stitched my right eyebrow and ordered CT scans and X-rays.

It was a rare instance for me to be able to recognize the beauty of the moment while I was still in it, despite the ugly circumstances. Much to my surprise, I realized he was right.

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Tuesday became the best day when I realized just how important community is. Tuesday became the day when I realized it’s OK to not be OK. It became the day when I realized it’s OK to reach out and ask for help or to hold the hand of the person reaching in.

As women, we don’t work one job but two. We try balancing motherhood and career. Too often, we find ourselves tired, longing to ask for help, wondering if anyone else feels the same way. And we are afraid to verbalize how we really feel, “Can I really do all of this?”

I’m learning, the answer is yes — if you let others in.

Help came in the most unexpected of places and moved me to tears, which is probably easy to do with a concussion and a broken foot.

The best day of my life included a friend showing up before going to her second job to check on me and driving me to appointments or work. Another took my kids to school and gave me the gift of coffee.

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The best day of my life came in the form of our school principal bringing a steaming hot meal prepared by his wife, complete with dessert so I didn’t have to worry about cooking and my children’s day care showering me with handmade cards. The list goes on.

But how could I have known the love of these people and the care of friends and co-workers had I not been able to let others in? How could I have known that Tuesday would break some bones and help me break some barriers?

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