As I was making a right turn into the TGI Friday’s parking lot, a silver car was about to make a left turn out of the same lot. Just before turning, the young man, with a pleasant, but determined face, looked in my direction, presumably to ensure that the coast was clear before proceeding with the turn. Our paths crossed, and for a moment we were face-to-face.
As I completed my turn, the thundering sound of a crash pervaded the air with a soul shaking force. I thought “Did I just get rear-ended?”, but a quick assessment of my surroundings found nothing unusual.
Dazed and confused, I looked in my rearview mirror and witnessed the aftermath of a large landscaping truck barreling into the silver car that was being driven by the pleasant, determined, young man. The truck veered off into the fence across the street, while the silver car spun 360 degrees twice before landing near the truck.
“Oh, that sucks!”, was my first thought. But, when I thought of the driver that I was face-to-face with just two seconds before, and recognized the magnitude of the impact – a heavy pick-up truck going 35 to 40 miles per hour hitting the driver’s side door of a small car – my thought changed to, “OH MY GOD, what just happened?” I became paralyzed at the thought of what might have happened to the driver of the car.
As it turned out, the young driver was a 28-year-old-man and he had a passenger in his car; his 68-year-old father. His father succumbed to his injuries at the scene. The driver was deemed brain dead at first, but then, a week later, also succumbed to his injuries.
The 18-year-old landscaper driving the pick-up truck suffered minor physical injuries, but no doubt that that moment will haunt him for the rest of his life.
If you watch the news or read social media posts, you know that accidents happen all the time. But when you’re a witness to the accident or when you know the people involved, it’s different. Not different in general, but different for you. Every tragedy is traumatic and sad for someone, but we as individuals can’t absorb everyone’s trauma, nor should we. We are strong enough to carry our own load and couldn’t possibly carry everyone’s.
This accident has weighed heavy on me. I can’t help but to think, “What if I wasn’t there, maybe the driver would have noticed the pick-up truck on my left.” Or, “What if the driver just paused a second longer before pulling out?” I usually stop and remind myself that everything had to be in perfect order for this to happen. It happened how it happened and the only thing I can do is tell the story in hopes that one person hears it, thinks twice, and slows down as a result. If anyone at the scene could foresee what was about to happen, we all would have done something differently in order to avoid it from happening.
Witnessing this moment has driven me to play out the details in my mind repeatedly, cry repeatedly for the victims and their loved ones, and come to the realization that we are not in control. No matter how controlling we try to be, we are not in control. So, what do you do, when you’re not in control? Here’s what I think:
- Love the ones you love; make sure they know you love them.
- Forgive easily; don’t hold onto grudges.
- Say you’re sorry when it needs to be said.
- Teach people what you know. Share your life lessons.
- Say what you need to say in a caring and loving way. Don’t let it go unsaid.
- Make the most of all your time; you don’t know what the next moment holds.
- Don’t worry. Take action or let it go. God will handle the rest.
- Do your best.
Most of us have heard the above list countless times before, but words are elusive and sometimes in order to understand them, you need to feel them.
Tell me this: In what ways do you cope when you realize you’re not in control?