It was a cool September morning, before the sun came up. This was a monumental morning, the beginning of a new chapter for myself. My first big trip alone with my favorite person in the world (sorry, mom). I had spent a summer prepping for this big week, and I was so excited I could barely contain it. Something odd happened that morning though, I had a feeling that I couldn't shake.
Despite being a rather loud and outgoing 10 year old, I was intimidated by and in awe of my father. Telling him not to go would be a moot point. There's no way he would stay because his 10 year old daughter told him she had a feeling they should. So, off we went.
We started off our trip the way our family always did, prayer. Then we ventured on, only making a stop for some much needed coffee & hot chocolate. About 5 minutes into my ownership of this hot chocolate, I proceeded to spill half of it on my self. For those who know me, they know there are two things I hate: 1) Being Sick; 2) Being Sticky. For me, this was the omen. I knew I wasn't supposed to go, and yet I did. What's the price I paid? Sticky, hot chocolate all over my jeans. I cringe even thinking about it. But really, that pales in comparison to what would happen only a few hours later.
Being lulled to sleep by the sounds of the turnpike, my eyes slowly began to shut only for them to open to a very unexpected sound - a knock on the window as a kind looking gentleman gestured for me to unlock the door. I sleepily gazed up at him until I noticed that my legs felt cold and wet. I looked down to see my jeans and skin pulled apart, covered in blood, right where I had spilled my hot chocolate that morning. It was an omen. I knew it. Confused to how I 'd gotten there, I looked to the drivers side and saw something I will never un-see. There he was, my hero, my friend, my father laying lifeless against the steering wheel. No airbags in this old truck of his, just his head gashed open and covered in blood. I stared in awe of a different kind.
Tap, tap There were those knocks again. I slowly turned my head back to the window and saw the same gentleman at the window. Not wanting to be rude, I unlocked the door. This man, I'll call him Dan, opened the door with an "Are you Okay? Looks like you were in an accident. We need to call for an ambulance." I nodded my head in agreement. Dan then proceeded to unbuckle my seat belt, and assist me to his SUV. He was strong and assured me that everything would be alright. I believed him, and felt safe and protected by this kindly stranger. I got in his car, and we drove up the hill to his home, within site of the accident. Dan assured me God was with my dad, and would heal my dad. After a 30 second car ride, we parked by his house. I limped in with Dan's help. His wife was in the kitchen and his dog greeted me with the slobbery welcome that only a dog can give. Dan said to his wife, "We need to call the police." as he rushed to the landline and called the local authorities. His house was warm and peaceful - I felt safe despite the situation. So when Dan said it was time to go back, I was disappointed.
Dan drove me back down to the accident site. He brought me back to the wrecked truck and put me back in the seat. He buckled me in with a last "God's with you", and walked away.
Later that day, after the ambulance had taken us all to the hospital and I'd been released my mom drove us kids past where the accident had taken place. I immediately said "No, there's no house on the hill." The house I had been to, the driveway, none of it was there. What happened there is still a mystery.
This story has followed me my entire life. It wasn't just the beginning of a new chapter for me. It was a whole new book. My father wasn't dead, but traumatic brain injury left him irreversibly changed. No longer able to take care of himself, he was put into a nursing home...among other things. (But that's a different story for a different day.)
Something happens when you lose someone like that so young. You lose a special sense of security and invincibility. There is never a moment where you're not thinking of the worst case scenario. Because it happened to you.
This is something that my husband had to learn early in our relationship. Despite his assurances, I simply could not rest in the fact that everything would be alright, because "what if?" Any time he drives, goes on a trip, or walks down the street, my mind is racing with the worst case scenarios. He used to get frustrated with this - as if I didn't trust him. But over time he came to understand that it had nothing to do with him not being trustworthy. It had everything to do with losing the strongest, most faith filled, most amazing man I'd ever known in a matter of seconds. Seeing my dad, hearing him tell me how much he loved me that morning and by that afternoon I never got to have a real conversation with him again.
And that's what the blessing and the curse is. Now, I see the sacredness and the frailty of every moment I have with Chris. I hear him laugh, I see him reading in his favorite chair, I see his eyes looking back at mine and soak it all in. I think "What if this is the last time?"
It's especially pressing now. Only a few more weeks until Peter makes his grand entrance into the world. For the most part, it's been a great pregnancy. I made it through without any major complications or hiccups - which for any normal person, might give them confidence that labor and delivery will go extremely well. But in my case, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. I'm making plans A, B, C, D, and E for all the ways it could go wrong. The most terrifying being that I may not make it. What happens if I'm not there to care for Peter? How can I leave Chris to do it alone? I can't bear the thought of it.
So where does this leave me? Honestly, it's a mixed bag. One that I have to wade though every day. I try to focus on the sacredness of our relationship and of being a mother, rather than the fear of losing Chris, Peter or myself. I don't want to live in fear. But there are times when I'm admittedly greedy with Chris' attention and time. I want him with me, even just being in the same house. Because I know that every second I have with him is a gift. To me 5, or 10, or 50 years seems like too short a time. There will never be a good time for a last 'goodbye' or a last 'I love you'. I'm content to live the fantasy that those things, our love, will go on forever.
When I feel overwhelmed by all this and bring it before the Lord I'm reminded of why we named our son Peter (Chris named him Peter after his grandfather). But for me, naming him Peter was more about naming him after Peter the Apostle. As I prayed for him, the image of Peter walking on the water toward Jesus played over and over in my mind. That's what I want for Peter. I want him to see Jesus and say 'yes' to wherever he's leading him. To keep his eyes focus on Him and take steps forward, even when the ground he's landing on is unsteady. We have a small painting hanging in Peter's room that says "Nolite Timere - Duc in Altum" which is Latin for "Do not fear - Go out into the deep". I believe this is what Jesus calls Peter to do, and his Mom. With every worry I have, Jesus responds with 'Do not fear - go out into the deep" and I'm learning to reply "Jesus, I trust in you." Hey, I might just walk on water too.