Life is a journey. Here is ours captured in words and pictures.

coming home

on January 6, 2013

There’s nothing quite like a life-altering event to get me back from my blogging hiatus. Where to begin? My mind is racing more quickly then my fingers can type, there is too much to say.

I guess I will begin by telling you that Dorothy was not making an understatement when she clicked her glittery shoes and proclaimed over and over again that there’s “no place like home.” It’s funny, though, because now that we are home from our vacation to Arizona, home isn’t quite what I was expecting, not quite the place of safety and comfort that I was greatly anticipating when we were dropped off at the Phoenix airport Tuesday morning. But it really has more to do with what is happening inside of me rather than home itself and what it may or may not represent.

You see it was just over a week ago, one week go and 22 hours to be exact, when our family was hit broadside in a head-on collision driving through Casa Grande, on the way back to Allen’s parents house.  We’d already had a long day, driving to Tucson to visit the Desert Museum, and we were pretty much all about as spent as 4 spent people can be.  We’d picked up some Papa Murphy’s and were traveling eastbound going through a green light, when a truck turned left and Allen slowed down as he went by……little did we know that a red prius driven by a 70 year old woman right behind that truck was about to collide with us.

I closed my eyes as I felt our car swerve and I braced myself for whatever was coming as I heard Allen reference the fact that we were about to get hit. I cannot remember his exact words………doesn’t matter now, but time stood still as the crunch, the hiss, the explosion of airbags, the punch, my legs, my arms, my head, my very core, shaken. Then silence, then smoke, then get out, get out, get out, the kids, my God, the kids………..we opened our doors, amazed to be alive in that moment, but what about the kids? we each rushed to the back, the smoke, the glass, the crunch, the fear, they, where are they, oh God get them out.

Open doors, crying kids, pulling them out, where do we go? Cars rushing all around us, total chaos, Allen running with Sawyer to the car that hit us, screaming, yelling, why, why why? Pandamonium?!? Touching and feeling and holding every part of my baby girl’s body, seeing red in her mouth, oh my God you’re bleeding……….wait, it’s just a red vine, still chewing a red vine. What? You’re safe, I need to hold you, I need to be held. What just happened?

The darkest day. Ever. But wait, we’re alive. how are we alive? how did we survive this? I am shaking, cannot stop shaking. Some ladies in a truck ask if we are okay? I yelled “call 9-1-1!!! Someone was already on it. Time stood still, but at the same time everything happened so quickly. It was completely like watching something happen to someone else, stepping outside of myself. Allen handed me Sawyer. He tried to move the car, wouldn’t budge.

Suddenly we heard sirens, lots of them. It grew darker. Aid car, police officers, EMT’s, they all came over, flashing lights, blankets, huddling together on the side of the road. Freezing. Cool, dark Arizona night sky. What is happening? How are we alive? Is this for real? A blur, a mighty, stormy, incredible, unbeliveable blur.

My legs hurt, my arms hurt, my kids were so tired, I think that we all just wanted to melt into a puddle and dissapear, make it all stop, go to sleep. I couldn’t believe my kids were okay, I watched the lady in the prius get on a stretcher. We had our blankets. All the attention on her. Fighting jealousy, why not attention on us too? Wait, we’re okay, we’re okay. A rush of emotions, relief, shock, anger, relief, shock anger. A police officer asks me if I have a child with me, and I motion 2 children-he quickly invites us to sit in the back of his unit, lights fashing, dispatch/police radio blaring about our accident (totally weird to be hearing my husband’s name on a dispatch radio), heat blasting. It takes forever, all the papers, the questions, the cleaning up of glass. Sawyer saying he’s scared, Abrielle saying she wants to sleep here.  Waiting for Allen’s parents to arrive, seemed like an eternity.

When I closed my eyes I longed for home, my mom, my dad, just get me and my family the h***out of this state. Get me on the 1st plane home, please please someone just hear the cries that my lips aren’t uttering but my heart is yearning for.  The next few days were probably the hardest I’ve faced, wanting so desperately to get out of Arizona, away from the desert, now no car, stuck…….stuck. On edge, sore, exhausted, hurting, mind won’t stop whirling.  Whirling around the what if’s and the why’s and the how come’s and the just imagines. Remembering how scared my little boy was and how my daughter was dissapointed because she couldn’t finish watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Priorities. I wish I was 4 again.

I thought that clicking my heels and dreaming of home and actually coming home would be so much different. I cannot move past that night. Shouldn’t I just be relieved to be alive and move forward? Never in a million years could I have anticipated the impact that something like this can have on the human psyche. At least not on my psyche. Insurance, new car seats, don’t tell them too much, you’re not telling them enough. Be careful what you say, don’t sign this, take the kids in to the doctor, have them checked out. The left side of my knee, abrasion, reminder. Two red marks on my arm-reminder. Abrielle’s neck, now bare, but I still see a mark that no longer exists, yes, a reminder. My scared little Sawyer, no longer scared, a reminder. Perpetual reminders, perpetual thoughts about that night……….needing to talk about it to find relief, wanting to not rehash it all in fear of traumatizing and retraumatizing the kids.  Stuck between a rock and a hard place. I’m always with them and the season of “how was your Christmas” has not yet ended.

It’s been just over a week, as I said, and I’m learning about a word, that word is trauma. Instead of letting me eat it alive I am trying to understand it, learn about it, what does it mean for me? What happened is traumatic, and this is normal. Trauma takes us places that are strange and uninviting. Understanding that the time between exiting my door and opening up the kids’ doors, was a dark, so dark, down the rabbit hole, kind of place.  I had no control over what happened, and we could have done nothing to prevent it. In an instant your life can just change. Just because you walk away from something and you weren’t seriously injured or you didn’t have to go to the hospital, doesn’t make something less crazy or scary or any number of descriptive labels.

We learned we had to get new car seats and so dealing with the details of that and insurance and researching new seats was maddening becasue I felt this sense of urgency that I felt like no one else understood. I may not have control over other drivers and their actions, or the weather, or really much of anything when it comes to sharing the road, but I at least can make my car as safe as possible for my kids. The people that I love most in this world and those car seats were amazing in that they did their job.  Now they were questionable…………and seeing as that insurance stuff is slower than molasses on a cold day, I at least had this, something I could take into my own hands and do something about. But, as it turned out, installing those suckers was a headache like no other and to be completely honest, so raw-honest, I was so angry with that woman. Feelings that had kind of been shifting into empathy and what she must be going through, burned alive with evil thoughts of how this wouldn’t be such a struggle if didn’t need new carseats and we wouldn’t need new carseats if we hadn’t gotten hit, and we wouldn’t have gotten hit if……………..and then I have to stop. I have to fight with my flesh, and duke it out with God and ask for forgiveness, ask for power to find grace and mercy for this woman, who I don’t even know the first thing about.

So here I am, in a place of at least accepting that what happened is in fact traumatic, and the feelings and thoughts are normal. fearing that this is my new normal, though, doesn’t give me a lot of hope. What does give me hope is that the Lord and time will heal my hurts, my heavy heart, my cluttered and chaotic mind. Maybe I’ll be given grace in the moment to remember that God works things out for the greater good. I can celebrate being a more aware and vigilant and defensive driver. At least I have that going for me. Abrielle loves her new carseat with the cupholder. Good for her. Oh, to be 4 again.

Now I haven’t just driven by accident scenes, now I have truly lived it myself, which is totally surreal and unbelievable and so many other things that I can’t give names to at the moment. Writing about it definately helps……..clarity, purpose in what I feel and why I feel it. Signs of healing………..oh, but also grace, because it HAS only been a week and well, these things don’t heal overnight. Thanks to any and all who share in my written journey and send prayers for those who are hurting or who have been hurt by trauma and are so amazingly fortunate to be able to talk about it.


2 responses to “coming home

  1. Tara says:

    Oh my goodness sweet friend! Trauma is exactly what you’re going through and I am praying that God will give you grace and you will give yourself grace as you navigate these muddy waters; giving yourself the permission, space, time, and honesty you need to wrestle with the hard questions, wrestle with God over them, not the enemy. God’s big enough to hear your anger and reply with grace and understanding. The enemy will want to take your anger and fear and multiply it and allow it to consume you. When we bring our ugliness to God, coming back to His goodness, His comforting embrace, His sovereignty, and His ultimate ability to make all things, ALL things, work out for your good, only then can He transform us, using the ugly to make something beautiful. And only because I’ve been through inexplicable trauma myself, can I say that with 100% confidence. It doesn’t mean I always FEEL or SEE His perfect plan and the good that will ever come out of the trauma (how can good come out of something so…..using your words, life altering?), but I TRUST that His plans are far greater than our own. I don’t believe He “planned” this to happen, but I DO believe without a shadow of a doubt that He can and will use it in amazing, mysterious ways. I will continue to pray for healing, both physically and emotionally for you and your family.

  2. Annie DeWaal says:

    Oh Heather, I am so sorry this horrible accident happened to you and your family. I am so glad that you are all ok, but I know that the trauma of your experience and all the nightmares or “what ifs?” will stick with you for a long time. I will be praying for you and your family. love you,

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