our little secret

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Downtown Denver

I’m about to tell you a secret. But only if you promise not to laugh. And only if you don’t tell my friends on facebook.

Last Friday night I went to friend’s wedding in Denver, Colorado. Last Friday night, five minutes before the ceremony started, I totaled my rental car — right in front of the wedding venue.

It was one of those days when, up until that moment, everything seemed to be going well. I’d caught up with an old friend the night before and run a decent 7.5 miles in downtown Denver earlier that day. It was beautiful out, and I was proud of myself for making the trip. (The bride, Jen, is one of my oldest friends, and though Denver isn’t next door to Tennessee, her wedding was something I couldn’t miss.) I even managed to get ready on time and felt pretty in my dress. (Sadly, this is not always the case.) My only concern as I approached the venue that evening, then, was . . . parking.

The wedding was at a beautiful art gallery in downtown Denver. The gallery didn’t have a parking lot, though, and so the closer I got (thank you, Siri), the more I started looking for street-side parking. And the more I started looking for street-side parking, the greater at risk I (apparently) became for making a mistake.

I made a mistake.

I entered an intersection crossing a one-way street without seeing a stop sign — or the oncoming traffic. In fact, I never saw it. In the blink of an eye my world went from silence and Siri to screeching breaks, crunching metal, ssss-ing smoke, and inanity inside my head. Oh my god, oh my god . . . What just happened?

When my car came to a halt in the middle of the road (right beside the venue), I was in shock. The rental car, the rental car, the rental . . . Jen’s wedding is starting, Jen’s wedding is starting — I looked at the clock — in seven minutes. This can’t be real; this can’t be . . . Oh no, oh no, oh no. In all my life and seventeen years of driving, I had never been in a “real” car accident until that moment. I had no idea what to do.

A crowd had gathered on the sidewalks. People, many of whom were involved in the wedding, were calling out to me. “Are you okay?” Their voices came as if from within a fog. Finally a man in street clothes caught my attention; he made a downward motion with his hands and pointed to my window. “Oh- ohhh.” I suddenly understood. The front end of the car was gone, but my power windows still worked. I rolled mine down.

“Are you okay?” he asked, concerned.

“Ye-, yes, I’m okay.”

“Can you walk?”

“Ye-,” I nodded.

“You might want to get out. The car is leaking fluids pretty badly.”

“Ohh . . .” I was barely functioning.

“Can you put the car in neutral? Maybe we can push it to the side of the road?”

I put the car in neutral and got out and watched as several men pushed it across the road. I was mortified.

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On the tow truck.

Things got worse before they got better. I’d been hit by a red Ford F150. After hitting me, the truck had spun sideways across the road and suffered significant damage. A rear tire was blown. The front end looked like it’d been mauled. The driver was on his cell phone on the sidewalk, and at first I thought we were the only ones involved. When I finally had enough sense to walk over towards him, however, I saw that two other cars had also been hit. A Mercedes sat beside the road with its rear end smashed in. The car in front of it had been damaged, too. Someone said that they belonged to people involved in the wedding. Ohh nooo . . . Then someone said they belonged to the groom’s parents. OH NOOOO!!!!

I wanted to crawl into a hole and die.

But I was freezing. While the police reports were filed and phones calls made and insurance information exchanged, the sun had gone down. Colorado is cold at night in November, and I hadn’t been prepared to stand out in it in my dress. The driver of the truck was very kind and offered me his coat. “That truck is my baby; I’d just put new tires on it,” he mused. “But it’s okay; they’re called ‘accidents’ for a reason. I’m just glad everyone’s okay.”

I couldn’t accept his coat, though. Not after what I’d just done. I shivered instead.

I missed the wedding — watched the kiss from outside the gallery’s clear glass windows — and called the rental car company to report the incident and request a tow during the reception. Friends and loved ones gave me rides home and to the airport the next morning, and at the end of the day, I knew I should be thankful things weren’t worse: medical bills on top of insurance deductibles would just about break me right now. But sometimes it’s hard to be thankful; sometimes you just wish you could turn back time. My pride was wounded, and my mistake had caused great misfortune to others. Even now, trying to retell my story, my eyes well up with tears — and I don’t cry.

Next up: This one will be for you, Sreejit. I’ll email you!

A few pics from Denver and the wedding:

 

never again

dadTwo weeks ago yesterday, my dad broke his neck. Two and a half weeks ago, he got married.

They were on their honeymoon. They were going for a bike ride. An oncoming car was turning left directly in front of them; he didn’t see it until there was nothing to do but slam on the brakes – and go over the handlebars.

He landed on his head, breaking C6 and C7. His hands and feet went numb. He was scared.

We were too. We were supposed to go to dinner with them. I felt guilty because, while I love his new wife, their wedding hadn’t been easy for me. Their marriage was the final nail in the coffin of my once-family. I knew I shouldn’t feel that way. Things were better now than they’d ever been before. My dad was happier; my mom was, too. But still. It was my family. (Also, as a side note: In my childhood culture, divorce was/is akin to drinking alcohol or eating meat or having sex before marriage. It was a no-no. And we’ve already discussed the fact I’m a goodie-goodie.)

And so I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to dinner. It was out of the way and a drive in traffic. I was tired. I was supposed to go to spin class after work – I love spin class. And we’d just seen them at their wedding.

And so I hesitated. And then I got the call. Elyse, sobbing: “Your dad had a biking accident. He says it’s his neck. They’re rushing him to the hospital.” She was hysterical.

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Father and son

And suddenly, I was too. My mind was a blur: So little information, such a turn of events. Such guilt. Here I hadn’t wanted to go to dinner, and now the man who was my hero and role model and life rock was in an ambulance on his way to the hospital.

The things we take for granted.

And so instead of eating dinner or going to spin class or doing a thousand other things we usually do, we spent the night in the emergency room. At almost 1 a.m., my dad was life-flighted to a U.C. Davis Medical Center where they tortured him (okay, tried to fix his neck with traction) before taking him to surgery and fusing three segments of his neck. The neurosurgeon said it was a miracle he wasn’t paralyzed. The next day my dad said it was, too. He said he had “so much to be thankful for.”

And he did. And he does. And we are. And I am. And suddenly I know what’s most important. If anything worse had happened to him . . . I don’t know where I’d be . . . where we’d be . . . what we’d do.

And all I know is that, while his recovery has not been and will not be easy, we are so lucky to have him, and I’ll never again put exercise selfish struggles before family and the people I love. (That includes you, Elyse!) You mean the world to me, Dad. Thank you for being my rock. I want to always be yours, too. I love you.

signs of the times?

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So I’m running the other night after work. I’m not killing myself because I’m still sore from a previous jaunt. As I run up a slope, I see a woman parked beside a fallen stop sign in the middle of the road. The sign has been rammed and its wooden post is jagged and broken. She’s moving the broken sign out of the road. I look at the front of her car. A dent in her bumper shouts: GUILTY!

I don’t stop. Don’t want to be rude. I wonder if she’s going to just leave it, though. There are very few cars nearby; no one to see. And then I wonder, What would I do, if she were me? Would I tell someone, if there were no one to see?

What would you do?

When I passed back by, the above picture is what I saw.

the book inside my story

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T-Wall — near where I fell

Most people I tell my rock-climbing story are more impressed by my story than I am. Sure, I’ve got scars. There’s a white mark just above my lip that annoys me every day. And?

That’s why it always surprises me, though, when readers suggest I turn my story into a book. After re-reading my story this past January, my friend Vance sent me a message: “So, I just finished rereading your ‘How Not to Die‘ story, and I’m asking myself: How is this not a book? Or, at least, the beginnings of one? It is truly an amazing story, however you take it . . .”

In the past, I’ve always brushed such suggestions off. That’s what I did to Vance. “To be honest, I’ve already written nearly as much as I know to say about my rock-climbing accident. I have no idea how I’d turn it into a book . . .” is what I told him. And that was the truth. In “How to Not Die,” I’ve given the reader everything I can — from my perspective. Continue reading

the last piece (or, i lied)

Part seven is the last piece of my rock-climbing story. Here, I talk about how my accident still affects me today. Yes, I recovered. But eleven years later, there are still things that remind me of my injury every day.

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There are things you learn to live with. Things that never cross your mind—until “that time.”

That time when you’re ordering at Starbucks and the barista says: “What was that?” “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?” “Are you sick?”

That time when you’re chatting with a friend, and your voice cuts out and cracks, then dies.

That time when you’re calling across a street, and no one hears.

That time when you’re in a noisy restaurant, and you might as well just look into each other’s eyes.

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how to not die: the “real” missing piece

My story from my perspective has been told. But, as I mentioned previously, there is a missing piece: you. In part six, you’ll hear from others who knew me at the time of the fall and how my accident affected them.

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A few posts back, I talked about the missing piece from my rock-climbing story. I was raised Christian and went to small Christian schools all my life, including college. When I had my accident, the entire student body at the university I was attending prayed for me. Both people I knew and people I’d never met watched as I went from nearly dying to fully recovering—a miracle they attested to the power of prayer.

I’ve already talked about how this incident affected me—how I slept through it all and came out an incredibly sick girl on the other side.

But there certainly are spiritual implications to my story. I cannot deny that prayer is what brought me through (it certainly was no power of my own): to say otherwise would be a slap in the face to both God and my dear friends . . .  This is true even…

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how to not die: the missing piece

Still reposting my rock-climbing accident story. This is part four, where I talk about something many people are often surprised by — you.

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Ten years ago today (January 25, 2003), I fell 80 feet (24 meters) while rock climbing at T-Wall, a popular climbing site in Tennessee. The doctors said I might not live; when I did, they said I’d never be the same again. Today, not only am I “normal,” most people don’t even know this incident ever happened. This is part four of my story. (To read parts one, two, or three, click here, here, or here.)

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THE MISSING PIECE

For an audio recording, click here:

There’s a piece of my story that’s missing
the piece that is all about you.
It’s the piece that I’ve struggled the most with
the piece so many assume true.
I recovered from my accident eventually.
My rehab is on the next page.
But what of my soul, of “God‘s purpose”?
What is it that I…

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