My 2021 started off with quite the bang (literally). While making the 7 hour, New Years Day journey from St. Louis, MO to Minnesota after a raucous New Years Eve, I drove straight into the middle of a snowstorm. Now, having grown up in Minnesota, I was no stranger to a whitewashed road. However, living in California for the past 7 years softened my edge juuuuuust enough, as it turns out, to be dangerous.
As I slowed down to (what I thought) was a reasonable yet still decent pace, my tire caught on the snow buildup outside of the tire tracks. Normally, this would be a millisecond of annoyance at most, but what I didn’t know was that prior to the falling flakes surrounding my car, there had been a dumping of ice that covered the road. The little wiggle caused by that innocent patch of snow was enough to send my car fishtailing in ever widening sweeps across the road, eventually sending my car careening sideways into the snowfilled median.
That would have been scary enough, but when the tires hit the snow built up over the grass, it caused the car to roll a total of (I was told afterwards by the plow man) three times, eventually coming to a crashing halt on its side, leaving me dangling by my seatbelt over the passenger side door, disoriented, shaking, and pissed that I had totaled my mom’s car.
(What is interesting to me is how the thought of dying never crossed my mind for one second while I was spinning around in the world’s craziest washing machine. The primary thought in my brain was “fuckfuckfuckFUCK”, followed closely by “well, I guess this is happening” and puntuated by periodic “I am the worst daughter in the world” mental self punches.)
It was only after I came to a stop, helped out of the car by kind passersby, and settled into my hotel for the night that I couldn’t shake the realization that I could have died. I had walked away from the accident with a mild concussion, a giant albeit slightly bloody bump on my head, and a deep wound in my pride. But what if I had not been wearing my seatbelt? I could have very well been thrown from the car and crushed. What if I had tangled with another car, or worse yet, a semi barreling down the road in the opposite lane? What if the median had been full of trees? What if I had lost control while going over a river?
The possibilities of grisly death and dismemberment seemed overwhelmingly numorous. Yet, I walked away from the incident with everything intact; humbled, shaken, and incredibly thankful.
This car accident was the first time that I really came face to face with my own mortality. Up until then, death had been just a concept, an echo coming from the distant future that was relatively easy to ignore. But now, even though I hadn’t recognized it in the moment, I had stared Death in the face, spent some time in his presence, and somehow escaped his ever outstretched fingers.
Realizing how fragile life is is scary. That fragility doesn’t seem quite real until something tips you towards the ground as you’re hurrying along minding your own business, and you feel the slow motion seconds ticking by as you speed towards the cobblestones, suddenly very aware that you are made of the finest crystal and not built for bouncing. Sometimes, this newfound, profound knowledge comes too late as we slip through the fingers of fate and shatter on the ground. Other times, we are caught in the nick of time, centimeters above the ground, taken back up to our perch and set free to run around as before.
I was incredibly grateful that my guardian angel was on top of her game that day. For a week straight after the accident, I carried sincere gratitude in my heart, sending it up to the heavens whenever I could.
It’s funny, though, how quickly something that seemed so profound can quickly fade from conciousness. I realized recently that I hadn’t expressed my gratitude for several days, and I immediately grew contrite. Here I was, blessed with a second chance at life, and I couldn’t even make my new appreciation last even a month.
I certainly don’t want to keep having death defying experiences in order to stay aware of my mortality and keep spiritual awareness in my heart. It is my intention to keep my inner fire burning for as long as possible so that I can use it to light the way for others. Not through pedantic showiness or sniffing superiority, but by cultivating the kind of spirit that shines through even the dullest of clothes and the oldest of flesh.
If my soul can be the most influential part about me, then will I have reached my highest potential.
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PS-How lucky are we that each moment is a new opportunity to show light and love?!
xo, Hannah Elizabeth