Saying “thank you” in our culture is engrained in us as children. Growing up, my parents were no different. They taught the importance of manners to my sisters and me. Before the accident I often would say thank you for small things, like most of us do, but didn’t realize how meaningless it had become. Not in the sense that the person receiving it didn’t appreciate it, but in the sense that when I said it, I meant it, but maybe didn’t feel as grateful as I could. After the accident, I was still on bluetooth with my husband. I remember feeling embarrassed that yet again, I was in a car wreck. I remember thinking, “Crap! The airbags deployed! That’s gonna cost a lot of money.” Funny how “normal” I was trying to be as I sat there having just experienced a miracle and worrying about how much it was going to cost to replace whatever was broken. One thing was for certain, when I told my husband I was sorry for the accident, he just said, “It’s okay. You don’t need to apologize. It wasn’t your fault. None of this matters. You are alive. That’s all that matters.” He said exactly what anyone would expect a loving husband would say, but right then I realized and thought, “Wow. He’s awesome. Isn’t it amazing that he just cares about me? Thank God for him!” That was the first gratitude instance in a series of instances that took over my new perspective on life.
I remember when the person who witnessed the accident came over to the car. I pushed and held up the airbag curtain that had deployed over the window. There wasn’t any glass left on the driver’s side. It all had shattered on impact. He looked so concerned. He asked how I was. He told me he had seen the entire thing and complimented me on my driving. He was amazed my car didn’t flip. He told me he had called 911 already. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude. I reached out to him to shake or hold his hand. I wasn’t really sure which I had done I just kept telling him how much I appreciated him being there. He was there right after I had hung up the phone with my husband to call 911. Because of this person, I was never alone after the accident. I can’t even begin to express how grateful I was and still am that he was there. I asked him before he left what his name was. It was the same as my Dad’s. When I first saw him dressed in his business clothes, I thought that he looked like my Dad. Funny how that is. Well, not really funny. Just amazing.
I can still feel the comfort rippling through the skin on my neck. The comfort I felt when the EMTs arrived and started to look me over to make sure I really was as “okay” as I said I was when they got there. Checking my pulse, pushing on my legs, back, arms, knees, you name it. All of it was to see if anything was broken or severely injured. None of it was. One of the EMTs had her hand on my shoulder as she held up the blanket between me and the window as the firefighters cut the door off of my car. I don’t know how to put into words the sheer kindness I felt just from that gesture. She had crawled into the back passenger door (it was the only one that opened at the time) just to be in there to keep me calm and check on me. It worked. I felt at peace.
Once the door was cut off, I remember all of the faces looking in. It was like a movie shot. Firefighters, EMTs, and a Police Officer were all looking in to make sure I was okay. As they put the neck collar on almost apologetically for precaution, it didn’t hurt at all. It just felt like another way for them to say, “We’ve got you. We are taking care of you. You are okay.” This is all coming from complete strangers and yet it was the most comforting and loving thing in the world. From that, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude and joy. Yes, joy, as I was lifted on the backboard and brought to the hospital, as I was moved from backboard to rolling bed, as the EMT called my husband for me to explain where we were going, as the nurse and Doctor carefully removed my jewelry, as they all apologized when they had to cut my clothing and tried to remove as much of it without damage as possible, and as they moved me from rolling bed to a sheet that they pulled to get me positioned for my CT scan. I moved from complete and utter fear at the accident to sheer gratitude. It was immeasurable, swift, and beautiful.
My husband and I always say that often words can express so much, but sometimes fall short to really get at the heart of what you want to say. In this case, “Thank you” is just not enough, but it’s the best I can do for now. I only hope that these gratitude instances I keep feeling continue and carry weight for the rest of my life.