Last Tuesday morning was one of those alive-feeling Fall days with a rich blue sky, a brilliant morning sun, and air refreshing with little humidity. We were headed for work in Northampton. The day held preliminary preparations for our move from the imagine/Northampton offices we'd occupied on Main Street for a little over 5 years.
Our drive in from Shutesbury was what it's been just about every day since moving there: we'd start from Pine Brook for a relaxed drive past Lake Wyola and wind down throughout woods, pastures, homes and hills until we reached Route 47. The pace into Sunderland would pick up a bit what with folks driving to work or heading to school. But it was still a pleasant drive. We'd even pray during the trip. We passed the James Taylor house in Sunderland, the first house we lived in when we moved here, and we greeted it as we always did heading into Noho. It still has our green church pew benches on the front porch. We had no place to bring them to.
Once on 91 south, the traffic and pace would pick up, but I took it easy... no hurry, most days. When we took the first exit into the city it was now time to watch what others were doing because the traffic can get crazy as you get closer to Main Street. Tuesday was normal in that regard. We went through the 5-6 lights on King Street and slowed to a stop at one of four busiest intersections in the heart of the city. There were 5 or 6 cars stopped in front of us.
We couldn't have been sitting there more than 45 seconds when it happened.
I'd turned to say something to Tricia when we heard the violent screeching of tires almost like a roar and then a terrible BAM!!! like something big, metallic and heavy had been dropped onto something else big, metallic and heavy. As we heard it, we were violently thrown forward for no more than a second. It was incredibly fast and disorienting. There was no time to brace, although our bodies tried. I remember instantaneously moving forward and being restrained by the seat belts, but from the instant of the impact, through being catapulted forward and then jolted back into the seat, my sight was scrambled and out of focus as it happened.
Then it was silent.
It took a few seconds to orient and realize we'd been hit from behind. I think I said something and then immediately turned to see if Tricia was ok. We were in shock realizing what happened to us. Tricia was holding her head which scared me because she's had head and neck issues beginning in the first month of our marriage with two surgeries since. She's also been complaining of neck pain the last few months.
So I was like "oh no!" She said she was ok, so I got out of the car to assess the damage and talk to the man who hit us. He was very upset holding his head in his hands actually saying "oh no! What have I done?" He was shaking and I was shaking. He told me he was late for a training session he was attending and got turned around, so he was looking at his GPS to get his bearings and when he looked up it was too late to avoid us. At one point, he started to cry. He asked how my wife was doing and apologized over and over. I actually put my hand on his shoulder and told him everything will work out. We'd get through it, and it could've been any one of us.
That entire exchange was a just was just a minute or so. I went over to Tricia's side the car again to check on her. She said her head and neck hurt. By then, literally just a few minutes after it happened, guys from the Sheriff's Department, the Northampton Police, a Northampton fire truck and ambulance materialized. As soon as I mentioned what was going on with Tricia these guys attended to her immediately, including putting a neck brace on her and taping her head to the board she was lying on. She was in the ambulance and on her way to Cooley-Dickenson in just a few more minutes. I had to stay because the police had our licenses and registration with accident reports to fill out and give us. All the responders were amazing and Tricia remarked later the guys helping her were utterly kind and gentle the entire time.
When we were hit, we collided as well with a car in front of us driven by a young woman on her way to work in CT. She never saw it coming either. She seemed ok. It took about 20 minutes for all the paperwork to be completed and I was on my way to the hospital where I found Tricia in the Emergency Room section. She'd been attended to and was waiting to go for X-rays of her neck. She was uncomfortable, but calm. 45 minutes or so later, the doc told us there were no fractures in her neck, but there was evidence of arthritis, not severe, but there. Tricia was complaining about her mid-back hurting so they got her in for more X-rays and they too confirmed no fractures. A little later, we consulted again with the doc who mentioned that if her headache persisted or she had a change in the pain in her neck or back we'd need to come in right away. So they gave us a pain-killer prescription, and after about 5 hours since the accident we were on our way home and relieved.
I titled this blog BAM!!! because it replicated the sound of impact when we were hit, but it also describes what happens when life is suddenly and radically interrupted outside of our control. Our day was going to be accident free. The drive into town would be normal. We'd go to our offices and take a chunk out of packing for our move. After that, we'd head back home just as we always do. Minor scrapes perhaps; a few unexpected interruptions, maybe a visit from someone we didn't schedule, but not BAM!!!
BAM!!! as I'm using it is chaos in one form or another. It substantially alters the course of a day or a month or a life. Injuries, death, accidents, sickness, violence; anything which intrudes and forcibly changes what you're doing or expecting to do all qualify as BAM!!!. BAM!!! also brings with it a persisting unease, even deep fear. Life is not 100% predictable and comfortably routine. BAM!!! can steal a person's sense of peace or safety or the ability to control things. BAM!!! is a thief and can turn into a cruel task master.
Interestingly enough, Tricia reminded me tonight that on Tuesday when we were driving into town, we were praying for and talking about trusting God no matter what. In the cohort, we decided to read Brennan Manning's Ruthless Trust as a group so it'd been on our minds. Therefore, remarkable to us in hindsight, was our trust seemed quickly BAMMED!!! to the test, and yet, we both felt an abiding peace very quickly after the accident happened. You know, the "peace that passes understanding;" the species of peace that makes no sense in the chaotic or frightening situation within which you're soaking. We experienced it. It was almost as if whatever was designed by the adversary and his lot for our dis-ease or harm would not infect our well-being with terror, or grumbling in disbelief just because it happened. We didn't like having the experience, but it was a lesson given by God's grace providing trust and peace in chaos and disruption.
It's taking a few days to recover. BAM!!! can be emotionally, physically, mentally, relationally, even spiritually exhausting. Sure, we were set back timewise in our progress to prepare for the move. Yup, it was unsettling, even scary. Tricia's had to take it slow physically and she still has some pain. Much is just now getting settled about where we'll counsel and do our work. We have to go through the rigamarole of getting insurance appraisals, filing accident reports and then getting repairs made to our car, but normal life has all sorts of interruptions which lead to unexpected, even unwanted chores. So even in this accident, BAM!!! does not have to prevail. As we invite trust and gracious order to take over, our recovery will settle in.
Although, I have to add...a generous dollop of normalcy, and abiding stability would feel darn good right now.