On February 7 of last year, I woke to a police officer yelling at the top of her lungs through my apartment door. I rushed over in a t-shirt and boxers, heart pumping. The kind officer explained that my wife, Anna, had been in a car accident and asked if I had a way to get to the hospital. After reassuring her that I did, I quickly got dressed, trying not to freak out. Coincidentally, the day before I had been practicing a breathing technique that helps you immediately calm down. It’s called the physiological sigh (Andrew Huberman ftw). While I drove to the hospital, I practiced breathing.

But none of that mattered when I panicked. I sprinted around the building. I couldn’t find her hospital room. I used one hand to keep my jeans up because I didn’t find my belt in my hurry to get out the door. The whole time I’m praying and thinking, please be okay, please be okay on repeat. When I got to the room, I had no idea we would be going home in just three days. 

Update by update, we got more information on what actually happened. By the end, we received the final pieces of information in the last police report. Turns out, she crossed the wide street as an accordion bus was turning, blocking the views of both the oncoming driver and herself. The SUV struck (or smacked, as Anna likes to say), she spidered the windshield, and flew thirty feet into the street. One report said, “Pedestrian vs. car, with significant damage to car.” Miraculously, she did not break any bones; currently, she’s fully recovered. 

Police officers who came in liked to say something like, “I’m not usually able to talk to pedestrians hit by a car two days after it happened,” or, “this is a best-case scenario in a worst-case scenario.” I believed this, but it was hard to focus on the positives when Anna needed help from a tube to breathe. When thinking about writing this, I realized I don’t have many morals or takeaways, just a lot of paradoxes. Here are some I felt: 

Most love I’ve ever felt while being completely hollow. Intense fear and strong trust. Distracting myself in any way and always thinking about it. Annoyed by the clicking of a nearby laptop and empathy for another stranger waiting for news. Wanting nothing but to be in the hospital room and wishing I never had to be there at all. Marveling at a new sunrise and hating the passage of time. Feeling everything and nothing.

With this recent winter storm and the year anniversary approaching, many moments and flashes of memory come to the surface:

A police man’s business card. A vivid blue fish tank. The way the doctor sometimes texted, no doubt helping other patients, while talking to us. A pregnant nurse vomiting onto the linoleum floor. Grand Rapids under snow. Pesto sandwiches we forgot to refrigerate so we threw them away. Latex gloves. A gift of smooth headphones to borrow. A tattered paperback copy of The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis. The smell of the kind chaplain’s cologne. The hard plastic of her neck brace. My brother saying, “should we take a picture?” The soft, lavender-scented stuffed cow. The wind outside. The cold sun. A rock in my throat while staring at a flag flapping in a construction site.

When people would call Anna’s survival a miracle, I never disagreed. But there was always this nagging thought that the real miracle would have been if it never happened at all. Because I sat down and pondered this today, I had an epiphany. According to that logic, then most of my days are miracles. The astounding majority of days I do not get hit by a moving vehicle! Yet it took me almost a year to get there and I still don’t live any day as if this is true. Maybe horrible things just happen and there’s not a great takeaway besides: you know, you could appreciate the present more. And even though you’re bad at it, maybe that’s enough.

1 Comment

  1. Karen Saupe

    I love where this lands. I’m so sorry you and Anna had to experience any of it but that last part. But thank you.


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