Over the weekend Tom and I took Brigham back to campus to start the second semester of his freshman year in college.
We literally almost didn't make it back home.
We completed the initial 311 miles from Dallas to Lubbock in a record FOUR hours, leaving at 6:30 a.m. (a half hour later than we'd planned) arriving at Brigham's residence hall ahead of schedule. The three of us enjoyed a delicious lunch at a local greasy spoon before seeing several potential apartments for his future housing needs come fall. During the early afternoon, rain and some hail pelted us as we toured the final three complexes. While it was annoying, we had limited time to accomplish the task, so the crappy weather couldn't deter us.
Once done, we made a quick trip to get some staples for Brigham's dorm from Walmart before we hugged him goodbye and Tom and I got back on the road, knowing it was highly unlikely we'd make as good on time during our drive back to Dallas. We knew we'd be encountering a series storms throughout our return trip.
Ten minutes into our journey, with a cold rain battering the windshield, we entered the expressway and Tom began accelerating to the speed limit.
And then it happened...Tom lost control of the car due to excessive water on the road...we lost traction and careened from the right lane into the left and then straight into the grassy/muddy median at full speed with a handful of cars coming at us from the opposite direction. It seemed to take seconds; yet feel as if we were suspended in slow motion at the same time! Mud and grass flew up and around us as I grabbed Tom's shirt sleeve and went immediately to my "go to" word. SHIT!
SHIT! Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. God NO! I said out loud as, suddenly, we made a complete 360 degree turn in the median and started to slow down, then Tom made a split-second decision to accelerate and get back up out of the wet, mucky median-gulley and onto the road. Right away we managed to pull over to the shoulder, both of us in total disbelief, he put the car in park and we got out to see what damage had taken place.
A man who was driving behind us and saw what had happened, pulled up and got out of his car to be sure we were okay. He told us he'd never seen anything like that before..."are you sure you're okay?"
I'm like, "Yay, sure, we're good, thanks so much for stopping to check on us, that was crazy."
I think that's what being in shock sounds like.
Amazingly the car, but for being covered in mud and grass, looked okay (THAT was a miracle..man I LOVE my Kia Soul), we got back in the car and Tom gingerly pulled into the open lane again. The steering wheel began to shake, the alignment? The wheels were packed with mud. Would we be able to get home after all? Driving through a large puddle a mile down the road seemed to clean things off and the shimmy disappeared.
But the cold, driving rain didn't.
Plugging on...both of us silently processing what had just happened, the ensuing five hours proved just as nerve-wracking as we encountered an almost constant stream of heavy rain, thunder, lightening, high water, and at one point what had to be a 150 pound wild pig splattered across our lane with little warning.
We thought we were in the clear as we entered the final stretch of the trip (despite continued downpour, crazy wind, tornado warnings, and brilliant lightening charging the sky), we hit a deep stream of fast moving water we had no idea was coming...did I mention it was long past dark at this point? Turning into the development we live in, we both felt a wave of relief before not once, but TWICE again we hit low spots in the road that were filled with rushing water relentlessly crossing the roadway. (I went to a new word..."HOLY SHIT!")
We made it, thank God.
During those long, harrowing hours pressing through the storms on the back roads of Texas, a lot of things went through my mind. And, of course, A LOT of prayers to get home safely.
The "what ifs" came fast and furious...
What if we'd died? Not just the basic "what would happen to the kids?" (Though that was, of course, top of mind.)
In the blink of an eye our lives could have been over, or one of us could have been gone, or never again be the same...completely unplanned and totally unexpected.
Not that you ever plan or expect a car accident.
Another question came to mind during the hours of prayer and self-reflection...
If my life ended today, what would it have been about?
I began taking an inventory: I have whole-heartedly invested the last thirty years of my life into taking care and raising children, put twenty-five into working at marriage, I've been a friend to many, I dedicated myself to finishing college, I wrote a book, continued to write online, tried my hand at helping young people in treatment on the way to finding my calling as a parent coach.
But while these things are important, and have certainly filled my time, they are more a list of accomplishments, NOT necessarily what I have based my life on. This revelation reminded me of a recent Facebook message a friend of mine had sent me about having felt she'd lost herself in the process of years as a wife and mother, and after her daughter went off to college and husband tossed away their marriage she was struggling with finding a way to figure out who she is.
I think that happens to a lot of us.
The getting lost part...in our roles as wives and mothers.
Not just women; as wives and mothers...but men; as husbands, fathers, and often main providers. We become so wrapped up in DOING what needs to be done to cover the bills, keep a roof over heads, food in mouth, maybe a family vacation and some money towards a one day welcome retirement (should one be blessed enough to live that long). We spend our days "taking care" of people, problems, the daily business of life that we don't truly see or understand that it is the HOW we undertake these things that cultivates who we truly are.
Life is a process of learning to grow as we go.
At the end of the day I have learned A LOT about life from my role as wife and mother, BUT my life has been about and (thank God) continues to be about...spending more energy listening to my inner voice than to those outside of me, about sometimes questioning and always learning from the choices I make, about demonstrating a strong desire to hold true to my beliefs and not make decisions based on what others might think, and my life is about knowing I have no control over anyone or anything but myself and how I respond to what comes into my life.
As terrifying as that trip back to Dallas was last weekend, it gave me clarity about how the rest of my days will look.
If today were your last, what would your life have been about?