There was a boy on the side of the road today on his knees, his hands in his hair, desperation and shame on his face. His car sat before him, smashed and mangled, gnarled into itself. I only saw his eyes for a moment as I passed, yet still they haunted me. I wanted to stop the car, pull over, and rush to him. I wanted to tell him this:
It’s OK. It’s just a car.
You’re alive. You’re alive. You’re alive.
Don’t you see how nothing else matters but that, really?!
Your parents might be angry.
Your premiums might go up.
You may need a new car.
But, you didn’t hurt anyone.
You didn’t hurt yourself.
Things can be replaced. People cannot.
I wanted to give him my perspectacles, so he could see through my eyes how little things matter and how much life does. After losing so many people, I’ve lost my attachment to stuff. For five years, every time I moved into a home, I lost it and had to move again. Every time I loved someone, I lost them, too. This taught me how to hold things loosely and people tightly.
I wished he could see through my eyes of experience how small a car is on the radar of life. How nothing matters more than heartbeats and held breaths because at least that means you’re alive.
I wanted to tell him how all day yesterday, at my daughter Kama’s 4th birthday, I thought, “We almost didn’t make it here.” My husband almost died of a drug overdose. I kicked him out days before he would have lost his life and I would have been retrieving his body from a morgue, telling my kids they didn’t have a daddy anymore.
Then, I almost divorced him because I couldn’t stand to be married to addiction anymore.
But, he fought for our marriage, and with radical empathy, fierce compassion and humility, he won my heart back.
Not long after, we found out we were pregnant with Kama. Instead of fearing the challenges of a fourth child, we were deeply grateful for the gift of her because we knew she was a miracle already. We almost divorced, we almost didn’t have her.
Three weeks before I gave birth to Kama, I contracted enterovirus and lost ten pounds. One week before she was born, I was quarantined in the hospital while they waited for test results. After a long, hard labor, I hemorrhaged and had to be rushed to the hospital. Five weeks later, I developed a life-threatening postpartum uterine infection and postpartum depression. When she was six weeks old, we had to take her back to the hospital to stay with me while I was hooked up to IV antibiotics 24/7.
For the next year and a half, I fought for my life through crippling anxiety and depression. At many times, I thought I might not survive that depression.
Yet, here we are. We just threw Kama an epic unicorn themed birthday party yesterday and all that matters is that she’s here and we’re here, all of us.
I’ m lucky I survived. My husband is lucky he survived. And Kama is the miracle of us, in pure, joyful, radiant, innocent form.
There was a moment in my life when the absence of a heartbeat and breath changed everything – the day my 2-year-old nephew died. I still put my hands to my kid’s chests sometimes just to feel their hearts beating. Those beats…they’re everything to me. They’re all that matters in this world.
Not cars. Not homes.
Not insurance premiums or angry parents.
No, those things don’t matter. Things can be replaced.
So, to the boy on the side of the road, I say:
Lean down and kiss the road…because today it did not take a life. Lean down and kiss that mangled car…because today it protected you and held your breath for you. It takes time to recover from trauma, but you will heal from this, too.
When you’re ready, dust yourself off and thank the sky for another day on this Earth. It’s a blessing. You’re a blessing. And you will have plenty more cars to drive in your lifetime now…because you’re still alive.
What experiences in your life have made you value people over things? Was there one defining moment that changed your perspective? I want to hear from you in the comments below. ❤
Author’s Note: As a PTSD survivor, I’m acutely aware of the impact of trauma on an individual. Of course, this boy’s reaction could have been a trauma response, and in no way do I wish to diminish the impact of trauma or the time it takes to recover from it.