After an exhaustive day at work, I set out for home. I lugged my bag, a casefile, and my purse to my Yukon, feeling the last of my energy drip out of my hands as I heaved them into the backseat. I was the last to leave the office again, the sun long gone past the horizon.
My mind kept drifting back to a phone conversation with a teen later that afternoon. She was angry with me, again. I hadn't done anything out of the ordinary; I was simply the scapegoat. The phone call ended with her screaming hateful things, bursting into tears, and sitting in silence as I tried to sooth her with my words. My words did not always work.
I lived 35 minutes away, and back then I looked forward to the silence of my 23 acres. I crossed the bridge over the lake, and began the boring drive home. Nothing was on the radio; I spent most of the trip channel-surfing. I crested a hill and came up on a red light. I slowed to a stop.
I was thinking about dinner. I didn't want to cook what was thawing in the kitchen sink.
I randomly looked into my rearview mirror.
A car was flying in my lane.
At the last second, he noticed me, at a dead stop at the light.
He swerved. Too late.
He rear-ended me, going 65 miles an hour. And then over-compensated, losing what control he had, careening across 2 lanes of traffic and into a ditch. He flipped the car in the ditch.
I watched in awe as he crawled out of a window of his car, and took off running through the ditch, towards another road. He was running sideways, and tripped twice.
In a bit of shock, I watched as not one but two men came out of my periphreal, sprinting across traffic, after him. Into the ditch, after him. Tackling him. I saw a shoe flip up into the air, landing rightside up on the service road.
I was okay. He was drunk, fresh out of prison, without a license, a weapon in someone else's car.
Not a month later, I found out I was pregnant. Counting back the days on my calender, I realized I was pregnant when he rear-ended me.
And in an instant, one teeny tiny breath of a second, things changed. Something little & insignificant like a car accident became something larger than life. My chest was compressed by the thought that I had survived being hit by a drunk driver while pregnant. My baby, just a little lima bean, was protected, right? Right?
My world transformed in that instant. I became protective and defensive in a way I had never been before.
In an instant, one teeny tiny breath of a second, things changed. As it was then, it is now:
My cousin's soon-to-be 14 year old got the H1N1 piggy flu. He already had a compromised immune system. The flu developed into pneumonia; pneumonia into Epstein-Barr virus. In less than a week, he went from quiet and semi-healthy to life-support. There was no way he would recover. He died with family around him, but he was not conscious. Several of his organs were donated.
And just like that, in an instant, several other people's lives changed, as they received the organ they had been praying for.
And again I become protective and defensive in a way I have never been before. My girl got a mild case of the piggy flu. I am blessed. But now I think about how in just a teeny tiny breath, something ordinary can become catastrophic for some, and a sweet relief for others.