“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” — Angel Clarence
When my friend Jenni set up the meal train for us after our Accident, there was a note that went out, to remind people of their commitment. One section of the note said that meals could be dropped off between 4 and 6 p.m., and that there would be a cooler on the porch, but the note added, “Please feel free to ring the doorbell or knock on the door if they are home.”
It’s been seven and half weeks since we have been home and I’ve never had a cooler out front. It felt funny. It felt too impersonal. It was just not me.
It’s important to me to get to see and interact with the wonderful people — friends and family and community members and church family and Boy Scouts and neighbors – who graciously signed up to bring us a meal during this most difficult time in our lives.
If I had left a cooler out, it would be like a signal to folks, that they could just leave the meal without knocking. Many of the people who have come over have never been to our home before and many of the people are folks from the community who I do not know very well, but realize I’d like to get to know.
And, some of the people are folks who I’ve talked about getting together with for years and have not done so — until now.
It’s so wild that an almost tragic situation has been a way to connect people, to ground me, to remind me in bright colors about what matters.
It’s always about the people and God, is it not?
During these weeks when people have been bringing meals over to help our family, I’ve had the chance to invite them into our home, to sit down to talk, to encourage them to write in my visitor journal, to share stories, to ask questions, to find out about each others’ lives.
The conversation naturally starts out with people asking about the Accident, people wondering what we remember from the incident, and how it’s been going since that fateful Friday evening, January 9, 2015; and they tell me where they were or what they were doing when the accident occurred, and how they found out about it.
I began writing down a few notes from these conversations in my visitor journal and as I re-read the words, either theirs directly or my notes, I weep.
“I got home from dinner with some friends and saw a note on my email,” Suzanne, a Boy Scout mom and fellow writer, told me through tears during our visit after she brought over pasta, salad and brownies. “I was coming up that street and it was blocked with ambulance and fire trucks and police cars so I had to use the McDonalds parking lot to drive through that. I had no idea it was you. I felt badly that I did not know. You’ve impacted our community, our family so much.” Wild, because we’ve not spent a ton of time together and yet, these heart-felt sentiments.
Gracie, the baker’s daughter who grew up with my kids, came over several times to help, and she shared how she heard about the accident from her mom. Their family bakery, Sourdough Willy’s, is across the street from the accident scene. “My mom looked over and could see something going on from the bakery. There were ambulances and fire trucks and police cars and people and traffic slowed to a crawl. Then the next day, when Ryan and Larissa stopped by for goodies for the hospital, they told my mom about the accident and she called me. I just cried.”
“You’re like family to me.”
So many others, Andee and Bethany and Lynn and Claire and Jodene, shared such affirming words of friendship and community and connection. They are sweet words that encourage me deeply.
My friend Suzy, who I used to carpool to our kids’ preschool with, said to me, after dropping off items from Costco: “God spared you, He has more to do through you. God be glorified.
“I wonder what you are going to write about this.”
Then Ginger, a church and writing friend as well as a Boy Scout mom, said, “You have a testimony, of the blog post that you wrote wrote before your accident.”
And my friend Helen, a Boy Scout mom and pal from the community pool who was delivering our meal for another Boy Scout family, reminded me: “Remember what you told me back in December, what you wanted to do regarding gathering parents together for a conference, to encourage them in their parenting journey. Well, God saved you to do this.”
I keep soaking in all of these beautiful words and thoughts.
And, and I keep thinking about how so many of these wonderful people have impacted me, rather than the other way around. Not just by their acts of kindnesses since the accident but in the past. And, I tell them that, and it is all good and needed and wonderful.
As I listen to these affirmations, these encouragements, these thought-provoking statements, these reminders of past promises I have made, I weep. I am humbled and I cry and I do not deserve any of it as I usually feel like a failure, like I do not measure up. The words and stories are such great reminders of God’s plan and our interconnectedness in our neighborhoods, in our homes, in our communities, in the layers of our lives. These words and thoughts and stories that people share minister to me like sunshine to my sometimes-soggy soul.
Words mean the world to me.
My friend Bea said to me, “It’s like you are living the movie, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ There are so many people. In life, you just don’t know how many people you have touched. You don’t even know when you touch people.”
As in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” we do not know how far our lives reach. And sometimes it is while we are in the down and out, we are reminded, as George was by his guardian Angel Clarence, of how our lives are intertwined and made richer because of one another.
Is that not true for all of us? We just do not know how we impact people in our worlds. A word of affirmation, an act of kindness, a child we help, a stranger we assist, a student we mentor, a mom we lift up, a person we encourage, a story we share. Just as people have been coming to my home after our Accident, sharing a meal and a word of affirmation with me, I return the words of affirmation to them, pointing out the ways they have impacted me.
As people day after day, week after week, have been knocking on my door and walking in with bags of food and pots of soup and casseroles of comfort food and trays of brownies, and as I ask them to please sit down for a moment, to talk, to visit, not only do we talk about the accident and offer mutual words of affirmation, but I have the privilege of asking them questions and hearing their story.
Because of the accident and the meal train, I found out that the Kageys go to Imago Dei Church when I didn’t even know about their faith journey to begin with. And, I had never talked to Christy before, but she told me that she had begun reading my blog before the accident and that she is doing a triathlon and she is dreaming big and going after each day with passion. You never know where your words are going out to and whom they will impact.
I learned that Beth’s kids are adopted and she is now helping with her daughter’s birth mother’s other daughter. And Beth’s brother died at age 47 moments after finishing a long bicycle race, and the PIR has a memorial race in his honor every year.
And, I discovered the Pizza deliveryman’s story because my son’s friend’s family, the Brooks, signed up to get us pizza on the meal train; the deliveryman said that he too survived an accident and he should not have lived but he did; and I mentioned to him that perhaps someone was watching over him, to save him and he smiled.
As I said to the pizza deliveryman, I keep asking the Lord of my own life, “Show me why you saved me.”
Today I was reading in Psalms 106:8- “He saved them for the sake of His Name, that He might make His power known.”
I will try, in God’s Spirit.
My college friend Nancy, whom I just do not see enough but now vow to see more, said to me in a conversation over the bagels she brought over two weeks after the accident, “Now for the rest of your life, it clearly goes to God.”
Many of the people who have walked through my doors to bring us some cheer in the form of a meal or a bag of groceries or flowers have never stepped foot in my home before nor have we shared a conversation beyond “in passing,” despite good intentions. There are people I adore and have not gotten together with before, or it’s been years since we’ve sat down to talk, and I’ve known it’s been too long. I would keep thinking, I need to get together with so-and-so, or call so-and-so, but then we get busy.
And, Cynthia, after dropping off a meal, said “God must have big plans for you.”
My friend Kelly said the same thing.
Sometimes it takes a hardship, a catastrophe, or an Accident to make us look to God, to make us realize that all along, every day is a miracle, if we would just see it that way, and we need to seize upon life’s moments that way.
And, sometimes it takes an accident to make you realize that you need to follow-up on coffee plans that have been years in the works.
Take my friend Kelly for one. Whenever we see each other at community or school events for our kids, we connect so marvelously on life and kids and beliefs; and we would always say, “Let’s go on a walk or out for coffee or Happy Hour, soon.”
But we never seem to make it happen.
After our accident, she signed up to bring us a meal; and when she brought the dinner over, we had our standard amazing conversation, this time over three hours of connecting and sharing and conversing and encouraging one another.
And, we vowed to get together for that coffee we’ve talked about for years.
It’s scheduled for tomorrow.
May we all make every moment a Wonderful Life.
“Words they are my dearest friend.” — Emily Dickinson
“My friends are my estate.” – Emily Dickinson