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Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Memory and a Reminder

My sister, Mandi, has been in town for nearly two weeks... and she still has one week left to spend with us. It has been awesome. We've been running together in the mornings, taking our kids to the park almost every afternoon (only staying home on the few days of rainy weather), preparing meals together, working together on a giving my parents' kitchen a little bit of a face lift, we've talked and laughed and talked some more. And, our four kids have had playmates, which has been so fun to observe. I just wish we didn't live so far apart from each other and we could have more of these moments more often.

But, earlier today I realized that I should just be grateful to have any of these moments at all, even if they don't happen nearly as often as I would like. Mandi reminded me that it was fifteen years ago today that she was in her car accident that could have easily ended her life.

It was 1996. I was nearing the final weeks of my senior year of high school and she had just turned sixteen. I had made plans that Friday night to go see a movie with some friends - Twister, I think it was - and had assumed the car would be free for me to take. Then, just before I was about to leave, I watched Mandi bounce her way down the driveway with the car keys in hand, clearly with plans of her own to take the car for the night.

I remember feeling so frustrated and angry that she was taking off with the car, leaving me (the older sibling) with the only option of riding my bike to join my group of friends for our movie night. I yelled some not-so-nice words at her from our front porch, which didn't stall her one bit, which made me feel even more upset.

And, even though I was still fuming while watching her drive away, there was this slight feeling of regret for the feelings I felt and the things I said. The regret ate away at me all night.

It wasn't until much later that night, nearing midnight, when I returned home to an empty house, that I immediately knew something was wrong. Soon after stepping through the front door, my parents called from the hospital. Mandi had been in a serious car accident. The car was totaled, and Mandi's life was spared by fractions of an inch (literally). She lost control of the car on a dark, winding gravel road. The car flew off the road down a sixty foot cliff, landing on its nose into a river bed - with a tree going through the front windshield.

Somehow Mandi and her guy friend (literally) walked away from the accident back to his house (a half mile away or so), where his mother (a nurse by profession) quickly bandaged up their bleeding wounds and rushed them to the hospital.

I arrived at the hospital just in time for the doctor to stitch up some of Mandi's deep cuts on her left hand. I sat next to her bedside, letting her squeeze my hand with her right hand. That wasn't so bad. But, watching the bloody throbbing open hole in her neck made me turn all shades of blue and nearly passed out myself. Doctors and policemen were all stunned by the relatively minor injuries that were so close to being deadly, which would have matched the looks of the car.

Growing up, Mandi and I had our fair share of squabbles like the one we'd had the night of her accident, but all of a sudden the fragility of life made me realize it just wasn't worth it. Seeing her all bloody and cut up on that hospital bed, I was just so relieved to still have my sister. I wished so much I could have taken back the hurtful words I had left between us before she left that night. In the days that followed, I felt like the accident was my fault; fate's way of teaching me a lesson I would be sure to never forget. Well, it worked.

And, now that it's been fifteen years and our relationship has grown stronger than I ever could have imagined, I'm so grateful we've had these years to share together and for the memories we've made together. And, now to be providing chances for our children to make their own memories together makes my heart happy. I just can't imagine what the last fifteen years would have been like without her... it makes me sad to even think about.

Reflecting today on the fortunate events, and even miracles, that saved my sister's life so many years ago, has reminded me to be more grateful for each moment of this fragile life. As much as I don't like that phrase "you just never know...", it's actually true. You just never know. The gift of today is all we can count on for sure. And, I'm just grateful for the reminder to make the most of it.


Becky Rose said...

Thanks for the reminder. Even though my life stinks right now, I'm still alive.

candice said...

What a sobering post. I'm so glad you still have your sister to enjoy---when i think about heavy things, like this, it just reminds me not only of the fragility of life, but how little control we really have. said...

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