72: An Accidental Discovery

72: An Accidental Discovery

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and the Unexplainable

An Accidental Discovery

I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way, we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.

~Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

On a blustery afternoon in February, I decided to leave a few hours early to pick up my three-year-old daughter from her dad’s house. The trip was forty-five minutes each way, and I didn’t want to risk the weather getting any worse.

The roads were slick, and the visibility wasn’t great, but we were toasty in the car, listening to music and chatting about her weekend. When we reached the edge of our little village, I began to feel a bit tired. We were only about six miles from home, though.

The next thing I remember was the horrific sound of screeching metal and bursting glass. There was an explosion of screams and confusion. And the smell of burning.

Before I knew what was happening, I was being yanked out of my seatbelt. “Your child. You need to get her out. The car could catch on fire. Get her out now. You need to move now!” I was fumbling with the handle in shock. When I finally got the door open and saw my daughter’s red face twisted up in terror, I snapped into reality enough to get her out of her car seat and hold her close.

“I’m okay, Mommy, I’m okay,” she repeated through sobs, her body tense, and her knuckles digging into my sweat-soaked shirt.

We were ushered into a van, along with the woman and her six-year-old son who had been in the vehicle we hit. I trembled uncontrollably as we waited for an ambulance. When the officers and EMTs arrived, they flooded me with questions — none of which I could answer. I didn’t know what had happened. Did I fall asleep? I had been tired. Did I slip on black ice? The roads were slick. “I don’t know” seemed to be the only thing I could muster.

According to the police, the collision was so severe that nobody should have survived, let alone walked away.

The EMTs explained that the entire front passenger side of my car was gone. Since my daughter was in the back on that same side, she was closest to the point of impact, yet she was completely unharmed. She didn’t even have a scratch. On the other hand, I was pretty bruised, but opted to be driven home rather than go to the ER. We’d been through enough.

About a week later, ready to get back on the road, I scheduled a rental car service to pick us up at home. I brought my daughter’s car seat out into the sunlight to examine it for cracks or any other signs of damage. I tipped it over, lifted the cushions, and went over every inch. It looked fine, so I decided to continue using it until I could get a new one.

The rental car company was late at this point, so I made a quick call reminding them about my pickup. I wandered down the driveway a bit, and when the call ended, I headed back up to where my daughter was standing next to her car seat.

She had something clenched tightly in her fist. “What do you have?” I asked. She opened her palm, revealing a smooth, polished stone. When I looked closer, I realized it had a large cross etched in black in the middle of its surface.

“Where’d you get that?” I asked.

She pointed her chubby, little toddler finger to the car seat and said, “Right there in my seat.”

I was perplexed. I had just examined this seat minutes before — surely I would have seen a stone that was larger than a golf ball. Why didn’t it fall out when I turned over the seat?

So again I asked, “Seriously, honey. Where’d you get that?”

And in her small voice, she explained, “God gave it to me so I won’t ever be scared in the car. And it will protect us if we get in another accident.”

We hugged for a long time, giggling about how lucky we were to get a rock from God. We took it with us in the rental car that day. And when we got our new car, we made a spot for it right up front under the dashboard controls.

In the meantime, I couldn’t stop thinking about the family we’d hit. I found the woman’s name in my accident report paperwork and hunted down her address. I wrote her and her family a card, expressing my confusion over what had happened, my gratitude for their lives, and my strong belief that our paths had crossed for a reason. I hesitated before tossing it into the mailbox, but sent it just the same.

A year later, while perusing my Facebook newsfeed, I stumbled on a story that caught my attention. The article was about a young woman who was diagnosed with lung cancer after a car accident sent her to the hospital. The article said that she was driving her son home from his ski lesson at a nearby mountain and she decided to take a different route than usual because of the snow. Then her car was hit by a white SUV driving straight at her in her lane.

I blinked back burning tears as I realized that white SUV was my car. I gulped and continued to read.

The boy had a concussion and a broken arm, and the mother agreed to have a scan because she felt some whiplash. What happened next was a shock. The scan revealed that the woman, who had never smoked a day in her life, had a mass on her lung — stage IIIa lung cancer. She was only forty years old and had no symptoms. She would not have started treatment at that stage if it weren’t for the accident. She shared the card I had sent to her with the reporters covering the story, including this section:

I believe that everything happens for a purpose. I’ve yet to find out why our paths had to literally cross the way they did, but I am confident that it will be made obvious in time.

~Ashley Previte

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