From the Progress-Index, November 1, 2015:
Casey Alexander and her husband passed away yesterday in a one-car crash.
They are survived by their children, ages nine and eleven, three parents, six siblings and ten nieces and nephews. Witnesses from vehicles behind them say the two were heading north around a highway ramp in his Mustang when the car lost traction in the rain, spun a 360, flipped and crashed. The car landed at the bottom of an eight-foot embankment. No memorial arrangements have been announced at this time.
That almost happened.
Yesterday, Hubby and I left the kiddos with our favorite babysitter (the only one who didn’t run away screaming in those first few years) to take a much-needed day to ourselves. We haven’t had a “date day” in…well, I can’t remember the last one.
Right before we left, our daughter hugged me and said, “I’ll really miss you while you’re gone.” This has NEVER happened. Usually, when we leave, she has one of two reactions:
- Ignores us completely.
- Communicates (by dancing around, giggling wildly or running through the house) that she is thrilled to be rid of us. Or, for the sake of accuracy, me.
I was happy (and slightly flabbergasted) at the demonstrative-for-her comment. Our boy kissed me on the cheek, also a bit out-of-the-ordinary when others are present, but he’s familiar with the sitter.
Ten minutes later, we zipped down the road in his red Mustang. We’re a Mustang family; in fact, a Mustang led us to the kids.
Side note: I just had a song flash through my mind, to the tune of the Addams Family theme. The Mustang Family (bah dah dah duh) *snap snap.* Don’t worry. I’ll spare you the rest.
Almost seven years ago, Hubby called me. “I found it! Can I get it? We saved the money; we should have enough. It’s the one!” For the record, he knows he doesn’t have to ask “permission,” but he always does. And I always say yes, of course.
A certain special Mustang eluded him for years; on that day he found “the one” for sale on a road near our house. When I arrived home, Hubby stood in our driveway with a new-to-us old Mustang and a tall young man, the previous owner. “I’m pastor at the brick church down the road. We’d love to have you visit sometime,” he said.
The following Sunday, we attended.
“You’re here!” he said, surprised.
“You invited us,” we said. After three years of looking for a church where we fit, the gentleman who said the closing prayer added, “Remember, a visitor is just a friend we haven’t met yet!” Hubby and I looked at each other, smiling. The man had echoed our former pastor, a beloved friend lost to cancer. This was home.
Soon, we met Kay, her five biological children and several foster children. Two years later, Kay welcomed two small children into her home for a weekend of respite care, and introduced us to our future kids.
Five years down the road, in a different Mustang, we head off on a day of respite for ourselves.
He took the curve of the highway ramp no faster than usual. Hubby has always had an innate grasp of driving mechanics, and several years ago I surprised him with a stunt driving class (which he aced). He knows exactly how to handle power.
I grinned over at him as we headed for the highway. Then, we hit a bump. In other conditions, the jar to the tire wouldn’t matter, but this time the road was wet and slick.
Autumn colors spun around me, and for a moment it felt like a dream. I thought, “Pretty. Like a kaleidoscope.”
Snapping back to reality, I saw the clear problem. Skidding wheels, spinning car, deep ditch fast approaching. I thought, “Oh, hey, are we going to die? I think we are.”
My life did not flash before my eyes. I had only one thought, outside of the certainty we’d soon be dead. “Dang it. She just started to care whether we come back!”
The car slid to a stop inches from the edge of an eight-foot drop. We’d made a complete 360. I peered down to our no-longer-certain doom.
Cars approached, so he pulled out to the highway and took the next exit.
I leaned on the hood as hubby checked each tire and wheel, pronouncing everything fine. “Let’s go,” he said. I assumed he meant back home. Nope. He headed out to the highway, ready for our date. My man.
We both started laughing. “Sorry,” he gasped, “I don’t know why I’m laughing, but I can’t stop.” I guess it was the adrenaline. Neither one of us could rein it in for several minutes.
You’d think a near-death experience would change everything, but this morning, I woke up cranky and spoke sharply to both kids. After they went to school, I realized that although they had managed to disobey before 8 am (and before my coffee) on a Monday, I could still have handled it better.
After all, today is a gift. Tomorrow isn’t promised. And I’m thankful to have one more day to try to do things a little better, like being more patient and thankful.
Speaking of thankful, I texted our sitter and thanked her again for being a consistent good influence in our kids’ lives. She replied that she told her mom about our near-miss, and her mom said, “That’s so weird. I had this worrying feeling yesterday that they might die, so I prayed for their safety.” I’m sure she just thought it was an odd thought, but hey, we’re still here, so maybe that prayer saved our lives.
I’m also pretty sure that after they dusted off their robes and wings, our guardian angels requested re-assignment. “Those two are crazy. They’re wayyyyyyyy too much work. Let someone else have a turn!”
We have such a tenuous connection to life. Let’s take a moment to consider the opportunities we’re given, to appreciate the individuals around us. Complain less. Endure more. Hope more. Love more.
Today, I’ll focus on living as though Casey Alexander is dead. If I think about what I would wish I’d done on my last day, maybe I’ll be nicer. More patient.
Imagine you know you’ll live only 24 more hours. What will you do?
Photo Credit: Casey Alexander