Originally published on my website October 2, 2006
Every now and then, you get hit with a dose of reality that shakes up your senses and reminds you what really matters. A few weeks ago, a good friend of my friend Jennie was involved in a very serious car accident. Donna was on her way to take her 4-year-old twins Gabi and Gabe to pre-school, the same pre-school my daughters attend. In the van with them was 3-month-old baby Gavin. Those of us with children know how easy it is to get distracted by children in the back seat, and Donna and her family experienced the consequences of that distraction first hand when the family minivan crashed into the rear end of a slowing semi-truck on I-95 one Friday morning, crumpling up like a tin can.
Amazingly enough, baby Gavin was uninjured. Gabe suffered only a broken arm. Donna and Gabi were not so lucky. Gabi’s pelvis was broken in two places, her intestines had to repaired, and her left lung collapsed after surgery, leaving her on a ventilator. After three weeks in the hospital, Gabi has just now been able to come home, though she is still immobilized to allow her pelvis time to heal. Donna broke her right wrist, both forearms, her right ankle and her left femur. She also broke her neck and several ribs. She’s since undergone surgery that fused her skull to the top four vertebrae of her spine, which will leave her with limited movement in her neck. Three and a half weeks after the accident, she is still hospitalized and wearing a neck and spine halo.
Donna’s husband Kevin has had to take time off indefinitely without pay to help care for the children and family. Friends from their church are also helping to care for the children and doing whatever else they can to help. Their church is setting up a fund to accept donations for the family’s mounting medical bills and just to help them with life in general, now that both Donna and Kevin will be unable to work for quite some time. This family will face mountains of challenges for many months to come. Please keep them in your prayers.*
We’re all faced with our own versions of tough times. Now married to one of my husband’s closest friends, Jennie lost her first husband in a freak boating accident when their son Joey was just a baby. Joey never really knew his Dad; Jennie wasn’t even 30 at the time, far too young to be a widow. I didn’t know Jennie then. And now, her ever bubbly personality carefully hides the tragedy she experienced; she is truly a tender, giving soul. In December of 1999, two days after Christmas, I lost my mother to suicide. My husband and I had just gone through weeks of a very invasive infertility treatment to get pregnant and learned that we had lost the tiny babies just two days after Mom’s death. Talk about a bad week in the Warren household. I cherish my last day with my mom: December 25, 1999. Two years later, right around the same time, my very dear friend and mentor Vee, who had essentially adopted me as her own after I lost my mom, was killed in a car accident just three days after she had spent three days visiting me. Events like this really make you take stock of your life. My husband and I were watching the news last night and heard of yet another killing in a school. I think that’s been three incidents at three separate schools in less than two weeks. Makes you wonder what’s happening in the world, doesn’t it? As the saying goes, God only gives you what you can handle, and what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.
So it all comes back to what really matters. It’s not your job…here lately, mine has certainly been making we wonder why I spend 40 or more hours a week here. It’s not keeping up with the Joneses…in the big scheme of things, it truly does not matter what kind of car you drive or what brand of jeans are on your butt. And it’s not what you should and should not wear to Walmart…the topic I started writing about before I wrote this story. To me, what’s most important are the people who inhabit your life.
Our neighbors across the street, Steve and Shirley, are a great pair. My husband’s mom died of an extended illness shortly after we married, so our girls don’t have a blood grandmother. That fact breaks my heart daily because I was extremely close to my Nana and have hundreds of wonderful memories of spending time with her. But Shirley has really stepped in and loves those girls like they’re her own. She calls them her little mermaids and happily spends hours on end with them. That’s what really matters. We’ve allowed them to add a second floating dock to our dock to park their SeaDoo, giving them easy access to their sailboat, which is anchored mid-river out behind our house. In exchange, we can use the SeaDoo anytime we want.
Yesterday afternoon, I had the pleasure of taking my girls for a ride on the SeaDoo for the first time. The joy on their faces and the giggles erupting from them as we cruised down the river…that’s what really matters. Hearing them say “Go faster, Mommy! Go faster!”…that’s what really matters. Livvie hopping back on the dock to watch the fishies swim, “like Nemo and Dorie, Mommy!...Just keep swimmin’, just keep swimmin’”…that’s what really matters.
As Sarah and I were pulling away from the dock for our third ride of the afternoon while Livvie watched her new fishie friends, my husband yelled after me that he thought Sarah had figured out how to make things go faster. We flew down the river at nearly 40 mph, Sarah laughing the whole way. As we were pulling back up to the dock, Sarah said, “Not yet, Mommy!” and grabbed the throttle. Visions of me grabbing the throttle on my Dad’s motorcycle at six years old raced through my head as I quickly turned the ‘Doo away from the dock, Sarah screaming happily and Livvie and my husband yelling “Bye, bye, Mommy and Sarah!”….That’s what really matters, isn’t it?
*If you’d like to make a donation to help the Parrish family, please contact me for more information.