Not to Nice People

Dear Invincibility,

It’s a tough lesson that first one that teaches you Invincibility is not something you’re made of and yes, you are a nice person but yes, difficult things can happen even to nice people like you.

I was driving down the highway in Colorado one March afternoon headed toward Denver International Airport to pick up my college boyfriend. When I left the house it was the middle of the afternoon and although it was chilly it was another of Colorado’s 300 days of sunshine. I got to the airport in plenty of time to park my car and go up and wait at the pre-9/11 gate. He was flying in from California and there were several announcements that his flight had been delayed due to bad weather. I went to look at the window and sure enough, that sunshiney day had gone to a dark, cold day with heavy clouds threatening to release at any moment. Still, I sat back down to wait. By the time his flight finally arrived it was well into the evening hours and the snow has started to make a slow drift out of the sky and down into Denver.

We grabbed his bags and jumped on the road. At this point I’d had my license for a little under five years with no traffic incidents whatsoever, not even a speeding ticket. Well aware I’m not accustomed to driving in the rain I jumped behind the wheel of my car and sped off down the highway. It’s only an hour and fifteen minute drive from Denver to Fort Collins and I wanted to make it home before it got too late in order to get a good night’s rest and be ready for classes in the morning.

In order to get to campus there are two exits you can take off of I-25 North and I debated a moment too long on which exit to take before missing the exit and acquiescing to taking the second exit. It had really begun snowing now and I could barely see past my windshield out into the dark night. I zipped past the first exit and had just begun to cross the bridge that would take me to the second exit when up ahead of me there was a multiple car pileup. Unsure about what to do to avoid hitting the cars I veered to the left and my wheels caught nothing but ice and air. Another car swerved to avoid me and I swerved to avoid them and went flying off the freeway, past the grassy embankment and into the guard rail on the side of the road. Upon impact the airbag deployed and stunned me into momentary shock as it smacked me harder in the face than I’ve ever been hit. My car totaled I turned to check on my passenger who was also stunned and shocked but otherwise injury free. Turning back toward the highway we watched as the cars continued to pile up and decided we’d better get out of the way of all the flying cars.  We climbed out of the car and were just climbing up a slight incline to higher ground when someone yelled “Duck!”. With a sports-like instinct we both dropped to the ground and no sooner than we did a huge truck came flying over our head and landed on the hill we’d just been climbing towards.

I looked around at the wreckage around me and with a jolt realized for the first time in my immature life, I am not invincible.

Fast forward ten-years and I have lost loved ones, watched others lose their loved ones. I have watched babies pass before their time, I have watched extremely good and nice people lose their children, lose their mother and father, and on that cold snowy day I lost the naive part of myself that once was, the part we all have until we grow up. The part that believes bad things happen to bad people and of course nothing awful, sad or catastrophic is ever going to happen to me.

It’s all a part of growing up and before the accident there was another day when my mother called to tell me my Grandmother had suffered a heart attack and I was an inconsolable mess, hysterically bereft with grief and on a plane the very next day to go and be with her. Now, ten years later my Grandmother has passed at 1:20 pm on December 8, 2010 and from the view of a woman I am able to fully celebrate her life and all that she was and still is to me. I love her and miss her dearly but I know that this is not something that happened to me, this is the way life happens. Living mine to the fullest in a way that makes her proud gives me an opportunity to celebrate her everyday and share with others the gifts she bestowed upon me.

In loving memory of my Grandmother, a woman who held her head up high and walked through life, not with the grief of a girl but with the grace of one of the most extraordinary women I have ever known. I love you dearly.

Love Always,

Sunny

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