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By the time we headed home, it was very late—way into the night that at that point, most people lay snuggled up warmly in their plush beds. The stars were already twinkling and dancing in the darkened velvet of the sky; the moon grinned its normal Cheshire cat smile as it waned through the cycle. Lights of the distant city behind us dimmed till we were consumed in darkness, the only luminescent markers were the street lamps that stood above—limbs reaching up towards the heavens—as we drove down the deserted highway.
It had been a peaceful night, ordinary, one might assume. The soft melody of Carrie Underwood’s voice singing Jesus Take the Wheel lulled the silence that filled the vehicle. The only other sounds playing in the background was the steady breathing of my newborn daughter as she rested in her car seat, dreaming sweet dreams that only children would have.
We had just visited my parents down in Florida, as they had not been able to attend the birth of their first grandchild. It was a heavy drive along the highways and back roads; a tiring seven to eight hour length of time filled with an abundant number of coffees and sweet treats to keep my eyes open. Already, it was a good deal past midnight and in just a few more miles we would take the off ramp to head towards home.
Humming along to the country singer’s wrenching voice, I felt comfortable and peaceful. Nothing could go wrong at that point. I felt safe in the minivan, totally satisfied with my surroundings and the actions that had partook earlier that day.
What happened next was unexpected and frightening; I really don’t know how I managed to survive the accident.
All I can distinctly remember was a sudden lurch and then we were spinning. I know my daughter had let out a blood curdling wail with the movement of the vehicle, because her cries of alarm was what kept me sane in those crucial seconds. I think I tried to steady the whirling vehicle, but I must have hit something to send us towards the deadly impact—a guard rail, perhaps? That metal fixture designed to protect sent us flipping down the highway, crushing both the back end and the top as we hurdled towards, what I had assumed, was our deaths.
At that moment, I blacked out—a heavy rock that had been kicked up by the constant, irregular motion of the minivan had catapulted through the shattered window and struck me across my temple—and I can’t remember much afterwards.
Hours later, when I woke up, my eyes blinking in the sudden, harsh light, I felt distant and unaware. My whole body was sore and screaming whenever I moved the slightest inch. There was a large purple welt oozing blood fixated on my left temple; the skin upon my neck was black and a distasteful green due to a scattered, open scar that had been created by my seatbelt; my right arm was tightly wrapped in a sling, as it had been crushed underneath the hood of the vehicle; several of my ribs were broken because of the impact of the airbag; and various bruises and minor cuts decorated my once blemish-free body.
For some unknown reason, I felt empty and miserable—but, I know it wasn’t because I was injured; it was something else entirely that kept me feeling heart-broken.
Just off to my right, I heard a soft shuffle of feet. When I looked over towards the noise, I was surprised to see my parents. Both had worried creases upon their faces that dimmed slightly when they realized I had awakened from my slumber. The haunting look in their eyes startled me as they spoke: “You’re lucky that you were wearing a seatbelt.” Their voices cracked when they said those words, tears dwelling in their eyes.
My voice was raspy and haunted when I finally managed enough courage to whisper a cry of sorrow. “Where’s my baby? Where’s my Emily?”
My father shook his head and my mother swept across the cramped hospital room to comfort me, her wrinkled arms outstretched and welcoming.
I suddenly knew why I felt dead inside, why my body was numb, and why my parents had waited patiently beside my bed, hands clasped tightly as they prayed for the survival of their daughter. I had been on the verge of death, wavering upon the existence of all that was created.
My new-born daughter, barely a month old, had floated across the golden gate of Heaven, and I had almost followed her. I wanted to seek revenge for the murderous act of killing such a young child; I wanted to teach those young teenagers that their drunk actions and good times had resulted in the death of an innocent—someone who had not grown old enough to live a life that had been carefully planned and created for her tiny existence. I wanted so many things in that dawning moment as realization struck my consciousness. But, all I could do was cry.