“Don’t worry, he’s OK, but your brother has been in an accident.” I can barely imagine a worse combination of words. This is exactly what my mother said to me when she called me yesterday evening. I was immediately filled with dread. When she phoned, physically I was in the cab of a Turkish trucker, hitchhiking from Budapest to Kraków, but mentally, I was somewhere else. My heart started racing. When you hear the words ‘your brother has been in an accident,’ you don’t hear the words ‘he’s OK.’ You hear nothing but emptiness.
“Let me speak to him,” I demanded.
“Let me speak to him.” Within seconds, he was on the phone and only then could I halt the rush of darkness that was rising from my feet and threatening to engulf me.
Everything is always OK. Until it’s not.
*Heart begins to resume normal pace*
I am lucky enough to have four brothers and unlucky enough that I had a similar experience several years ago (with a different brother) in which the car was annihilated (the pictures were horrendous), but my brother was miraculously unharmed. I also had a car accident when I was 17 and have no idea how I too remained untouched (the car was a write-off). When I phoned my parents with the unfortunate news that I had broken my back a couple of years ago, I can only dread to imagine what they thought. It must be hard to be a parent with mad children to worry about. I now hand over to my brother who recounts his high speed incident yesterday.
“Until recently, the sunroof of my car had been leaking. I finally fixed it the day before the accident, so I was pretty pleased it was finally all working!
I was driving from Castle Acre to Norwich, it was the nicest day it had been for weeks, and what happened next was probably the last thing that I was expecting. OneRepublic – ‘I lived’ was playing pretty loud, and all was good (listen to ‘I Lived’ on Youtube and note the great lyrics)
It was at the very opening of the dual carriageway where I sped up from 60 to 70mph and overtook a blue van, but shortly after returning to the left hand lane, I watched my bonnet lift up as if it was in slow motion. It hit my windscreen so hard it shattered. The bonnet also popped down both my interior mirrors, so I had a small amount of time to look at how shocked my own face was.
Going at 70mph with absolutely no clue as to what is in front of you, was probably the single least pleasant thing I have ever experienced. Most definitely the loudest bang I have ever heard. And the most amount of small glass particles thrown into my face all at once.
I slowed down gradually, keeping to the left of the road until I came to a stop. I came out of my car expecting to be on the road, but somehow I ended up in a lay-by purely by chance (which I feel was extremely lucky). I was also incredibly lucky that there were no other cars behind me, or it could have been a lot worse. I’m pretty sad to have lost my first car in that way, but also glad to still be alive!”
This was an event that happened in seconds, but could have changed everything. At this point, I could think deeply about how lucky it was that he ended up in a lay-by, that the glass didn’t shatter into his face, that he pulled over despite not being able to see anything, that… but I won’t. I will simply be grateful of something far beyond our control.
Life is short. And beyond precious. I can’t prove it, but I’m fairly sure that we only get one to play with. If something happened to you, or to someone else today, how would you feel? Are you living the life that you want to live and have you said everything that you want to say? It would be an awful shame to move onto the next stage of life (or lack thereof) with regrets.
I’m living the life that I want to live. But I have lots more to say.
P.S. Elliot, I’m more than glad that you’re OK