It has been a while since I’ve written. I believe our lives come in seasons, and the past few months have been a season of transition and introspection for me. One of the promises that I made to myself in this business is that I would not force it, I would allow it to flow from a Source bigger than myself. The truth is that I have not been in a place to write for a while, but I know now that writing is what I need more than ever.
For quite a few years, I have experienced significant tragedies, sprinkled in between so much love, laughter, and fun. I have always been a believer in synchronicities and serendipity and the beauty that comes from allowing the Universe to place us in just the right place at the right time. And that is exactly what has happened to me.
Tragedies, darkness, loss, pain….it has made me who I am.
It has brought me to a strong foundation of faith and a knowing that this life is bigger than we could possibly imagine.
It has solidified my purpose – to serve and to love.
It has connected me with beautiful Souls on this earth and in heaven.
I am thankful for every bit of it.
The following account of one of the tragedies I experienced is detailed, thorough. I write it partially for myself because I process and reflect well through my writing. But I write it also for Elijah and Autumn and for their families. I did not know them at the time of the accident, but they have since changed my life.
Exactly one year ago, on a drizzly Friday afternoon, I was driving from work in Cheyenne, Wyoming to my home in Fort Collins, Colorado. I wasn’t too far down the highway when a large truck stopped abruptly in front of me. I couldn’t yet see the accident that would forever change my life, but I instantly felt that I was needed, that I was there in that moment for a reason. The truck in front of me got off an exit immediately to our right, and as I looked up, I gasped. Before me was a red vehicle that was barely recognizable as a truck. I exited the highway myself and pulled my car over to the side of the road to survey the scene. What I didn’t know at the time was that this truck had just lost control on the opposite side of the highway, rolled multiple times, hit the metal chain in the median, gone airborne, and landed on my side of the highway just one car in front of me.
As an occupational therapist, I’m trained in basic life support and CPR. I carry CPR masks and medical gloves in my car, and I have mentally rehearsed for how I would handle the scene of an accident many, many times. That’s just who I am, I am prepared. I watched as several other people exited vehicles and ran to the mangled truck. Grabbing my CPR masks and gloves, I then ran from mine. I can still experience that scene as if it were yesterday – the smell of rubber and fresh blood, the site of onlookers in shock, the loud yells from natural born leaders who were providing aid and instructions.
I saw a person lying on the ground just outside of the driver’s side of the truck. Elijah. Blankets, we need blankets, I heard someone shout. I ran back to my car and retrieved a navy blue blanket from my emergency kit. We are trying to keep him warm, he’s in bad shape. I suddenly realized that it was raining, cold, and that the pavement was wet. Against the bare skin of his back, I knew he could easily go into hypothermia. He had a lot of helping hands surrounding him, as if God had sent angels directly from heaven.
As I looked around, I noticed that there was someone inside the truck. Autumn. From the driver’s side, it was difficult to see in, so I walked to the other side, trying to make sure that I didn’t injure myself on the mangled metal and shards of glass lying seemingly everywhere. She’s really agitated, we need to keep her calm. I grabbed a sweater off the passenger side floor board and covered her arms. Even if I had known this girl, I would not have recognized her – there was too much blood. But I could tell she was young, and I prayed. Dear Lord, please be with us all right now. Please let them live. Please, PLEASE let them live. Please guide our hands and get the ambulance here quickly.
The ambulance! I know from my training and preparation that often times at the scene of an accident, no one calls the police. It’s not that people don’t want to get help, they simply assume that someone else will call, so they don’t. I surveyed the scene once again and spotted an older man on the phone – he had called for help. There’s two of them here, they look like they’re in bad shape. There’s someone here, I think he’s a paramedic. What? Yes, yes I’ll stay on the line. Once he hung up moments later, he told the rest of us that help was on the way. He then put his head in his hands. My wife, my wife…she’s a neurosurgeon. I was on the way to pick her up. I wish she were here.
I wished she were there too. I was worried that the young girl in the truck had a neck injury. I’ve worked with so many people with spinal cord injuries, and I was terrified that if she moved, this girl would put herself at risk for one. Another woman and I gently held her down to keep her from moving. I turned around to see a calm young woman walking toward me. I’m a nurse, what can I do to help? I explained that the young guy on the other side of the truck was being taken care of by a lot of people and shared my concerns about the girl’s head and neck injury. She took the girl’s vitals and began to direct us. Please stay with me. Please stay with me. We waited. My CPR mask and medical gloves were no match for this.
The wait. It seemed like forever. We waited approximately 10 minutes for an ambulance – we were pretty far outside of the city and traffic was backed up in both lanes, relegating the emergency vehicles to the shoulder. I felt a calm wash over me when they arrived. We briefed them on what we knew and then got out of the way so they could work.
I stepped back from the scene and soaked it all in – the paramedics began tending to the guy and the girl. Can you hear me? What is your name? You’re going to be okay, just hang with us. The highway patrol began taking pictures of the scene and collecting items from 100 yards away. I found this purse up here by the median. I took off my gloves and shook hands with some of the angels on the scene. We had been through 10 minutes of hell together. Drive safely, okay?
I walked back to my car. I sat in silence. I called my husband. And I sobbed.
It took a while before I could drive the rest of the way home, and I had to stop halfway there to sob once again. I prayed for that guy and that girl all night. The next day, I learned who they were through a mutual friend of a friend. I knew in that moment, that it was not random that I was there.
Elijah and Autumn. I instantly felt a connection with them. And because of their amazing friends and family, I saw pictures of them and followed their journey. I am happy to say that they did live, and that they are both at home with their families. And I have kept in touch with one of their close friends over the past year. Watching the journey of their recovery and learning about them as people has been incredible. These young people with old souls are amazing! They have had such an impact on this world by following their passions, and I know that they will continue to influence the lives of so many.
Elijah – you have a gift of creativity. Don’t ever stop making those videos of yours and following your passions, for you will impact far more people than you know.
Autumn – sweet girl, you are oh so beautiful inside and out. Don’t ever forget where you came from or your capacity for resilience. You will change this world.
In May of 2015, I was working as an occupational therapist. I loved my job, but I knew it wasn’t my deeper purpose. I knew deep within my Soul that there was something more. Witnessing their accident was like a jolt, a wake up call to my something more. My husband and I had been building our life coaching business prior to this accident, but I just knew that it was time to take it bigger. In June of 2015, I went down to part-time at my OT job so I could pursue coaching. Then, in August of 2015, I left my job completely, and we decided to travel.
Elijah, Autumn, Scott, Cinnamon, Brenna, Randy, Grace, Haley….if you ever read this, I want you all to know that you forever changed my life. I grew up in a Christian home, but I became disenchanted with religion and the church for many years. Watching the depth of your love and faith renewed my spirit, and I have reconnected with my own faith and spirituality in profound ways over the past year. Many other tragedies in my life have shown me the importance of living in the present moment, but this one shook me to my core. After the accident, I could no longer tolerate living small and settling. I knew I was meant for more – that God had a bigger purpose for me – and I began pursuing it. I wish I could have been with you all for this anniversary, but I don’t live in Colorado anymore. My husband and I now live in an RV and travel this beautiful country – one of our dreams. I am thankful every day that God brought you all into my life. I know that incredible things have already transpired since that day one year ago, and I can’t wait to see what else comes of it.
Tragedy, pain, loss, darkness….it’s so hard. It can pull us under. It can leave us a shell of our former self. But it is also an incredible gift, one that can propel us forward into a deeper, more rich version of ourselves, one that is ready to make a huge impact.