Tag Archives: car accident

Carry him in your pocket.

Dear Eilis,

Last night, sitting in the passenger’s seat of my best friend’s car, parked halfway inside my driveway, I wrestled with the idea of losing a father.

I don’t know how we ended up at that table, hammering hope into regret, but I think I know where it began.

At the tail end of 2003, when funerals were for the movies. When, six months before, a motorcycle accident was the closest some of us had come to saying goodbye. Back then I learned to hate the number 13.

So when, that same year, I spent the 13th of December learning that the world did, in fact, keep rotating on its axis while sixty or seventy preteen girls sniffled and sobbed on either side of me, I started toying with that idea of losing a father. A fourth father, perhaps, if I counted them right.

The Father I read about in books.

The man who named me. Who held me when I was just the length of his forearm. Who worried I’d never be bigger, grow stronger, if my mother didn’t write down every ounce of food I ate.

The man who held me and my sister to his chest on Sunday mornings as people filed out of wooden doors on either side of us, stumbling down red velvet stairs, whispering to Please Be Good For Your Parents This Week, OK?

And then this man. The one who taught me lessons every afternoon. Who looked after me long before he had a daughter of his own. Long before he never got the chance to hold her in his arms or look her in the eyes or dance at her wedding to Butterfly Kisses after Midnight Prayers to Father Nos. 1 & 3.

I have a feeling your father took the pieces of 1, 2, 3 & 4 and threaded them together. Piece by piece. Heartstring by heartstring.

And as you jump from one lily pad to the next, fumbling for your balance, I know it seems near impossible to land correctly without his hand stretched out to steady you. I know how it feels when you’ve never felt too good at this whole Life thing, this whole Change thing, this whole New thing, and he has always had your back. The perfect words when you fall on the floor.

And then, in a flash, he slides the cushion out from under your feet and whisks away to someplace else. Someplace that’s Gone far away.

I know it. So badly. Know the tears that last for hours as everyone says how wonderful he was, how it is such a shame to see him go so soon.

But I want you to know this: I believe in angels.

I see his eyes and his smile in the photos of his daughter sitting in a card from his mother, a woman who hung through pregnancy and grief all at the same time, just two weeks of We’re In This Together before his car smashed itself into the road and left her alone, holding out for the baby he left her to love.

He was my Father No. 4 for six years, the one I spent the most time with. The only one who never did the leaving. No, no, that was my job. Until, one day, it wasn’t. Until, one day, he didn’t show up for practice, to steady my balance on the wooden beam, to catch my flailing limbs when I smacked onto the ground.

Your dad is up there, hands on his knees, watching you from the sidelines of life. He’s in your smile and your eyes and the way that you carry yourself from this lily pad to the next. He is right here, right inside you, right where you can always keep him close.

And he’s not going anywhere. He’s left you with his words and his heart and his love. For you to take and spin into something wonderful, something he would have loved, with this next chapter in your book.

Carry him in your pocket. Unfold his words like roads on a map. Trace the outline of your smile and see his love in the corners of your eyes.

It is there. No matter where you position yourself on this Earth. He’s there.


Note: Eilis lost her father two years ago. She’s graduating high school, jumping into college life, and needs your words. Want to write to her? You’ve got until June 5.

You taught an antsy group of girls in leotards how to one person can change the world.

day 11 – a deceased person you wish you could talk to

Dear Mr. Dave,

We both knew this letter was coming. As I’m sure most anyone who knows me did. The easiest part was deciding to write to you. The hardest part? What to say.

When I look back at my thirteen-year-old self, cataloging the series of events that encapsulate the last seven years of my life, I can’t imagine it without your influence. How did I go from spending 20 hours a week with someone to having trouble remembering his voice?

The worst part of grieving is watching it slip away. Watching the person slip away, as you grow farther and farther away from That Girl You Were When They Were Still Alive.

Now, I look back and wonder if she would be happy with who I’ve become. If you would be.

You were the first person I lost whose death really shook me up. Challenged my faith in God, gymnastics, and myself. In the cold winter that followed, I gave up on myself and let the voices in my head override yours.

How do you justify taking someone away, removing them from the hearts of thousands of people across the globe?

After I calmed down on Thursday and drove my car back onto the road, I continued to focus on driving, but occasionally slipped back to the past. With each passing ambulance, each car accident, I was transported back to that cold December afternoon, standing in line at practice, shivering. Knowing with each whispered phone call that something had gone terribly wrong. Then, though, I couldn’t yet imagine the worst.

The words black ice freak me out. My heart rate skyrockets and I have to reassure myself that thinking something doesn’t make it happen. That I have met my car spinning out on I-81 quota for the year (twice).

And then I remember how much you’ve done for me. How much you’ve taught a group of antsy girls in leotards, too energized to stand still and listen. Too young to appreciate the lesson that transcended the sport.

You taught us to believe in ourselves, to be better people. You taught us to compartmentalize, to focus on one thing at a time. You taught us how our love can change the world by showing us how yours already did.

As we sat huddled in a packed funeral home, staring up at those older than us reading testimonies of a life cut much too short, we learned you had already changed hundreds of lives. That you were passionate about just about everything — coaching, your wife, and the sport of gymnastics.

We cried for days straight, leaning on each other for support. In part, we feared we had lost someone so great we couldn’t even yet comprehend it. And when all was said and done, we shared your love and lessons with the world.


Letters to God on the Interstate.

day 10 – someone you don’t talk to as much as you’d like

Dear God,

I had an Elizabeth Gilbert moment last night. But instead of praying out loud on my bathroom floor in the middle of the night, I was in a car.

I cannot ride in the car without constant noise — the radio or my iPod playing, someone chatting in the background, the sound of the wind coming through my windows. But yesterday, as I drove along the interstate, somewhere between Hagerstown, MD and the Mason-Dixon line, I lost control of my car.

What did Casey say before I left? Steer? Don’t steer? Gas? Breaks?

I tried to control chaos, as I so often do. The only logical thought running through my head was I couldn’t go right. I was in the left lane of a busy highway, cars racing past me on the passenger side. Somehow, I ran my car into the grassy median between the northbound and southbound lanes. Somehow, I managed to careen backwards for another tenth of a mile before coming to a complete stop.

There was, quite possibly, no worse place to get stuck in a ditch. I was smack in the middle between one house and another, with two hours’ cushion on either side. It was the most lonely feeling, the scariest feeling. And when I finally did make it out of that rut, revving my engine as a state trooper guided me back onto the road, the only thing I could focus on was “what if it happens again?

via weheartit.com

So I started talking out loud to you, God. I made a laundry list full of reasons why I had to make it home safe and in one piece. A string of thank you’s and reassurances that I would be fine. I turned off the radio before even turning my car back on, and whenever I got the slightest bit nervous, I repeated those words out loud.

It’s fine. You’re fine. Just keep driving. Just stay focused. One mile at a time.

I used to be a devout Catholic, a church-takes-presidence-over-slumber-parties-and-sleepovers kind of kid. That’s how I was raised. But for that same reason, I grew to resent it. Last night, as I literally prayed out loud, I remembered there’s something entirely reassuring about knowing someone, somewhere is listening to your solitary mumblings in a car on a dimly light highway in the middle of nowhere.

Thank you God.


Hey there Delilah, you deserve someone who cares about you.

Yesterday afternoon, I sat in traffic staring at the red light as rain poured down my windshield, blurring my view of the road. Behind me, red and yellow lights flashed as two ambulances stopped traffic in the other direction. I watched in the way we all watch car accidents, wanting to turn away but somehow captivated by this small glimpse into another person’s life. And I felt a pang in my throat, seeing the rest of the people in the car stand around and watch as someone pulled out a stretcher, preparing to help someone out of the backseat.

I started thinking about all the people in my life, remembering the moments of sheer panic I’ve felt. The moments that remain etched in my brain. A phone call accompanied the sound of a familiar voice on the other end of the line, asking me to come find them, to find their car alongside the road. The whole world stopped moving, everything slowing as the red and white lights created a slow-motion strobe light effect in my brain. I felt like I couldn’t move fast enough, like my running was pointless as the control slipped from my grasp.

Those are the worst moments, when we feel helpless and altogether useless. When we can care about a person, about the person’s wellbeing or safety, but we’re a hundred miles or five hundred feet away.

Yesterday, the only sound that rang through my ears, except the pattering of rain dropping all around me, was the words of “Hey There Delilah”. I almost laughed, trying to understand how a song that puts a smile on a stranger’s face can be forever paired with such a dreary moment. There is no logic for those moments in our lives.

All I know is, I have this need to make sense of them. Always. And this is what I’ve come up with, when all is said and done:

We all deserve someone who cares about them, so much so that they always answer the phone, that they always drive the ten or fifty or a hundred miles to find them, to ease the pain or make their day better.

Delilah was a girl who the lead singer of Plain White T’s met through a friend.

“I thought she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen,” he says. “I told her, ‘I have a song about you already.’ Obviously, there was no song. But I thought it was smooth.” – USA Today

Of course, not everyone in this world writes a song to prove they care about someone else. That’s just not reasonable. But everyone in this world deserves to be someone’s Delilah. There are too many examples of people being treated wrong, about people who won’t leave someone when they should because they’re waiting for things to get better. Even when they know that won’t happen.

When you look back on your life, don’t you want to know you’re with someone who thinks you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread?

“Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you, the right person is still going to think the sun shines out your ass. That’s the kind of person that’s worth sticking with.” – Juno