This week my daughter Abigail, age 24, was in a bad car accident in a city hours away from us. I received her call in the morning, while my mind was racing with the day’s work concerns. But the moment I heard the tone of her voice, my world stopped.
Time stops when tragedy occurs in our lives. And the gift of near-tragedy is that it pauses us long enough to realize how precious the time we have been given really is. And for us, thankfully, this was a near-tragedy.
My daughter is fine. She walked away from the accident only shaken up and achy from the experience, while her car was totaled.
I wrote the following reflection to my wife and 3 twenty-something children that day after the incident.
A Reflection On Abigail’s Car Accident
Abigail’s accident this morning could have had many possible outcomes.
We could have lost her. That would’ve surely changed all our lives in a radical way.
Everything all of us are doing right now would have come to a full and complete stop.
Or, she could have been hospitalized with very severe injuries, if not life-threatening injuries.
Our lives would have stopped then as well.
Or, she could have sustained injuries that left her debilitated for the rest of her life in some way.
Again, we would have come to a full stop.
Or, she could have been perfectly fine, a little shaken up, with a totaled car.
In this final case, we would have paused, been thankful for an hour or a day, then continued on with life as we know it.
Of all these possibilities, the latter was the one we experienced.
Thank you, Lord Jesus.
Abigail is fine, is a little shaken up, and is navigating the details of a totaled vehicle that ultimately has no life or breath in it.
At the risk of my children thinking I’m being melodramatic at this point, please remember that I have known young people who have died, were severely injured, or were in comas after unexpected car accidents.
In each case, their life, and the lives of those who love them, came to a full stop. Nothing else mattered other than what had happened.
So, for me, I stop and gave thinks that our Abigail is fine.
I overdo thanks, I sustain thanks, and I linger in thanks.
And I will draw out that gratefulness as long as it keeps re-emerging in my heart.
Without stopping to be thankful, our days pass by in a blur of experiences and events the pile on top of one another without us recognizing and savoring the details of each.
We live in a blur, and may stop to be grateful to God for the life he gives us and the love we share on special holidays that come once a year.
But before we know it, we’ve aged and realized that we were asleep at the wheel, not appreciating the multiple gifts that every day brings.
I see it all the time. People not savoring life, but rather just living it and looking forward to the next positive experience.
Meanwhile, life is passing them by – at least until a tragedy or difficult challenge causes them to stop and awake to their need for help.
But if we make thankfulness a regular rhythm in our lives, even pausing multiple times a day to be thankful for what has happened in the hours that have just passed, we become people who are mindful of the moments, and who are awake to all the gifts constantly being lavished on us.
We learn to savor life, and the gifts constantly dotting its landscape.
I got up today, having no idea what all would occur.
I sat in silence at the feet of Jesus to listen to His voice and to offer my prayers for each of you, your safety, and your growth.
In my mind’s eye, I walked through the previous day and night and gave thanks for about 20 little details that I didn’t want to pass into the blur of another day because I hadn’t taken the time for reflection.
I remember so many more details now that I am learning to reflect, and to be thankful for things I would otherwise have never given a second thought.
And now I am reflecting as I’m writing this short reflection to you.
I want to encourage you to build gratefulness into your life now, at this young age, so you don’t miss the miracles that happened every day.
I spent about 50 years of my life not learning to reflect and be thankful as I went along.
And I am missing a lot of memories because of it, I am sure.
But your mother taught me a few years ago, as she was learning herself, to make regular stops to be deeply thankful for all that has been occurring in my life.
Today we have the miracle that Abigail was not harmed in her car accident, nor were any others.
Today, I am thankful that Abigail is fine, that each of my children is fine, and that my beautiful wife is fine.
Practice the daily art of being thankful, my children.
It will enable you to appreciate and enjoy life to its fullest.
Pause multiple times every day, whenever you think of it, and review the last hours for little things you can be thankful for.
A rhythm of thankfulness will change you. I promise.
I mean it; a rhythm of thankfulness will change you.
I’m grateful for each of you, today, and that our Abigail is fine.
We thank you, Lord, that Abigail is fine.
P.S. The Daily Examen tool has helped me hold a rhythm of thankfulness in my own life, multiple times a day. I know it will help you as well, and I’d encourage you to start there if you have no other tool helping you to start.