Suddenly, after eleven weeks, I’m ready to write about the accident and the days that followed. Some might think this isn’t the place, but to be honest, I’ve never been able to sustain a private journal, so it isn’t likely I’ll do it now. Many of you have been with me for a very long time, and writing to you always helps me make sense of things
Just last night Russ and I sat talking with dear friends. They moved here the same month we did, December 1999, and we met shortly thereafter. We can see their house from our windows, sitting high on the hill just to the east; our daughters blinked bedroom lights to communicate with one another. Their girls grew up with our older kids; Gretchen and Hannah became the most unlikely of lifelong friends. I’m tempted to launch into that story, but I’ll refrain – suffice it to say that Gretchen loved to go hunting and wear camo, while Hannah liked to read and bake pies.
Our friends love Kalkidan dearly, and in God’s amazing kindness, Gretchen (who lives in Idaho) was visiting Hannah in Minneapolis when Russ called from the ambulance.
Last night, over sharp cheese and red wine, Russ spoke of things I hadn’t yet heard, small details, but clearly, so much escaped me as I faded in and out of awareness. Russ, who doesn’t write for pleasure, bought a moleskin journal and began filling it in the days following our tragedy. While He moved through the hours after the accident in a state of hyper-awareness, I have only a series of images, moments, and sounds.
This bothered me quite a bit; I felt that if I only thought hard enough I might find the hours and reclaim them. I was disturbed that time had disappeared until a friend suggested that perhaps God was allowing me to remember what is necessary and good for the time, and if in the future I need to know more, the Holy Spirit will reveal it to me. I’m satisfied with that.
We planned to get an early start on Saturday, December 27th, so the evening before, we organized everything we needed. Kalkidan packed a bag of snacks and water bottles, and charged her ipod, which Samuel had helped her load with new Adventures in Odyssey and music. Earlier in the day she packed her duffle with no help from me, refusing my suggestion to make a list. I figured that if Kalkidan didn’t have something she wanted, it was a short visit, and the consequences would be small. My one concern was warmth, so despite some protestations, I grabbed a down coat, snow boots, and gloves, and added them to her supplies.
Russ had been watching the weather (which is what he does – given he’s a climatologist), and knew a snow storm was expected to arrive in the early afternoon. Thankfully, we were reasonably certain we could get to the MT border and back before it hit. Our plan, if the storm’s progress was slower than expected, was to drive to Spokane and have a date before heading home. Our alternative was to drive home directly after dropping Kalkidan off and have our date in town – without telling the older kids we were back. We intended to thoroughly enjoy our day off, one way or another.
Being from north Idaho, we’re experienced at preparing for winter driving. We packed a couple of sleeping bags, our snow boots, and Russ’ old coveralls, in case we got stuck on the road or he needed to help somebody out of a ditch. We had tools, tire chains, extra water, and food. Before heading north, we planned to drive into town and fill the gas tank. We’re careful about things like that.
Russ loaded the car as I poured coffee into travel mugs and Kalkidan grabbed a few last things. She had carefully wrapped gifts for friends in MT and was so proud of each treasure she had chosen. Kalkidan was aware that finding joy in giving gifts was a clear marker of the healing she was experiencing. With satisfaction, she spent money she had earned, and could hardly wait to give gifts to people she loved.
With the car (very slightly) warmed up, we headed downstairs and through the garage. Arriving at the car, Kalkidan was dismayed to find that Russ had placed things on the seat behind me and left the seat behind himself open for her. For some reason, she wanted to sit on my side. Sensing that this could turn into a problem and slow us down, I treated the matter lightly and said it was no problem to shift things around so she could sit where she wanted. It nearly never happened that Russ and I were in the car with only one child, so letting her choose her seat seemed simple.
Who could have known that such a small decision, a moment of very slightly shifting our plans, would change our lives the way it did. Only God – and we trust Him.