TIME STOOD STILL BY WHITE LACE(1)
I was not whole anymore: the accident had taken pieces of my body. The twisted metal and broken glass had acted like a surgeon’s scalpel, quickly and efficiently removing those parts it deemed in the way. How many days ago was it my car felt like it was flying, the engine revving, the wheels spinning and my mind not quick enough to understand that the other part of the bridge no longer existed? What type of person moves the “Bridge Out” sign and walks away thinking it was a clever prank?
Funny, the descent to the bottom could not have taken more than seven seconds, but in that time so many things happened. I saw people I loved who passed away years ago. Their smiles and welcoming arms told volumes of their love for me. No words were spoken aloud but I felt the comfort of their smiles. I knew this would not hurt, they told me so without saying a word. There were no bright lights, clouds parting, trumpets blasting…just a quietness that enveloped my car, a quiet that overtook the sound of the engine, a calm that consumed the night. I thought to myself that this is what a bird hears while flying. This is the quiet I imagined that dwelt in the floating oasis of pregnancy. I realized that this is the peace you experience before you die.
Time must have suspended my car in that midair dance. Too many things happened while I waited to be introduced to the hard reality that existed at the bottom of the canyon. Stories were told to me by grandma. My wonderful grandma, bless her heart. She fought her battle with cancer with valor. She never quit. I remember the funeral, so many people, so many kind words. I was sixteen then; the first time I had ever seen somebody dead up close.
Nearly twenty years later, here she was, flashing that smile that said everything was going to be all right, telling me of her love, reassuring me of my faith. It felt like hours were passing as she stood there and held my hand, softly wiping the tears from my cheek. As I lie here now, I realize those precious seconds she was allowed to visit me embossed a lifetime of memories in my heart, memories that time cannot understand.
Others came to me during my fall: For example, my friend Steve, his front teeth still missing where my expertise with dad’s golf club and his catlike reactions collided: now a wink, a smile, and he was gone. Then there was Kerrie, sweet Kerrie, almost four; she never could get that Disneyland tee shirt off her. She was wearing it the day she fell from the tractor as Grandpa lost his grip. She was so tiny, even for four. I carried her pink casket with my brother and cousins. I remember thinking that this was the tiniest casket I had ever seen. It dawned on me that this was the only children’s casket I had ever seen. I was 20 years her senior but I knew her well. That sassy smirk, hands on her hips shaking that finger, she was quite a pistol. Jack-in-the-Box was her idea of fine dining, especially if we could eat it in the car. She always made me laugh. She gave me a hug and kiss, right inside that falling car. There was no fear on her face, just that smile letting me know she was OK, maybe letting me know I was too.
I knew the bottom must be quick in coming. I felt as though I had been falling for hours, waiting for the sickening sound of glass breaking, of metal twisting and of my own body folding in upon itself. I braced for the impact knowing that no amount of preparation was going to delay the inevitable. Just as I exhaled waiting to die, a soft, feather-like touch grazed my cheek. I opened my eyes to the person I miss the most. You see, dying has never bothered me. I have always believed that when I die, I will be rewarded for my actions here on earth. My reward will be the ability to see my mom again, to smell her “Charlie” perfume, even though it makes me sneeze, to hear her laugh and to see those big green eyes that look out upon the world with no judgment.
Mom died years ago in a car accident that left us all empty. She was the one people admired, aspired to be. I have missed her every hour of every day since she let out her last breath. This all may have been a dream, an escape from the pain. I think I heard a rumor over hushed voices that I have been asleep for many days. I have lost track of time, I don’t know when it stopped and started again. What I do know, that soft, feather like touch was followed by the smell of “Charlie” and the prettiest pair of green eyes I have ever seen.
She touched my hair, mouthed the words, “I love you,” and placed her hand over my heart. I knew then that there would be more life to live here on earth. Was she shielding my heart from the impact? Was she touching my heart as only an angel can, or was she just being mom, protecting her baby girl? I don’t have any answers right now. I don’t think I want an answer. If all of this had to make sense, it probably would not have happened.
The word in the hospital was that I would live. I heard such phrases as “a long road ahead”…“a lot of surgeries to repair the damage”…“she’s tough, she’s a fighter.” I heard all these things around me, and I thought, “Am I awake or dreaming?”
When you look at me, you can see the scars, the damage, the years of suffering the accident recreated. What you can’t see is that my insides, the part that really matters, was healed that day. Just when my body was ravaged by the impact, my heart and soul were protected and given peace by those who loved me, those who care.
7th March 2001
PROFILE: WHITE LACE I am mother to three wonderful adopted daughters. I am a homicide investigator. I like to write about my job, to just let everything out so I will not be any wilder than I already am.
(1) Our Internet friend White Lace died unexpectedly on March 17, 2001, just 10 days after she posted her story, ‘Time Stood Still,’ at a now-defunct writer’s e-zine. We loved her dearly although we had not met her in person and only knew her by her stories, her chats with us, and a few photographs of her on her motorcycle – she was a gorgeous woman, really wild about cops. I saved her writings, just before the website vanished from virtual space.