Last week I almost lost my dad.
He was on his way back to my uncle’s house in Long Island, where he and my mom were staying while my uncle was in the hospital for complications with stage 4 cancer. He was less than 300 feet away, stopped at a red light in the pouring rain. A young, unlicensed, and clearly pre-fully-developed-prefrontal-cortex boy (I’m resisting the word idiot) was speeding far too fast for the conditions (my dad estimates he must have been going at least 60+ mph). He tried to take the turn and lost control. He went careening head-first into my dad’s car.
The cars were totaled. The passenger in the boy’s car suffered a broken femur. My dad, miraculously, was able to call my mom for help and, even more miraculously, the driver just a few seconds behind him was an EMT. He was able, with help, to crawl out of the car through the passenger side. He stayed standing until they put him in a neck brace and backboard and carried him into the ambulance.
He was released from the hospital two days later with nothing but some bruises and a fractured sternum.
Over the last few years, I had lost the strong sense of spiritual faith I once had. Which is not to say I became an atheist, but rather that I stopped assuming I had the audacity as a small speck of human life to understand the “big picture.” I settled for the bare bones of what I felt could be proven — all matter is energy, therefore everything is energy. Energy comes and goes, is transferred, transmuted, and occurs in cycles. I was satisfied in feeling that there was, indeed, a grander scope and sequence to life that I just simply couldn’t understand. And karma — I kept that.
But the idea of an intelligent life force, of a community of spirits, of a guiding higher power or life plans or fate, that I let go of. Who was I to say how everything came to be? Bertrand Russel said, “The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.” I chose doubt.
Last week, my dad almost died. Today, my uncle passed away.
Despite my strong conviction that doubt and ignorance were the only rational residences for cosmic thought, I couldn’t shake the feeling that these two incidents were not a coincidence. An EMT directly behind him? My mom just feet away? A totaled car and my dad was standing? It wasn’t just the facts — it was a feeling. It was a feeling I hadn’t experienced in a long time. It felt purposeful. It felt meaningful. It felt like a sign I should recognize.
Tonight I spoke to my dad for the first time since he was released from the hospital. Toward the end of our call, I got a message that he was trying to FaceTime me. I answered the request, and he looked at me puzzled. “Did you just do that?” he asked. I laughed. “No, you did!” He shook his head. I smiled, and then I began to cry. There was my father, the first and most important man in my life, smiling back at me. In that moment, I felt like the luckiest daughter in the world.
My uncle is at peace; and I know his essence is not really gone, just transformed. But his death is a call to me to remember the true value of all of those still living. His death, mere days after my father escaped the same fate, feels like an undeniable message that all the time we get with each other is worth appreciating.
I hear you, Universe. I get it. Thank you for reaching out to me, to my family, and giving us all a small kick in the pants. It’s too easy to get lost in the everyday, and to forget to be grateful for what is really important.
And I am. So grateful.
(Shout-out to my amazing mom who not only cared for her brother for a week while he went through end-stage cancer, but wrapped it up by being first on the scene to my dad’s accident. She is one of the strongest people I know, and an inspiration to me.)