My sister called me on Tuesday afternoon to let me know our parents, sister and 16-month-old nephew had been involved in a bad car crash.
The collision happened at 11 in the morning and by 2 p.m. everyone had been safely delivered by ambulances to the hospital for CAT scans, tests, more x-rays and stitches. A woman from Portland whose son had just deployed to Afghanistan said she never saw the red traffic light before barreling into my parents’ new Nissan Pathfinder. Despite the condition of the car, the SUV held up pretty well even after flipping over. (And, just so you know, another Pathfinder once saved yet another sister’s life when a reckless driver’s trailer unhitched on an LA freeway and she careened into a concrete median.)
My dad was hurt the worse, with a broken rib and a big cut and a bruised brain; my sister is sporting quite the black eye; and my mother says she told hospital staff she was in bad shape before the crash, so just ignore the limp. My nephew’s new car seat had just been professionally installed by local firefighters as a free service. They recognized it when they arrived on the scene and found him rattled but otherwise unscathed.
I didn’t know how much I’d contemplate my own past, present and future until I momentarily thought it would include a funeral in a faraway place. I was grateful that my last few conversations with my mom and dad had included laughs, that my sister and I were again on speaking terms, and that my nephew might remember his Aunt Anne as the one who cooed and cleaned up all evidence of stolen cookies.
Not every conversation we have with people can end on a good note; I was fortunate this time around in more ways than one. Still, sometimes we have to tell someone things that he or she doesn’t want to hear. If it’s done the right way and for the right reasons, deep down these people will know they are special because you took time out of your own life to help them make more of their own. That makes you special too. And that’s how everyone wants to be remembered -- as someone who made people better, not bitter.