So July is our one month of summer break. We do school on a more year round schedule, but July, oh July. We play. Part of that time I take the kids to visit family. We spent this past week in Topeka and Kansas City and had so much fun. Until.
Tuesday evening we drove down to Shawnee to meet up with my in-laws who had been watching my baby while the “big” kids and I spent some time in the sun. We ate at one of my kids favorite places, where trains deliver food to your table. I had been fighting a headache all day, and the noise and chaos of the restaurant pushed it into severe migraine territory. So, my very gracious mother offered to drive my van back up to my sister’s house with all five of my kids and my niece, and my sister became my driver in a very quiet and calm car.
We stopped at the gas station next door and she ran in to get me some ibuprofen. I took it and as we were pulling out of the parking lot, I lost it. Like everything in my belly, including the medicine. So she went back into the gas station while I sat half in, half out of the car and got me more ibuprofen and tissues. We sat there a while until I knew I could keep the medicine down for more than a few minutes, and then she started driving me home. About halfway there we received THAT phone call. My mom had been hit by a drunk driver with ALL of our babies in the car.
I want to stop here and reassure you, ALL of my kiddos, and my niece are okay. My mom is okay. The van is even still drive-able. God’s hand of protection was clearly evident in so many ways. But man, oh man, was this momma a MESS. You can tell me until you are blue in the face that my kids are okay, but I need to touch them and see them for myself. I need to hug them and know their hearts are okay too. All I could think was “I’m not there, I should be there”.
When we were given the location of the accident, we realized they were hit within view of the gas station we had sat at for so long. We left a different way and never saw them. Why did God not make me look around, why did my sister not lift her gaze when she walked out of the gas station? Why did we not see it? My sister and I beat ourselves up about it as she drove the excruciating 20 minutes back to Shawnee. We called our husbands. We held each other up. When we finally made it back, we still couldn’t get to them as they were in the middle of a very busy street and we had been asked not to park in the middle of the road as well. So we waited, able to see the van, but not get to our kids inside. We waited in the same parking lot I had thrown up in 45 minutes prior. We debated running across this high traffic road. We talked about the blessings in the midst of this. I cried. A lot.
Warren’s parents had seen the accident when it happened, so they were with both my mom and the kids when we couldn’t be there. And after a thorough inspection by one of the officers, it was reported that all the kids were safely strapped into their respective car seats (yes, all 5 of my kids are still young enough to be in some form of car seat :)). My niece was also with them, and though I know she was shaken herself, she was a comfort to them. And in the end, I realized, that if my sister or I had seen the accident and been there right away, that my body would not been able to handle it. In the 45 minutes that I wasn’t there, my headache and nausea had subsided.
It’s like God knew we needed to not be there. He used this time to remind me that in the moments that I am not present with my kids, He is. He kept them safe, allowed other loving adults in their lives to be there for them, and allowed them to have a positive experience with law enforcement. Without me.
It would be really easy to close ranks and promise to never not be there again, but there is going to come a day when more often than not I am not there. When they start driving themselves, hang out with friends without mom around, and when they go off to build their own lives. I don’t want to live those moments in fear. I am grateful to know that when I am not there, He is. And that He can provide support for them however He desires. There will be times when there will be damage. Physical, emotional, life altering. But HE sees them. He loves them. He has them in the palm of His hand because they are His treasure.
When I finally got to hug all of them, they were indeed, okay. My baby was fast asleep in his car seat. My two year old was happy to see me. My seven year old asked if I was okay. There were tears when the kids saw for the first time the damage to the car, but not out of fear for themselves, but out of sadness that the van they refer to as “Johnny” was “hurt”. My four and six year olds excitedly showed me the stickers the police officers had given them for being brave and told me about having to tell the officers their full names. They were so proud. They all told me about having to push the triangle button in the car, the one that is only for emergencies, and how GG had to call 911. They showed me how much they had taken in of all the talks Warren and I have ever had with them about safety. I was blown away by their bravery and compassion. It is always a humbling moment when your kids teach you.
Warren’s parents were gracious enough to help drive everyone back up to my sister’s house before returning home. Warren took the night off work and drove down, and we headed home the next day. Johnny is still “hurt” as of now, but I am pretty sure he will be as good as new soon.