As I look ahead to 2019, I can’t help reflecting on this same time last year. I was looking forward to the New Year then, as well. However, 2018 hit my family hard, right off the bat, and it all centered on my oldest son. First, he contracted the menacing flu virus that engulfed 48 of the 50 states. News agencies each week reported historic records of children dying of the virus. My son had gotten the flu shot, as we always do, but he was still very sick for two long, agonizing weeks. In addition to trying to nurse him back to health, my family had to be extra careful not to catch the virus ourselves. Lots of hand washing and sanitizer was being applied during that time. The worry over him, especially when he carried a fever for the majority of the time, was tremendous. Fortunately, he recovered fully, and our family, especially my wife and I, were exhausted, but happy nonetheless.
Then, two weeks later, my same son was involved in a car accident, where he ran off the side of the road, down an embankment and into a patch of woods. His car finally stopped when he collided head-on with a large Poplar tree. It was a rainy, wet morning and he had reached over to retrieve a jacket out of the back seat. A brief second, a momentary distraction, and that’s all it took to run off the shoulder of the road and get caught up in the mud, sliding downward before crashing into the woods below. When he called me on his cell phone just after six in the morning and spoke the words, “Dad, I hit a tree,” my heart stopped in my chest. I immediately asked him if he was okay, and miraculously he had only sustained a busted lip, even though his airbag hadn’t deployed.
When I arrived at the site, I saw the front of the car wrapped around the tree. My stomach went up into my throat as I paused there in the pouring rain. I reflected back momentarily on the time when my best friend in high school had had a similar accident; however, he came out of it with severe injuries that sidelined him in the hospital and at home for six months to fully recover. I looked over at my son standing in the woods, rain-soaked, muddy, in shock at the mangled mess that was his first car.
The police officer later told me, after arriving on the scene, that since the airbag didn’t deploy, had he not had his seatbelt on, we’d be looking at a much grimmer scene. He was right. Back in the day my friend wrecked, seatbelts weren’t the law, and subsequently, he wasn’t wearing one, which contributed greatly to his injuries.
As that week came to an end and my family and I were individually getting ready for church, I prayed privately, “Lord, what a terrible way to start the New Year.” Almost immediately, I had this warm feeling come over me, and I felt an epiphany that, on the contrary, this had been a great way to start the New Year! I realized what this meant. In a country where perfectly healthy people were dying of the flu virus, my son had recovered completely. And unlike my best friend decades earlier, when my son hit that tree, he lived to walk away from it practically unscathed. I’d say that’s clearly a glass-half-full, indeed!
Although these events were difficult and extremely stressful, in the end, I garnered a different perspective after my prayer. I’m so thankful that I could see this perspective through the eyes of someone who was fortunate. I have a boundless love for my son, as I always did; yet that day, I got a taste of what could have been.
I’m happy to say the rest of my year was, by comparison, less dramatic. However, the memory of the start of 2018 and what I learned from it will stay with me for a long time. Parents will understand what I mean here. I hope in the New Year all your events are good ones, but if they aren’t, may you also be blessed to see the world through the same “fortunate lens” as a result of a positive outcome.