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For Some, This Memorial Day is Different

For Ben Cathey, pastor of The Orchard Church in Loganville, and his family, this Memorial Day is different. Sometimes everything changes in a few seconds.

On Friday morning I left the house with the weight of the world on my shoulders.  I even stopped the car to text my wife to tell her that I loved her and that we would make it through this season of overbearing family and work demands.  Our work and family worlds had been moving at 90MPH the last few weeks.  Projects, deadlines, problems, transitions, big decisions, care needs, emotionally tough conversations. And that was just the work world. At home one of our cars had been totaled with transmission failure, our son graduated from High School, family and friends traveled to be with us, and the main floor air-conditioner in our home broke in the midst of the company and the parties.  It felt like too much!  I left the house with the intent of pushing my way through the day as hard as I could to try to make room to actually take a little bit of a break this weekend.  Over, under, around, I was going to conquer our challenges.

Then everything changed!

A few second after my “weight of the world” text I got a phone call from a strange number.  I took the call and the lady on the other end of the phone said calmly, “Your wife is fine, but she is headed to Gwinnett Medical Center in an ambulance, can you meet her there.”  I found out that her car had flipped several times and ended up on its side on Hwy 20 South in Rockdale County.  Every side was scrunched, scratched, or dented, but the passenger cabin was intact.

Everything changed on the way to the hospital!

Was the love of my life O.K.?  What did “fine” mean? What would I do without her? All that other stuff that seemed so overwhelming just faded into the background.  Was my girl O.K.?  I called my three teenage children to let them know.  When my youngest daughter picked up the phone I had a hard time getting the words out. “Ummm…  Mom… is O.K., but she is in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.”  I told her my voice was breaking because I loved my family so much. She said she loved me too and that she was rounding up her siblings to meet us at the hospital.

When I got to the hospital I checked to see if June was there.  She wasn’t, so I stalked the ambulance parking area.  She arrived shortly.  The lights were not blaring.  Good sign.  The doors opened.  I heard her voice.  Another good sign.  Finally I saw her. She was totally immobilized on a stretcher and bloodied up a bit, but lucid and talkative.  When she saw me her nurse instincts kicked in and she said, “I’m going to be fine.  I know I look bad, but I’m going to be fine.”  I smiled. I had seen her give birth three times, and manage all kinds of family injuries.  I knew she would be fine.  I held her hand as the EMT’s rolled her into an emergency room.  The medical staff started triage care immediately.  I stood in the corner as they surrounded her bed, but I knew that even with a broken back she was going to be fine.  A few minutes later the kids arrived.  We were together.  We were all alive.  We were going to be fine.

A few hours, three stiches, a thousand little slivers of glass, three different types of X-rays, and a C.T. scan later we found out that nothing was broken.  Possible ligament or muscle damage in her neck, but a low chance of any long term injury.  We left with a few bandages and a fancy neck brace.  We don’t know how we will replace our two dead cars or the air conditioner.  We are not certain if June is out of the woods in terms of her injury yet, and we are not real sure about all the other stuff either, but we do know that we left with each other.  We drove home, side by side, slowly . . . 

Instead of gathering by the graveside this weekend we will just try to stay cool in the basement.  I’m not going to pay holiday rates to have my A.C. looked at . . . not when I need two more cars.  I’ll just be happy to be at home and be with June.  A few moments puts everything else in perspective.  All that other stuff just didn’t matter as much.  The decisions, the problems, the emotions, the deadlines could wait for a day, or two, or three.  I’ll get to it.  It’s not like it’s not important.  It’s just not that important compared to those who you love the most.  This weekend, we will be content to just rest and reflect about what is and what might have been. 

We give thanks to God and we give thanks to the engineers at Toyota Motors.  The car is dead, but June is alive, and we are together.

While we are thankful, our hearts go out to those families that have lost loved ones in auto accidents.  They are so sudden.  I especially think of those who have lost children suddenly.  Our hearts are also more clearly with those families who have lost loved ones protecting our American freedoms.  We remember you this weekend.  We are thankful for your sacrifices and the ultimate sacrifice of the soldier in your life.  You are in our thoughts and prayers.

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