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Thursday, April 30, 2009

But for the Grace

By A.J. Llewellyn

One of my neighbors was in a very bad car accident on Sunday. She and another neighbor were driving down the street when they saw – and could do nothing about – a young girl on the other side of the road, barreling out of her driveway, cell phone illegally plastered to her ear, music blaring, smashing into a car passing the opposite way. The driver of the second vehicle was speeding. He was driving so fast his vehicle spun around three times and swerved across three lanes of traffic hitting my neighbors in their vehicle. It was a bad crash and all three cars were totaled. The only person really injured was my neighbor whose legs blew up like balloons.
The girl has marginal insurance, the man who actually hit them was an unlicensed, undocumented illegal immigrant who spoke no English, but since the girl was at fault, her insurance is responsible. Try telling that to the company involved. They’ve given my neighbor the proverbial runaround and yesterday, I noticed her hobbling out of her front door to bring me and a couple of other neighbors her first batch of grapefruits from the tree outside her townhouse.
I was appalled to see her like this. She was almost in tears telling me that she is in severe pain but could not get to her appointment at St. John’s Hospital and her ride had just canceled. I immediately offered to take her. She kept saying, ”You’re busy. You’re always working.”
Yeah, but a couple of years ago I was hit under similar circumstances. I will never forget the feeling of helplessness, the disorientation, the pain of injuring my arm but worst of all, my poor dog being badly injured. I was lucky. I really was, and I know it, because a young woman in another vehicle also hit by the same lunatic was killed.
In the initial confusion, I had no idea she was dead. I still see it in my mind, that moment when I was aware of her lying in the middle of the road, her USC scarf flapping in the wind. There is still a shrine to her on the corner where the accident occurred and sometimes I visit it when I am walking my dog, just to remind myself my problems really, are not that huge.
I sometimes take her flowers and find others have been there too. One of the boys who was in the car with her that day recently left her a note: “You took the sunshine with you.” I’ve talked to him, neither of us able to this day to make sense of why we lived and she didn’t. My car was completely crushed on the right side, the side my dog was sitting in. That she survived it remains my greatest gift.
The people who own the shop at the corner have been very patient with us, the living. They leave the shrine there. The notes, the flowers. They’ve seen tons of accidents there but they too, remain affected by this one. They told me recently that great flocks of birds come to that corner, as if keeping vigil.
So you see, offering a ride to my neighbor seemed like no big deal to me. She was so worried about keeping me waiting as she waited inside the hospital for attention. I took my work with me, enjoyed the sun, sent my boyfriend a text message and even napped a little.
My neighbor is a sweet old thing and I do enjoy her. Sometimes she picks inopportune moments to engage me in long conversations, especially when I am in a hurry, but when I think she might be dead, I will be sure to make extra time for her in future. Why is it that we’ve become so used to rude and atrocious behavior that somebody extending the hand of friendship seems like a gift to good to be true?
She offered me cash, she offered me cookies. She offered to walk my dog. No, no, no. I wasn’t doing it to get anything back. I hope if I’m ever in her situation, somebody offers help to me. I thought about this a lot last night when she called me in tears – twice - thanking me for not being mean to her when her appointment took longer than she expected.
I don’t know what kind of friends she is used to dealing with, but this made me so sad. I thought about the young girl killed in the accident I was in. I’ve heard nothing but good things about her. She was a med student destined for big and beautiful things. Yes, her death haunts me still. Maybe it’s my upbringing…yeah, I think it is. But I will always help when I can, if I can, wherever I can, because that’s what neighbors do. And because there but for the grace of God go I.

Aloha oe,


Jambrea said...

This is so true AJ. I'm glad you were there for her, but I would expect no less from you. :)

We touch people’s lives everyday and it is nice to know when something you've said or did can help another person.

My ex boyfriend, out of the blue, came to visit me the summer before college. Three days in a row. I thought it was a little odd until the fourth day he didn't show up. I found out later he killed himself that Sunday. I'll always wonder if I could have done or said anything differently, but I hope that I was some comfort to him before he took his life. I always have a place in my heart for him and think on him often.

Now I make sure I have a smile and kind word for everybody because, maybe, just maybe, it will make them a little happy. :)

Erin Sinclair said...


Ever since my ex-husband committed suicide 5 1/2 years ago, I've met or heard stories from an enormous amount of people who all have directly experienced the same devastating event.

Me and my girls, those individuals I've spoken to and their personal connection to the experience has proven to me there is nothing anyone could have done to prevent that choice, nor is anyone to blame when an individual makes it, though still the fleeting thought surfaces that maybe just maybe we could have who knows?

A very tortured and broken being makes the decision to end their life. It is my personal hope that whatever angels, guides, masters or healers who assist those souls crossing over after such an event are able to resolve their problems once free of the physical.


Jambrea said...

Erin, the head knows that, but sometimes that pesky heart doesn't. lol I'm sure you know that too.

I was 18 when it happened and it was hard. It took a while to get over it. I would have been sad even if he didn't come to see me, but I think it was even harder because he did. I now know and understand it was his way of saying good bye to me. :)

I'll always think of him with a happy heart. He was my first real boyfriend and I look back at our time together and I'm happy for it.

Erin Sinclair said...

Sure can relate on all levels, hon.


Lynn said...

I've always been a big fan of the 'Pass It On' theory. It was a song I sang in church when I was much younger and still went. Now, I don't go hardly ever but there isn't a week I don't think about that song and know it's something I must do.

Just giving a kind word, a ride, a caring gesture, a note or letter or just visiting someone in the hospital or taking someone for a doctor visit, can be so fulfilling it's unreal.

One day, when coming home from the grocery store, I saw a lady in her 80s trying to cross the street. I knew she was never going to make it as the traffic doesn't slow down much on that corner at all. I went about a block and had to turn around to get her. As I stopped in the middle of the road, I walked around and asked if she needed a ride. She told me she'd appreciate it as this excursion had already taken 3 hours.

Apparently, she'd been standing at the corner for 30 minutes before I stopped. When cars started honking at me because I had partially blocked a lane I ignored it because I know when I'm 84 I want someone to be kind to me.

When we got to her home almost a full mile away, I helped her into her house with her groceries and she offered to pay me. I refused and I told her that I was a member of the 'Pass It On' club which is the same as the 'Pay It Forward' one. She thanked me again and said that so many people had passed her never giving her a second look.

I was glad I gave it just a moments thought because it was the right thing to do. And there are so many of us in this world who don't even know the right thing to do any more and I find that really, really sad.

It is very refreshing to find someone else who knows exactly what the right thing is and how to do it with little to no fanfare.


Patti Shenberger said...

AJ,you gave me chills when I read this. It is so true as you so eloquently put it into words. Why do some live and others die? And I think you are the most awesome guy in the world for helping out your neighbor!!

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