Christian Living

What happened a year ago today

It’s a cliché: ‘It began as an ordinary day’. But it did. And it opened a window into the ordinary extraordinariness of God’s providence.

7:57am – my husband is going for a run. He’s a very routine-type person so it’s his usual practice, but it’s also necessary to ward off pain that still plagues him daily due to complications from a childhood disease. (He never, ever complains.) I take a photo of him standing by the door of our bedroom before he goes as the kids have just given him some new running gear for his birthday. Did I say? It’s his birthday.

8:08am – I’m getting ready to have a shower when a text message comes through, saying there’s been an incident and to click the link for more info. It says it’s from his watch. Why would my husband’s watch be texting me?! Surely this is spam.

In the next minute I get a call from an unknown number. Usually I would let it go but I think I’d better answer it because of that strange text just now. Just in case it wasn’t spam. It’s a woman who introduces herself and says she’s witnessed an accident – my husband has been hit by a car on a pedestrian crossing and although he is alert and talking, he is seriously injured. She says the ambulance has arrived but that’s all she can tell me – and then she says she has to go.

I go into full focus mode. I sit on the end of the bed. Should I quickly jump in the shower? Or should I just get changed out of my PJs and race to the scene? Where even is the scene? Surely he’d be in the ambulance by now, being taken to a hospital. But which one? How would I know? Maybe I should stay here and wait for a call? From whom?

Just then my husband’s parents send a text asking to confirm which bank account should they send a birthday gift to and now I have another decision to make. Should I tell them what’s just happened to their son? Or should I wait until I have more information so as not to worry them? I decide I have to tell them, so I call and speak to them both. They take it in and then they pray with me over the phone – their first instinct is always to pray. Their spiritual maturity in the midst of what must be awful news for them too ministers to me.

I wake my teenage son and tell him what’s happened. He has a driving test booked for later that day which he’s worked hard to get as pandemic-related delays have made it virtually impossible to book in anywhere in Sydney. He says he feels okay to still do it; then without even telling me, he and his older sister who’s already left for work arrange to get him there for me so that I can be free to race to the hospital whenever I get the call.

But which hospital? I don’t even know. Someone suggests I can call round so I look up the number for the closest one and yes – he’s just arrived at Accident and Emergency. The doctor will call me.

A short time later the doctor calls. Several broken ribs, a bruised lung; almost certainly fractured vertebrae but that will have to be confirmed by further scans. Significant pain but no brain damage or vital organ damage. Praise the Lord.

I wait. I call my husband’s boss’s wife, our minister’s wife, and a few others. My husband is due to speak at a church in Melbourne on the weekend – I’d better let them know he’s not coming. News has started to spread. Should I call my younger daughter’s school and tell her, or leave her to get on with her day without the burden of worry? I talk to my husband’s boss’s wife and she offers to bring my daughter home from school. How do I decide what is best? Then I remember that our Sydney Anglican circles are very interconnected, and so it won’t be long before our daughter hears something from someone at school. So I put the call through to reception and they quickly bring her out of class and into the counsellor’s office while I speak to her over the phone. Her only question is revealing: ‘Is he going to be okay?’ Not ‘Is he okay?’, but is he going to be okay? She was vocalising an unconscious truth: as a child, she is so dependent on the wellbeing of her parents. I gave her the choice to come home or stay at school and she chose to stay. A short while later she texted to say she’s changed her mind; she wants to come home. Thanks to my husband’s boss’s wife who dropped everything to go and get her.

I’m fielding calls and texts and visits from friends who have come to pray with me or who are offering food, Uber Eats vouchers. I ask all of them to help me make decisions because I have no idea what I should do moment to moment. I’m comforted when they tell me that having no idea in situations like this is normal.

2:01pm. My oldest daughter is killing time while her brother does his driving test. She texts me with a photo of her Bible devotional for that day: ‘…There is no mystery with God. He is never caught off guard. He never wonders how he is going to deal with the unexpected thing. I love the words of Daniel 2:22: “He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with him.”… Your darkness isn’t dark to him. Your mysteries aren’t mysterious to him. Your surprises don’t surprise him. He understands all the things that confuse you the most… Remember today that there is One who looks at what you see as dark and sees light… you can find rest even when the darkness of mystery has entered your door.’ [1]

A little while later she calls me; this time in floods of tears. Mum – there’s been an accident! A truck crashed into our car while he was doing his test (not his fault). He’s okay and the instructor is okay, but the car is not…

I tell her that our day just got darker, but it’s still not dark to God. He’s with us. As I reflect, I can see that God’s word was graciously given to us by him that day, right at the darkest point.

I call my husband’s boss’s wife again and for the second time that day she drops everything. She finds them and waits with them for the police and the tow truck, and drives them home.

So we now have no car, and are already beginning the process of dealing with two separate Sydney constabularies and two sets of insurance companies.

Finally I get the call from the hospital – I can come and see him! No spinal injury, but seven broken ribs. He’s about to be taken to theatre for some serious pain relief to be administered but he needs me to bring him some things. I chuck some stuff into a backpack and I’m on my way – thankfully it’s just a 5-minute walk to the hospital. As I step out of my front door I bump into a friend who just happens to be outside my house, walking to her car after attending a class. This friend has recently experienced the loss of a loved one, had only just heard the news of what had happened to my husband, and offered to drive me the short distance to the hospital in her car. She knew exactly where to drop me off, and prayed with me to our heavenly Father in the words of someone who knows deep loss. Though she would argue to the contrary, she was an angel sent by God for those few minutes and she ministered richly to me.

He was talking, but in no state to take in the news about the car so I decided that would have to wait. I’m directed to the waiting room on the ward he’ll be taken to once he’s come out of theatre so I park myself there, plug in my phone charger and spend the next few hours taking calls, replying to messages, waiting. I’m starting to worry about how long it’s been – Covid restrictions on visiting hours mean that I’m possibly going to be turfed out for the day by an officious orderly. A patient who’s wandered into the waiting room overhears me talking on the phone and puts two and two together. He politely interrupts and tells me my husband is on the ward and asking for me. But who can blame the nurses who are obviously run off their feet for not relaying messages to visitors? (Nurses are champions.) The patient couldn’t understand how the wife of a man so seriously injured that it hurts him to breathe or move could be so calm – until he had a conversation with him the next day and found out that we are Christians and so we know we’re safe in God’s hands no matter what happens.

Meanwhile, friends and colleagues and our church family are bringing round food, keys to their car, more Uber Eats vouchers, offering to help in any way. There are prayers and kindness. There’s no magic set of words that is more helpful or less helpful – people are just showing they are near. I want to respond to them all; it gives me something to do.

I get home from the hospital very late that night. The kids are wrapped in blankets, sitting on the sofa. No one can think of sleeping, though we’re all so tired. My son’s friend comes over and keeps us in hysterics with jokes and it’s exactly the tonic we all needed. I finally send everyone to bed at 1am. God mercifully grants us sleep.

I head back to the hospital the next morning (via a three-quarter double shot ristretto – naturally – which does its happy magic to my very being) and broke the news about the car to him. For the next several days it’s insurance paperwork; the strange bubble of hospital routines; pain and pain relief; police statements; signing in with mask on and getting our Covid sticker for the day; the kids coming to see their dad one by one; visitors; walks around the ward to get stronger; the hilarious and also tragic antics of fellow patients; and the jumpiness that comes from the stark realisation that anything could happen at any time – even in the middle of a pedestrian crossing. Not helped three days later by the car that almost T-bones our rental car at an intersection while we’re on the way to an appointment and my daughter and I almost jump out of our skins. I’m much, much more aware that God is preserving us even in the moments when we’re oblivious to it. This life is fleeting and precarious. But God has promised in Jesus to preserve us into eternity.

Twelve months later, he is completely healed from the accident – well, as much as anyone can be in this life!

[1] Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional, Crossway, 2014.