I just wanted to go to church. I spent hours dying those eggs red, trying to get them just so. I had never dyed the eggs red before. But that's how they do it in the Orthodox Church. It's because of Christ's blood being shed for us all, but also because of Mary Magdalene who told the Emperor who said to her most assuredly, "Christ could no more rise from the dead than an egg could turn red."
Mary picked up an egg and said, "An egg can turn red." And one miraculously did so in her hand.
I didn't think I'd get the red color right. I fretted for days over it. See, I'm the least Orthodox Christian in Mother Church, and we all know it, but sometimes, I just want to do something good.
We missed so much church before we got the big honkin' man car. I didn't get to tell you about it because we bought it during lent when I wasn't blogging. We got this big, beautiful shiny new Ford Expedition. And life has been good, much better with it than without it.
And now it's Pascha, and Christ is risen! Even the most marginal Christians like to go to church for Easter. And I've been going to church. This is the Christian's holiest of days.
I spend the day busy. I move too fast or too slow. I feel guilty that I'm not writing, even though I'm writing, always writing, in my head. I shop for the dinner I've been to busy writing to go to the grocery store and buy. I start the sweet potato pies and make Easter baskets and forget to eat. I wash Easter frocks and fret and feel angry at Ken because I can tell he doesn't want to go. I can just tell, and this means so much to me.
Our greatest feast day. And I've dyed 2.5 dozen red eggs. Now, it's 10 pm. I've got on my favorite dress. The kids are all excited and everything is terribly normal.
Do you ever wonder what your last day will be like? Will you know it will be your last day? Do you remember the beautiful ordinariness of that unforgettable September 11th? Tonight wasn't my last night, but it could have been, and it was so regular, this day.
I didn't want to drive. I don't have good night vision. As grateful as I am for the truck, I don't care to drive it. It feels too big for me. Too hard to handle. I ask Ken weeks ahead to go with us. I ask him days before. The day before. It's a plan. He's going to drive. The whole family, even Lumumba who isn't even a Christian is going to go. But it's snowing. The money is low. We don't have much gas. Things seem to conspire to keep us from getting there. I decide to ride with a friend. She's in pain and decides not to go. I understand. I've had chronic pain. I ask Ken to drive. He doesn't want to go.
I can't see well at night. It's snowed, but it's not snowing now. Again I ask him to come with us. He says he doesn't feel good, but he's in and out of the house with that wild mindedness I recognize. It scares me. Reminds me of the bad days. He starts drinking. I get angry. I just want to go to church for Easter. One night. The rest of the services are in the day time. But he won't go.
So we take off. I tell him to pray for us as we leave. I say this with an angry I told you so edge before I even have anything to tell. I have this sense of foreboding. But I just want to go to church. I want Ken to drive. He's the better driver.
The kids and I sit in the truck and we pray for safety. We pray longer than usual and we set off. And everything feels fine. Not many on the road. It's late. The service starts at 11:30 pm for lamentations in the darkened church, and at midnight, the risen Christ and the lights, and celebration! I wanted to be there. I wanted to crack red eggs and say Christ is risen. I wanted the kiss of peace and to celebrate. The long fast was over. And I could eat an egg!
We were singing on M14. Pigeon John, and oddly, we were singing, "As we know it." Pigeon John singing his angst filled anthem, "It's the end of the world as we know it" railing at God about the endless, seemingly mindless suffering in the world, just because of the fall.
Why the Holocaust why the slavery?
Why the Crusades in the name of bravery?
Why you let little girls get molested dog?
I mean God I mean you know what I mean is all
And the fall of Adam and Eve is all it took
To leave the whole human race lost and shook?
That don't make sense it don't feel right
But I can see your whole face up in the moonlight
Dang you look crazy you make a negro wanna cry
You hold the whole ocean in your eyes
Are you crying too?
"That don't make sense. It don't feel right." I love the honesty and simplicity of those lines.
And then I think. "I shouldn't be listening to the end of the world as we know it." Odd thought, because I've listened to that song endlessly in the car. I love PJ! But I had the creepiest feeling just then.
And just that quickly things changed. A patch of slick ice and I couldn't see it. And the truck begins to swerve. I hear myself tell the kids to hold on, and it's going to be okay. I've got this. I try to steady the wheel we start to get right and we're going to be okay. For a moment we seem to right ourselves. For a moment it looks like we'll be all right.
But we're not all right. I don't know what happened but something did, and then the truck is swerving around and we spin and spin and spin all the way across the freeway from one side to the other until we hit the median and then we flip over. And the car rolls over, and over, and over again.
All I can think about is my children in the car. I don't mind dying. But I don't want to hurt my sweet babies. It seems like it's no end to this car turning in slow motion. The awful sound of it. My head banging against the window and my children's fear. Red eggs flying. My heart breaking with the windshield. Then everything is quiet. I'm stunned because my head banged so hard against the window. I hear Abby. She thinks I'm dead. I hear Kamau. I realize that I've got to hear the little ones to pierce the awful sound of not hearing them anymore.
"Is everybody okay?" I say, and God, I need to hear them all say they're okay. They're okay right, Lord? Because I'm okay, and I couldn't bear it God if they're not okay. I couldn't do that God, and you know it. And by some miracle they are okay.
"Let me hear you. Tell me you're okay."
And one by one they speak to me.
Aziza starts to cry. She's only seven. By now onlookers are running to us. The car is on it's side and we all feel stuck, but we start to make our way out of seat belts. Them first. The truck landed on my side so I can help push them out of the passenger window, the best way out from the position we're in. I pile them out of the truck. And an Expedition is a BIG truck. It's not easy, but we do it.
We hoist Aziza out first because she's crying so. And then Nia Grace. Kamau. Abeje next. I'm a little more stuck then they were. My dress got stuck in something. My favorite dress. I slip out of my coat, take off the long jacket that goes with the dress--man I loved that jacket! And put my coat back on and let some good Samaritans help me out of the truck.
I look at the wreckage and I can't believe we all walk away from it. A few weeks ago, Phillip Yancey had a similar accident and I read about it and wept because I love him so. ZZ and Nia have cried several times. They are next to me, sleeping soundly, beautifully alive, as I type. And I'm so grateful.
Life is so fragile, full of ordinariness, days of anticipation when all you want in the world is to spend time in the beauty of God's house cracking red eggs together with your family of God saying Christ is risen. And then something happens.
You don't get to church. The world as you know it changes.
Here's an irony. Just as the truck stopped and crashed to it's side, PJ serenaded me with:
What up Jesus (yes?) what up my nickel my man
Can I ask you couple questions about the whole dang plan?
Without an answer you stretch out your hand
With a look in your eyes that you understand
All the pain all the loss all the confusion
All the up and the downs are now amusing
And I spent all of my life rushing and hustling
When I could've just been your friend
What does it mean? I don't know. If I knew what everything meant I'd bottle that up and sell it! All I know is that even in that crash God's hand was on us. I wonder now if I should have just stayed home and I can't come up with a good answer. Life is hard. Sometimes the answer isn't stay home. Sometimes there are crashes. Pain. Loss. Confusion. We can still be Jesus' friend even in the midst of it. My last words before I thought we weren't going to make it.
"Jesus help us."
And He did.
I'm glad I'm still here. Now, it's 4 am. The kids are safe in bed, and I'm going to have a bath and cry like crazy because I really am shaken. Here's the rest of PJ's song. It's kinda nice in the end. Just like life.
And it's the end of the world as we know it (2x)
We're drinking coffee in sun
All my friends the old and young
And its ok now
We're drinking coffee in the sun
All my friends the old and young
And it's ok now
Its ok now
Its ok now
you can hear that song on my myspace page, and PJ's too.