A Hard Day to Forget
I needed a change. I remember praying and asking the Lord for something to happen in my life that would stretch me and make me better than I have ever been. I wanted to deeper understand the Atonement, and the purpose of my life. I wanted something to humble me. On Thursday, October 8th 2015, I sent this text message to my best friend Maddi who was going through a hard time, “I always think that when I’m going through something hard, it is because I’m going to have someone in my life down the road who will go through the same thing.” Little did I know my own words would be my saving grace just days two days later.
On October 10th, Maddi and I were up Provo Canyon in Utah, spending the early afternoon doing what we love most, taking pictures. We had been in the same exact location multiple times before, both behind the lens, and in front of it. I looked around and saw the beautiful light from the fall sun shining through the trees, and felt warmth on my skin. I checked the time on my iPhone which said 2:50 p.m. I was going on a date around 3:30 p.m. and was going to be late if we didn’t hurry. I took some photos of Maddi, and then we decided we should be on our way.
The red, orange, and yellow splashes of color on various trees caught my eye as I was driving my Honda Accord through the mountains. The glare of the sun was so bright it forced me to pull down my car sun visor. As we were listening to our favorite song, “For You,” by Gavin James playing throughout my car, I noticed my gas light turn on. Driving down the long highway road on an empty gas tank stressed me out, so I turned my right blinker on, and then pulled into the closest gas station on 800 North in Orem, “Will’s Pit Stop.” As I came up next to a gas pump, I turned my car off, went inside and gave the cashier behind the counter $15, which put about a half tank of gas in my car. Walking out of the gas station store, I felt such a feeling of joy rush over me and was immensely grateful to be spending such a beautiful day with my best friend. I filled my car up, got in and turned the key so I could take Maddi home. I pressed “shuffle play” on my Spotify music app, which fortunately brought up an Andrew Belle song titled, “Wants What It Wants.” Satisfaction filled my soul as I listened to the beautiful lyrics, and put on my seatbelt before I pulled out of the gas station parking lot into the left lane. Heading west, as I was driving towards the intersection, someone cut me off. This forced me to rapidly change lanes so I would not rear end them and get into a car accident. Traffic was heavy because of the BYU game that was scheduled later that day. I felt very anxious because I could not find a way to get back over into the left lane. For some odd reason, I decided to turn left instead of try to get back into the busy lanes next to me. As I pulled up to the light to turn, Maddi confusingly said, “why are you turning here?” I replied with, “I don’t know.” The next few moments changed my life forever.
I noticed a gap in the oncoming traffic, and decided to turn. As I accelerated to continue with the left turn, the only noise I heard was Maddi screaming my name before my car was impacted by a very large SUV heading east. After impact, I came to with a sore neck, the taste of the glass from my windshield in my mouth, and smelled the blood which was on my clothes and body. Looking around, my side of the car had little to no damage to it, but I noticed the passenger side which was completely crushed. Where Maddi was sitting received the most damage from the crash, and she seemed to be unconscious. I immediately screamed her name, and shakily tried to feel for a pulse in her neck. Tears rushing down my face, I shifted my focus to holding her hand, and telling her I was here, and I wasn’t going to leave her. The next 30 minutes or so, felt like a lifetime, and are some I have a hard time remembering. All I know is I was helped out of my car, and a woman sat me down on the grass next to a business close by. In the middle of chaos, adrenaline and shock rushed through my body; impairing my vision to a complete whiteness. October 10th was officially the worst day of my life.
I came to, for the second time when I heard a man yell, “why would you do this?!” and I knew it was directed at me. Still in shock, I was confused but his words pierced my soul and it made me cried harder. A girl whose arms were wrapped around me, handed me a bottle of water and told me I needed to drink it. The cold water burned my throat as it went down. My head was spinning, and I felt my body was so heavy. The same woman who helped me out of my car handed me my phone and my orange backpack and told me I needed to call my parents. I called my mom on my cell phone and told her I was in a car accident and she needed to come get me, but I was still in a sense of shock so I did not really know what was going on. I handed the phone to the girl and for a while everything was a blur.
Maddi sustained a lot of internal injuries which included collapsed lungs, a failed kidney, liver lacerations and what the doctors call a traumatic brain injury. They said that the impact should have killed her, since the passenger seat was left with only 8 inches to move around, not large enough for someone to sit there. The accident left Maddi comatose which means that she is in a state of deep unconsciousness. It has been almost four months since the car accident, which is the amount of time since I last heard her voice. Although there has not been an easy moment since this happened, there have been many miracles.
Through this experience many times I have thought, “why me?” or “it should be me who is lying in a hospital bed, in a coma, not her.” Yet, I have come to realize that a different outcome may not have been a part of the Lord’s plan for me, or for Maddi. Before this accident, I can’t really say that I fully understood just how precious a human life is, and how quickly the luxury of being alive can be ripped away from us. I wish we all had more gratitude in our hearts, and more appreciation for ourselves, our lives, and for the people who are around us.
People say, “don’t blame yourself, it was an accident,” well if it was an accident why did the repercussions have such a negative impact on someone who isn’t me? Shouldn’t I be the person to suffer the consequences of my actions? If I have learned anything from this experience, it is that life is anything but fair and that is why we need the Lord in our lives. For the last 110 days and counting, I have had to trust in the Lord and His plan not only for me, but for Maddi. I cannot say I am perfectly trusting in Him, but I can say I am doing my best to understand the meaning for this trial in my life. As each day passes I am more thankful and am more appreciative that Maddi is still here with us.
Maddi is still in recovery, in a stage of comatose, but she is in there and I know it. I enjoy visiting her because I get to tell her about my day and what is going on in my life and I let her know how much I love her. My favorite things she does are when she looks me in the eyes, she squeezes my hand to comfort me, and signs “I love you,” just when I need it most. Each stage of the coma that Maddi progresses through brings her closer back to us. Though she is still considered in a stage of coma, she is progressing forward. She is able to identify shapes and colors, even though she cannot communicate by speaking. It is confusing to some how she still could be considered “comatose,” but there are eight stages she has to pass through until she can be whole again. Each of these eight stages brings new progress, giving time for Maddi’s brain to heal.
My life has been touched because of this mistake that I made. And yes, I blame myself, yet I feel that blame being resolved through the Atonement, and I don’t think without this experience that I would have such an intimate understanding of the Atonement. October 10th is still the worst day for me, but as each day moves forward I come to know my Savior more, and I get to feel the power of His Atonement in my life. I hope to soon forgive myself for the heartache and pain I have caused not only my best friend, but also her family. Knowing the Lord is one prayer away gives me ultimate comfort and helps me know that I am important to Him, and so is Maddi. I believe through the Lord great things can and will come to pass.