Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Angels with Tattoos and Their Acts of Kindness

The rain poured from the sky. It came with such a force that I was dreading the ride home after spending the day at a retreat. Before buckling in and turning on the ignition I called my family to let them know I was headed from downtown Nashville. I also called a friend who was driving back to DC to check in with her. The weather was on both of our minds.


Getting on to the interstate proved to be tricky as I navigated streets that appeared to be ready to be declared closed due to flooding. I thought to myself, "Good thing I am up high in a jeep." The little beat up car I drive around town would have had water up to the seats. I managed to file into the long line creeping out I-40 East. Several cars sped by as if they were rolling on dry payment. The closer I inched out East, the more wrecks I  noticed. Being a slow driver anyway, I was not in a rush to out run mother nature. Steady but nervously, I made my way home.

As I was passing wreck number four on my drive, it had stopped raining as I started exiting off Hermitage A's lane near the Percy Priest dam. Less than two miles from home and feeling upbeat, I was not prepared for the sudden horror that I was about to experience. In all my years, I have never been in a car wreck. One hit from behind when I was pregnant with my Marine son 26 years ago but that was it. Not even a speeding ticket on my driving record. My record would suddenly change on Saturday with a gust of wind and a slippery patch of highway.

In a split second, I was hurling through the air slamming into a concrete wall like I was a feather blowing in the wind. One roll after another, the jeep I was driving flipped over and over and over. Six times I rolled, I was told much later. As I was rolling, twirling like cars in the movies during a pretend tornado, I thought, this jeep is not going to stop so maybe it will turn into a transformer car that Grand Price, my grandson, talks about so much. Please transform I remember thinking because there are nothing but cars waiting to run over me if the rolling does not stop.

When it ran out of rolling juice, the jeep popped upright as if it had burped. I began bracing mentally to be hit by another vehicle not knowing if I was dead or alive as the jeep filled with smoke. I did not know if I flipped onto the traffic below on I-40 or if I was dangling from the overpass. I heard a weird noise but I could not open my eyes. I managed to pinch myself to see if I could feel anything. When I felt nothing, I wondered if I had broken my neck or if I was a goner. As soon as death entered my head, I realize I did not scream Jesus' name. Or did I? So this is how it ends; in my son's jeep. I heard that weird noise again at that exact moment and started thinking about Grand Prince. Who is going to read to him? He is going to be raised without me. A loud popping sound invaded my thoughts and I heard voices yelling to get me out.

While I was musing about Grand Prince, a hand reached in through a broken window and touched me. Another hand touched my hand and I squeezed it. I manged to mumble "help." A voice said, "Don't open your eyes, you have glass all over you. It is going to be okay." As a total stranger's hand held my hand,  I could feel tears on my face. Another voice said softly, "I am a nurse. You are going to be okay. " I could feel her touching me. When she asked me if I could talk, I said, " I think so." My eyes were still closed. More voices were heard. One even said, "Mrs. Holmes stay with us." Where am I going I thought and how do you know me? God, you are here with me? Right? The reality of the shortness of life was engulfing my thoughts with every breath I was taking.

What seemed like an eternity, the door was finally pulled opened. Two big hands reached in and gently felt my arms for broken bones and then asked if I could move my legs. If my neck is broken, then that would be impossible right? Right. I moved my feet slowly. Ah ha! They moved. A big shout from the big hands person letting everyone know. I heard sirens blasting and then that weird noise again. The nurse said, "I am answering your phone. Someone has been trying to face-time you." Is that what that noise is I asked myself? The nurse told the caller I was in an accident. I heard crying and knew right away it was Grand Prince and then I heard my daughter voice and her gasp. Hearing their voices made me determined then to get out of the jeep. I opened my eyes a wee bit and could see tattooed arms assisting me. As one tattoo after another reached in, I thought these tattoos are works of art. Picasso came rushing into my thoughts. My ears were tuned to the voices working together to help me out of the vehicle. They all sounded like a choir as they worked in harmony to get me out of my mangled metal and glass tomb. When I was finally unbuckled, I heard a voice say, "She's wearing her seat-beat."

As my legs were being pulled from under the crushed dashboard, I heard a firm voice reassuring me. "Do you think you can stand up," I was asked. The voice was one of the paramedics who had arrived. He took over as the nurse stood aside while continuing to answer calls that were pouring in. As if I was child following Peter Pan, I reached for him and noticed right away the huge tattoo on his right forearm. I glance at my nurse and noticed even my nurse had a tattoo too. Letting my 'palmist' hands go I grab the arms of the paramedic and prayed with all my might as my feet touched the ground. At that moment, my eyes were fully opened and I could see a clear sky and cars backed up for miles as they strolled past the wreckage . There were eyes peering from cars looking back at me. Trying to connect voices with faces, I realized I was surrounded by an army of mostly strangers. In my dazed and shaken state, I  did recognized a few neighbors who pulled over after seeing me. Even two customers faces were in the crowd. An officer was making his way through the crowd as I was being helped one tiny step at a time to the ambulance that was waiting. The short walk to the ambulance seem like a thousand miles.





As I was being put in the ambulance, my daughter and Grand Prince managed to make it the scene. Her face told me she was terrified. I could hear my sweet grandson crying from somewhere in the distance. My body was numb from shock as I tried to give the nice officer my name and the details of the accident. With each attempt at trying to tell him what happened, I could only managed a 'Dear God, I am alive." I finally gave up trying to tell him anything. The first voice that I heard when this saga begun belonged to a young man who held my hand. He wore a spiked hair cut and looked to be no more than a teenager. When he handed me my purse, I saw his tattoo and looked at him and smiled. He had gathered all of my items from my purse that were that were thrown everywhere and put them back in my purse. I whispered 'thank you so much' and he squeezed my hand again and left without saying word. My daughter identified me as her mother and shared my information with the officer. She group texted team Holmes and someone contacted the Wolcotts to let them know.

As the paramedics took my vitals, they kept looking at me then each other. As they were watching over me, I was looking at both of their tattooed arms. I broke the silence by saying through a teary voice, "I love your tattoos. I will never forget them." They both laughed. I heard one say as if he was my dad, "You walked away from a really bad accident. You are going to be sore for sure tomorrow. Do you want to go to the hospital?" No. I just wanted to go home. When he pressed that I go to the hospital, I pushed back and insisted on going home. The big armed paramedic touched my hair to rid it of a piece of glass and said as an after thought. "You were covered in glass. And you have no cuts." His counterpart started helping him remove more glass from my hair as they gave me instructions on how to use a paint brush to help get rid of the rest.

Summit Hospital was a stone's throw from the wreckage. But the thought of going there was too much. The paramedics kept me a few more minutes and asked for forms to be signed stating that I declined going to the hospital. As I sat in the ambulance, the Holmes cavalry arrived. The looks on their stunned faces told me everything. I lived. I had no words to say but to ask about the insurance. Later, as I was helped into my daughter's car, Grand Prince tears had dried but he had the look that all of the Holmes were wearing; confused, bewildered and thankful. He immediately reached for my hands as I sat back in the backseat with him still in a state of shock. My daughter shared as we were waiting for the wreckage to be cleared away, "Mom, out of the blue he started saying your name and was trying to face-time you. He just kept dialing and dialing you as if he knew something was wrong. Then I got the call. Can you believe that?" Yes, I thought to myself.  I believe.


On the short drive home, questions galore came rushing at once. What happened? Who were all those people? Where did they come from? Where did the go? How do I say thank you? Did anyone get the nurse's number? The young man? Who are his parents? Were the paramedics with Engine 32? Will I ever see them again? Each question was followed by a thank you prayer.




My neighbors were sweet as they stopped by the next day. My closest friends are a phone call away.  Texts from friends in the medical field letting me know when to come into their offices for appointments were responded too. The Holmes crew has been understanding and patience with me. My Grand Prince has told me a thousand times how much he loves his "Bam Mom." The voices of total strangers are still being heard during my naps and moments of silence. And angels with beautiful tattoos and their random acts of kindness shown toward me will remain in my heart and seared in my memory. Forever. Phil. 1:3



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