The crash was so loud and the impact was so close to me that I screamed involuntarily.
“Are you hurt?” the man working at Goodwill asked as he ran up to me.
I looked down. The car hadn’t touched me, somehow, but it was close enough that it had brushed my long skirt. “I’m okay,” I said, grateful that he’d come over, even if he was violating the 6-foot social distancing rule.
I wasn’t so sure about my car. I had been parked and standing next to my car when the other car ran into mine. The driver of the car had gotten out and was profusely apologizing.
The other driver backed up his car and then we all took a look at the fenders. I wasn’t sure if anything was really wrong with the vehicles, but I was just glad nobody had been hurt. “I’m fine,” I said again, because the people around me didn’t seem convinced.
I hadn’t expected such drama on a random afternoon at Goodwill. Sure, I had spent the previous day going through old boxes of Shawn’s clothes, so I figured donating them might make me shed a few tears.
I didn’t think I’d almost end up in the ER. Which is exactly what could have happened if I had been standing a foot closer to my car.
And while I kept reassuring everyone that I hadn’t been hurt, I could feel my heart still pounding in my chest.
I’m a bit nervous about dying, you see.
Yes, I know I wouldn’t have died if the car had hit me. Or at least probably not died. But here’s the thing – being a widow has made me acutely aware of all of the things that can go wrong. What healthy 40-year-old dies less than 6 weeks after a cancer diagnosis?
The thing about being a widow is that you know one thing: bad things can happen at any time. No matter what precautions you take.
I know a lot of widows now, and I follow even more on social media. And consequently I know a ton of ways that someone can unexpectedly die at a young age. Yes, there are deaths by cancer and heart attacks and car accidents, of course, but there are also random freak accidents and rare diseases I didn’t even know existed and times when someone just died and no one really knows why.
Widows know this: there’s a lot of bad luck in this world.
It makes me more cautious sometimes. My boyfriend Chris has gotten used to stopping at every single stop light when we are running because crossing against the light (even when there are very few cars) is a risk I don’t like to take. My kids are not allowed to do anything on their bikes or rollerblades without a helmet on, even if they are just showing me something in our backyard grass. I never miss a doctor’s appointment or a mammogram or a dental cleaning.
Oh, and I have insurance on everything.
Because I know one thing: bad things can happen. They can happen to me and they can happen to the people I love.
But as I drove home from Goodwill, I started to reflect on what had happened. Yes, of the dozen cars lined up at the donation bins, it was my car that got hit, and that’s unfortunate. I was pretty scared by the crash. And yet – the terrible thing that could have happened….well, it didn’t happen.
The car missed me, and all that happened was that it hit my 10-year-old bumper. Random strangers stayed with me while we checked it all out and I drove home by myself afterwards. I made dinner that night and laughed with my kids and even managed to take a walk around the neighborhood that night with my intact legs.
Yes, sometimes bad things happen.
But sometimes they don’t. Sometimes the car misses you, the tumor is benign, the pacemaker works and the child doesn’t fall off the bike.
It’s hard as a widow to see the good, because there is often so much bad. It’s not just the initial loss, but all of the terrible things that can follow: loss of friends and difficulty with family situations and financial hardship and a million other things. It’s easy to see the hard stuff because there is so much hard stuff as a widow.
But I’m going to keep reminding myself this:
Sometimes, bad things don’t happen.