Two stars in the sky
For the past two weeks I have been reading Julie's journal, looking at pictures, walking to places we both used to go. I have been in Timothy’s room trying to capture what he was doing the week before the accident. And I have felt an increasing desire to drive to the accident site on the same date and time that the accident took place.
So last night I set the alarm to 3:30 am. Fixed hot tea, just as Julie would have done. Packed a bag with some of the things we would have taken that day, started the truck, said a short prayer, and set off at 3:50 am, just as we did a year ago. I drove the same road out of town. Twenty minutes later I stopped to get gas, at the same gas station as we did that morning. I was trying to time my arrival at the site of the accident for 5:00 am.
"Why am I doing this?" I asked myself during the trip. I was not sure, but I felt I had to go. Then I prayed, "God, help me to remember words, things we might have said to each other, anything that I might have missed." I also prayed for God's presence in this trip and for him to help me find some kind of closure at a place that, for the past year, has symbolized death, terror, pain, and suffering.
I imagined those last moments driving, talking about our plans for that day. I remember Julie saying, "Soon we will be heading for the States on furlough; only six more weeks away." Timothy and Anahi were sleeping in the back. She also said, "I hope we get all of Anahi's documents ready for the trip." Trips were always bonding times for us. We enjoyed sharing our hearts and dreams with each other.
I got to the scene at 4:55 am, found a safe place to park the truck, turned off the engine and the lights, and just stood there in the complete darkness. Only a few trucks and cars were passing at that lonely hour.
At 5:00 am, the site of the accident is pitch dark. The nearest settlement is about 5 miles away. There are a few lonely homes in the area, but no lights. I realized again how darkness and fog contributed to the accident that morning. In my mind I saw again the truck that caused the accident. Sitting still in utter darkness, its tail end was taking up half of my driving lane, and a few seconds before impact an oncoming vehicle blinded me with its high beams. So that morning, by the time we saw the stopped truck, we were basically impacting. The truck's position was confirmed by two witnesses that, minutes before, had avoided the same stopped truck on the highway, but without an oncoming vehicle in the other lane.
Today, in the midst of this darkness, I looked up and realized how bright the stars were. I could see so many stars that you cannot see when you're in the city. At about 5:05 am I looked to the southern sky, and two bright stars, very close together, stood out to me. They seemed to be blinking. The stars were right behind the spot where our car came to rest after the impact. All of a sudden, with my eyes fixed on the beautiful night sky, I felt God's peace. I also noticed that no cars drove by for almost 10 minutes. It was so quiet and peaceful.
I felt as if God was saying, "Norberto, that morning all you saw was pain, disaster, uncertainty, death; now I want you to look up and see my creation. Look up, dream, let my hand lead you. Julie and Timothy are your stars; they are okay; they have overcome. Look up; I am here." I realized at that moment that the only way to see the beauty of the night sky is when we are standing in complete darkness.
Yes, I am still hurting; yes, it sucks; yes, life will never be the same; yes, it is painful. How God can turn ashes into beauty is beyond me. What I do know and what I was confronted with again this morning at 5 am is my own perspective and what I choose to see. Yes, grieving takes time, and life will never be the same again. It seemed as if God said to me, "Norberto, you have a choice to look up to the night sky and see my beautiful creation and what I have in store for you, or to look to your pain, your disaster, your loss.
My two stars behind the accident scene were still shining at 5:30 am, when most other stars had disappeared. I stood there for a few more minutes and then started driving again, the same route as last year, now to the hospital. I tried to imagine that drive. Timothy was fighting for his life. I was screaming, "Timothy, hang in there, please stay with me, you can do this." My phone was ringing; I was numb to everything around me. Anahi was throwing up. I was living someone else's terror. I wanted to wake up. "Please don’t tell me this is happening to me . . ."
We were rushed into the emergency room. The doctors think that Timothy arrived without life at the hospital. I remember him still breathing during the drive to the hospital. If he did pass away during that drive, it was in my arms.
I drove back home this morning thanking God for allowing me to have a quiet moment at the place where my life was split in two. Why I am still here and even writing this, I am not sure, but as long I have breath in my body, I want to continue looking up to the night sky and seeing the beauty of God's creation. That sky was there a year ago, and it will be there every time I find myself in utter darkness.
Thanks for praying, thanks for loving, and thanks for being the body of Christ.
Norberto and Anahi