Here is a disclaimer of sorts that I wrote when I was new at this blogging thing. (That’s a joke by the way as I am still incredibly new at this…)
Black and White, Light and Dark
I can tell a lot about my mood and general state of mind simply by what I choose to write about. I am absolutely blessed to have had a big enough range of experiences now (at 67 years old) that I can see how trauma and chaos will inevitably be balanced by joy and peace….if I can just wait long enough.
This is a disclaimer for my readers (all 4 or 5 of you now) so you can decide what you are in the mood for reading should you choose to check out my Blog on any given day.
Life has given me two very distinct kinds of experiences and I need to write about both….Consider yourself warned.
Thanks for reading either.
I’ve included it here again because I want to share a darker story. Thanks in advance for reading this.
Her name is Sraddha
Some of us learn pretty young how to make “the choice”.
It doesn’t take more than one event. If a violent act happens to you or even in your presence, you can stay…or you can leave. And when you can’t depart physically, you simply learn how to leave your body.
If it happens early enough in your life, you get hardwired for it…this “choice”.
I learned about it, a toddler, still in my crib. I got so good at leaving, I could look down and see what was happening, but I never had to feel it again.
Everyone learns their own version of this “choice”, not always because of some ordeal. But if yours came the way mine did, this ability to choose is not a bad skill to refine and practice. You must train yourself to use it ONLY by choice. You can’t let it control you, and believe me, it will. You must master it or you will use it to trash your most important relationships and you could walk through your life an enormous bundle of PTSD symptoms.
Ugly words will get attributed to your skill…”she can be so cold and distant” but you know exactly what you are doing…and why.
I’m glad now I developed this skill. In my professional life as a Psychotherapist, I can decide to never allow my feelings to be more important than those of my clients’. I can choose to be unconditionally present for them, even if their story is very close to my own.
But here’s the thing…You never get perfect at it. Sometimes things happen so fast, the Choice moment will slip right by, unnoticed.
That’s what happened just 21 days ago, on September 29th, the day before our long-planned dream vacation.
Let me go back there now, just to confirm for myself that I had a choice.
James and I are waiting at an intersection, the first car behind a metro bus. I’m driving. He is the passenger. The sound comes first, loud enough for me to look out to my left, expecting to see a car barreling toward us. Then, from my vantage point, I see a huge spray of sparkling glass, taller than the bus. From his side of the car, he sees what I would never recover from witnessing….a car, hit head on and pushed up onto the sidewalk…into several waiting pedestrians. James is out of the car in an instant to see who he can help. My emergency training kicks in…I put on the car’s flashers, turn off engine, grab my phone, and am out of the car, dialing 911…all in seconds.
But those same seconds are an eternity for the young mother who is pulling her toddler out of her completely crushed stroller….
As happens in emergencies, time loses all meaning so hours or maybe nanoseconds are flying by. The Mother is cradling her baby and wailing while she is frantically dialing the phone, again and again and again, reaching no one. She is clearly alone.
Having coached high risk childbirths for more than 30 years, I’ve seen way too many dead babies so I know her child is already gone. The first policeman on the scene knows it too, although he is performing CPR as if this is his own child. The firemen and the EMT’s who are arriving also know this little girl is dead.
But the Mom does not know yet.
This is where I give up my choice to protect myself. I can’t bear her being alone with this and though she never even knows it, I am standing with her. I plant myself right behind her as the CPR performing cop finally gives in to the truth. I stay here when the head EMT orders his team to move on to check for other victims. I remain while she is dialing her phone again. I am still here when her baby is covered with that awful death blanket. I am present when one cop tells everyone who is not hurt to move on but I say “No, I’m staying. She is alone here”. He thanks me. And I am here some infinite number of minutes later, when another cop is asking me if I saw the actual impact. When I say no, he tells me I now have to leave as this might be a crime scene. I don’t remember the walk back to the car. I am still with that young mother.
As I am writing this, I realize I don’t know the ending. I could talk about how, afterwards, instead of finishing packing for our vacation, I frantically searched for more information on that mother, just so I could tell her she was not alone….that I had seen her daughter there. And that her baby girl did not have to make any Choice, to feel or not to. She was gone the instant that car smashed into her.
Or I could write how on the first days of our long awaited trip, I felt jerked back and forth between the sweet time we should be having and the auditory memories of the crash and that mother’s cries of anguish. Or I could describe the very kind detective who had to interview us by phone, apologizing for disturbing our beautiful train ride down to San Diego.
When you do not make the choice to protect yourself, whatever the horrendous event is, it happens to you also. I was that baby girl. I am that mother. And now, I need to recover also. All of us who were there that day need to grieve.
Then I remembered…I might be writing this story for more than just my own processing. I might want to share it, but I need a focus. I thought of the Moth Story Slam (open mic Story Telling competitions). The topic next month is “Guts”, but in re-reading this, I could not find anything that required guts on my part. Not switching into emergency mode…years of practice with that. Not standing with that Mother while the horrifying truth dawned on her. That was primal and any other mother would have done the same. It took no courage to take a huge bouquet of flowers back to the busy accident intersection later in the day. That was actually comforting to find a couple of others others had the same thought. A few flowers, some stuffed animals and a toy. A small sweet tribute to that small girl and her family.
But now, we’ve been home from our vacation for 3 days. Though the fateful intersection is on my regular driving trail, I have successfully dodged that corner…until today while out running errands.
So…I pulled off the road and gave myself a good talking to. I decided to find the “guts” to go there. You can handle it I told myself. They had, of course, cleaned up the glass and all that blood on the first day so what was I afraid of seeing?
Then I realized my biggest fear. What if there was no trace of the event, that sweet toddler and her devastated family already forgotten?
Finding the courage to do something like this can cost you such a painful flashback. Or it can pay off big time.
It is three weeks later and here’s what I found there.
Various news stories:
(don’t know how to transfer this picture…)
Isabella Sturm, 4, tapes a drawing she made to a memorial wall at the corner where a 28-month-old toddler was killed when a two-car accident sent one of the vehicles over a curb and into her stroller. Isabella and her mother, Meghan, had been at the same corner only 5 minutes before the fatal accident.
From KIRO news…..When 2 year old Sraddha Panchakarla her mother Bhavya went for a walk on their Bellevue sidewalk Thursday morning, a violent collision between an SUV and a car would change their lives in an instant.
The impact sent the car onto the sidewalk, over the spot where Sraddha was riding in a stroller.
“Nobody imagined it that would happen this way,” said family friend Kishor Vadla. “They were just trying to cross this road.”
Vadla told KIRO 7 that Sraddha, an only child, was killed instantly. He said her parents were new to the U.S, having moved to Bellevue from India four months ago.
Siva Kumar is trying to comfort his friends who have been through the unthinkable.
“I can’t believe a daughter dying in the hands of her mother. That is the most saddest part no one should ever expect,” said Kumar.
Bellevue police say the toddler and her mother were on the sidewalk waiting to cross Bel-Red Road at 140th Ave Northeast. Bellevue police say two vehicles crashed in the intersection.
According to investigators, a Dodge Durango was heading southbound and a Nissan Sentra was heading northbound.
Police said on Wednesday the Sentra had a blinking yellow arrow, failed to yield, and turned in the Durango’s path. The vehicles then collided.
The Sentra left the road and went onto the sidewalk, hitting the stroller with the toddler inside.
Witnesses rushed to help the little girl and her mother. The first police officer gave the little girl CPR but her injuries were too severe to survive, according to police. The toddler’s 25-year-old mother was taken to the hospital to be treated for distress.
Bellevue police investigators spent hours talking to witnesses and taking measurements to find out what caused the crash. The drivers of both cars had minor injuries and were also taken to a hospital.
“This really seems to be, at this point, a horrible, tragic accident,” Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett said.
Tuesday night, as the memorial to little Sraddha grew, Vadla said the world lost an extremely smart little girl.
“She’s very bright, though she’s just two-and-a-half years old,” he said. “She speaks very fluently and you know she tells all the rhymes and all, though she’s just two-and-a-half years old, she is very bright, she’s very sharp.”
Now, Sraddha’s parents are surrounded by a community who wishes it could do more.
“We are all standing to support him financially, morally, (that) kind of thing,” Vadla said. “But loss is loss for him. Nobody can return that.”
A fundraising site for the family raised more than $20,000 in 17 hours.
Friends said Wednesday there was enough money to cover travel costs, so they shut down the GoFundMe account.
The family will take Sraddha back to India as soon as possible.
Update: The flower wall in Sraddha’s honor grew and grew and remained right there for almost 3 months, apparently unprecedented in our area.
6 thoughts on “The Choice”
I love your writing. I love your perspective. Tragedy all mixed up with humanity. Thank you for sharing your stories. They touch my heart and soul.
Sweet, sweet Cynthia, daughter of my heart.
How does that mom even begin to process such a horrifically random act of violence? She had a true advocate and witness that day when you stayed with her. Thank you for staying (you still are) and thank you for sharing your healing.
Thank you so much for reading all that and commenting. I really appreciate it. It has been such a solitary but also overwhelmingly connected experience. The sudden-ness of it all still haunts me.
in an instant………..
Thank You for sharing this. One never knows how any day will turn out or if we will be here when the sun sets. This heartbreaking event reminds us to be aware. to live every moment as if we won’t get another chance to find joy .. we may not. This family’s pain will stay with me as long as I am here.