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My life – my viewpoint – has changed drastically in the past few days.

On Tuesday, Gambit and I left for the national tournament.  We almost didn’t make it.

My car hydroplaned.

I will make light of this publicly, but I confess here that I have never been more terrified in my life.  I completely lost control of the car for a few endless, horrifying moments that felt like forever.  We swerved and slid and careened wildly all over the road.  Fortunately, it was late and no cars were on either side of me.  But there was a construction median wall to my left and a non-guardrailed drop to my right and I HAD NO CONTROL.  We veered perilously close to both edges but somehow did not crash or tip over or fully spin.

I have no idea how I righted us or whether fate stepped in and decided to lend a hand.  All I know is that eventually the tires connected to the ground again.

The whole incident probably took less than a minute.  Luckily, Gambit slept through all of it.

But I couldn’t stop trembling and shaking for the rest of the drive that night, adrenaline making me queasy.

On Wednesday, we embarked on the final leg of our journey.  We arrived in Chattanooga apparently minutes after the tornadoes hit.  If we had left a little earlier, driven a little faster, not stopped for coffee…yes, we would have been driving blithely along directly in the tornado’s path.  We had no idea about weather conditions; we were listening to Gambit’s iPod on the road instead of the local news.  I had noticed that the sky ahead looked odd and ominous.  I pointed it out to Gambit as a curiosity only.

After inching through Chattanooga amidst rubble, power outages, downed trees, road signs snapped in half, unable to pick up a radio station to figure out what the hell had happened, we hit a clear patch of road.

Splat.

I thought a rock had hit us.

Splat.  Splatsplatpslatsplatsplat.

We were being pelted by hail hitting the car so hard that Gambit flipped, thinking the windshield would break.  He was scared.  I was scared.  I pulled over to the side to wait that one out, shaking my head over our wild road trip, hands clutching the steering wheel in a death grip as insane truckers whizzed by, rattling our tiny car.

We eventually arrived safely, driving cautiously under a literal black cloud and a tornado watch.  Our story ended well.  But something has changed in me.

I think I came the closest to a near-death experience than ever before on this trip.  Surprisingly, I felt no fear for myself.

But while we were swerving, the first thought that flashed through my head: Please, God, not Gambit. He’s too young, he’s too young.  I was begging for him to be spared.

The second, my love: Please, God, just let him know I love him.

And then a kaleidoscope of loved faces flashed before my eyes, my children imprinted over all.

I feel corny even writing this.  It sounds sappy and maudlin, like a made-for-TV movie.  But it’s true.

I’m not sure whether the change I feel is permanent or a reaction to the past few days.  But I’ve slept through the night for two nights in a row.  My angst has faded.  I think, perhaps, I am simply grateful for another bite at this thing called life.

I am grateful – so grateful – for second chances.

Namaste, my friends.

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