Driving my mother back on I-94 to Jamestown, where her car had been stalled through Easter, I glanced thoughtfully at the winter wreckage along the roadside. With the snow walls that had accumulated from the most recent weather deluge now significantly reduced, the season’s trauma was hauntingly visible.
Every bumper, every car grill, every tire part tells a story, I thought, with a person attached to each, and a family to them, and to that family…
A few weeks later, we re-confronted our own story of winter’s wreckage through a friend’s texted photo. She’d been out on the pathway underneath the walking bridge at Rose Creek on 25th Street South in Fargo, and noticed what seemed like a million shards of green glass.
The glass was scattered along the trail, atop a nearby railing and on the opposite end of the creek bridge. But there was a particularly dense collection several feet from the bottom of the bridge, smashed against the slanted concrete that leads to the sidewalk underneath, which abuts the creek.
The shiny conglomeration was impressed there in the shape of a car’s rear window, and she recognized its likely source, recalling our son’s car accident in that very spot on Dec. 6.
“I walked under the bridge today for the first time since the snow melted, and there’s so much glass,” she said. “I’m pretty sure it’s from the accident.”
To confirm, we reviewed a photo that had ended up on the local news that day showing our son’s upside-down car, embedded into that very position, suspended in the front by a railing but impacted in the rear. The car had hit black ice, fishtailed, and slammed into the bridge, flipping into the air before falling onto the snow-topped cement below.
Since that horrific moment, we’ve passed by this spot nearly every day, and each time, seeing the broken chain-link fence, protruding metal post, orange cones, police tape and “sidewalk closed” signs, we’ve raised our hands motioning the sign of the cross, in gratitude for God’s profound life-giving ways.
But now, seeing those glass shards arranged in this way, in the photo, brought us into the scene even more penetratingly. Rather than just peering at the surface of the initial impact, we were gazing into the lower area—hidden from the roadway—where his car had been flung, eye to eye with the spot that could have been a memorial to a dead son.
Life didn’t suddenly get easier after we retrieved our youngest son from the aftermath that day, rushing him to the hospital. It took three challenging months for his broken back to heal, and we are still living with some of the repercussions. But each glass piece reveals so much, seemingly representing every moment of his years; the unrepeatable life of a boy God deemed to save.
Thank you for holding that exquisite gift before us, Lord. Despite our weak memories and short-sightedness, may we never, ever forget your beautiful mercies in our lives.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on May 1, 2023.]