You may have heard that California is experiencing a weather phenomena called El Niño. It is predicted to bring immense amounts of rain to our drought-stricken land in the span of a few short months. Last week we had our first El Niño storm and I happened to be driving home from Los Angeles.
It was just after 8pm on Wednesday evening when my rainbow girl Zoe and I hopped into the minivan, headed towards home. We were on a family vacation and I had to come home for an appointment on Thursday, planning to rejoin my family that night. I was making great time, headed down Interstate 5 in the carpool lane when it started pouring. It wasn’t a typical California storm like the ones you see depicted on internet memes where a plastic chair has blown over and the text jokingly states “we will rebuild”. This was a full blown downpour. It was so heavy that I couldn’t see the cars in front of me, behind me, next to me, my wipers couldn’t wipe fast enough, and the rain just wasn’t letting up.
I was instantly transported back to high school Driver’s Ed class listening to my instructor say, “When you can’t see, just follow the lines on the left.” At that moment, it took all I had to not flat out stop on the freeway (which would have been a devastatingly horrible choice). I can’t even pretend that I felt a single ounce of bravery or confidence.
I was streaming music on Apple radio and “Jesus Take the Wheel” by Carrie Underwood came on; a hilarious joke from the universe, I’m certain. What does one do when that song comes on? Cry, of course! So now, i’m terrified, it’s pouring, my baby is in the backseat just like in the song, and I’m crying! Great.
I’m giving myself an amazing pep talk, trying to just pull it together, when my emotions suddenly began to flood my brain and my heart, much like the rain outside, much like the tears that flooded my eyes and cheeks.
After I lost my sweet son Leo to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) at just 26 days old, I couldn’t see a thing. I couldn’t see what was in front of, behind, next to, above, or below me. I was blinded by the deep, striking pain that pulsed through my entire world at the words, “Your son has expired.”
As I was begging my windshield wipers to go faster, I was shocked by how similar this driving experience was to my grief. I’m just following the lines on the left. I have no idea where they’re taking me and I don’t need to know. I recognize what a dangerous situation I’m in and I know that I must keep moving forward, lest I succumb to the temptation to just stop, which would only destroy my life, and I couldn’t even imagine what it would do to my husband to lose his wife and my kids to lose their mom. So I keep driving, praying my butt off, feverishly searching for peace, for a break, for vision. I’m overwhelmed by the magnitude of the situation but I’m right smack in the middle of it and there’s no way out except through it.
After about 10 minutes, the rain let up and I thought about some of the scary decisions I had to make during that storm. I had to blindly change lanes and exit the carpool lane so that I didn’t get routed onto the wrong freeway. That was a nail-biter to say the least! But I made it, I did it. And sure, it rained more on the remainder of my drive, but nothing like that first storm. I knew that, if I could weather through that rainstorm, then I’d make it home just fine.