On April 11, 2014, I got into a car accident at a highway intersection with our dog Jade in the back, and Jade did not survive. A little over a week later and I finally feel as though I’m over the initial shock and I have regained control of my emotions, yet there are constant reminders of that fateful day: the giant purple and yellow bruise on my chest from the seatbelt; the stiff neck and shoulders; the bruised knee I keep forgetting about until I kneel down again; the empty bed hidden away in our spare bedroom; the lack of fur accumulation in the corners; the leash hanging by the front door; the quiet that now persists in the house. Our lives changed in an instant, and not for the better.
I was turning left. Like a living cliché, the oncoming car came out of nowhere. I got hit and I spun. The back passenger side was crushed. My dog whined. Jade looked in shock and terrified, but seemed to be uninjured. I couldn’t stop shaking, not only from the winds that seemed to pick up at the most inopportune time, but probably mostly from shock. I said “holy fuck” too many times to count. I sat in the back of a police car. I filled out a bunch of paperwork. Then the world turned upside down when the police forced open the car to get Jade out. I was told my dog couldn’t move. I saw her lying on the pavement covered in her own wool blankets, breath ragged and eyes glassy. I remember my Mom rushing to my side and putting her arm around me. I helped put Jade in her car. I heard the policeman telling me I had enough to be dealing with right now. We went to the hospital and waited. We learned Jade’s back was broken. We made the difficult choice, and we got a ride home.
It all seemed to fly by, and yet I get random flashes of it now and again running through my mind. I can’t ignore the cruel irony that we got our new car and Jade on the same day almost three years ago and then we lost both on the same day.
Naturally, losing our one and only car is problematic. The thing is a write-off due to massive body damage. Though it wasn’t worth much, it was a great little car and gave us an independence we had lived without for most of our adult lives. My husband and father-in-law had put countless hours into it when it had died on us just before our wedding in 2012. And recently we had also spruced it up with nice tires and rims, and gave it heft with a new roof rack. Suddenly, that independence is gone again. The silver lining is that we have lived without a car before and can do it again. With the onset of summer and the fact that my husband is in school right now, we’ve been going without the car most days lately. It’s a big adjustment, but it’s still just a car.
As I’ve been reminded lately, people cannot be so easily replaced. I know I’m lucky to be alive, let alone up and walking and mostly without pain. Highway speeds mixed with inopportune timing could have ended much worse for me and I’m well aware. But you see that’s part of the problem. I walked away and Jade didn’t. I’ve had dogs all my life, pretty much. This time is different. Jade was my responsibility and I let her down. I’ve had many people reassure me that I shouldn’t blame myself, that it was just an accident. Logically that makes sense, but my heart’s just not getting it. Jade was engrained in my daily life so I feel like I’ve lost a part of myself. I’m going through the daily motions but things are missing… feedings, endless pets, hugs, gentle licks to our fingers, nose pokes, huffy talk around bedtime, noisy tail wagging.
And staring me in the face is the goal I made for myself this year to take Jade for a walk every day. We’d been going for walks almost every day as soon as I got home from work, and Jade had already gotten so used to it that she’d circle my legs when I got home, eager to get her walk on. I think I almost enjoyed those walks as much as she did. But that’s life isn’t it? Just when things seem perfect, just when I think I’m getting a handle on these goals, it all goes to shit. I’ve been told that I need to be kind to myself and allow myself time to grieve, and that I need to keep reminding myself that I’m not at fault. If I keep telling myself that, maybe one day I’ll believe me.
In any case, this is one goal I’ll forever regret having to cross-off early. We love you and miss you Jade. xo