There is nothing pretty about a car crash.
Skid marks in the gravel,
a car at right angles to the road,
half hidden in the bushes.
Bits of plastic and chrome scattered in the dirt.
I’ve seen this before, but this was different.
There were two young people still sitting in the car.
We are travelling between Northcliffe and Walpole in South West Western Australia.
Through the Shannon National Park.
It’s three days since we entered the twilight zone; waiting for the results of a biopsy of something potentially nasty growing in Cynthia’s big toe.
The forest is black from a recent bushfire.
It brings back memories of the fire that ripped through our property on Boxing Day 2013.
It’s been raining on and off, mostly on.
The road is in good condition, but narrow and slippery.
Safe on the bitumen, treacherous on the steeply raked verges.
It takes a few seconds for my mind to catch up with what my eyes have just seen.
I stop the car and turn back to investigate.
The accident must have just happened moments before we crested the hill.
As I pull our car off the road a young woman gets out of the car.
Her partner is still behind the wheel, the motor still running.
He had apparently been trying to overtake and had lost control.
The car had slipped sideways at speed.
Fortunately the soft sandy soil had built up along the side of the car and brought it to a halt just 30cm from a large tree. The young couple were shaken, but otherwise uninjured.
A man with a four wheel drive ute and fishing boat arrives and together we manage to tow the car back onto the road.
The couple are tourists from Japan or perhaps Korea and their English is poor, but the universal language of shock speaks of their awareness that they have narrowly escaped death. It could have been so much worse. The young woman gives us some handwipes to wash the dirt from our hands. The young man stands to the side and smokes a cigarette. The adrenalin rush is fading from their systems. They will soon be very tired. They decide not to continue on with their journey.
Death has come close this day, but has passed them by.
How will their lives be different?
In time they will deal with the “what ifs?” and self-recriminations that inevitably follow such an experience. But such experiences also open our eyes to the big existential questions that sit below the surface of our day to day lives.
We leave them on the side of the road. They are in no hurry to move.
We continue on. May we be so lucky.
We can’t guarantee escape.
But God is with us whatever comes.
And there is wholeness and love and hope.