Her daughter was on the sofa, busily at work on something on her laptop, probably a poem or maybe her blog or an idea for her next novel. Her husband was at the dining table, grading some papers for his night school class. She herself was in a chair by the heater vent, staying warm, reading a novel that had nothing to do with anything. Music scored the afternoon from a small CD player in the corner—a Christmas album.
The scene she was reading reached an emotional climax just as the music from the corner reached an emotional climax, and she raised her head to hold the moment in the novel up to the light for a moment. She noticed her husband, working, and saw her daughter, absorbed, engaged, oblivious, mere days after the 60-car pileup that should have killed her.
Undergirded by the music, the scene in the novel, the scene before her, she imagined her daughter sitting trapped in the car between other vehicles on an icy road, imagined the semi coming at her, unable to stop, imagined knowing she was going to die . . . and yet, she didn’t. She didn’t die. The impact came, but it was thwarted, and it didn’t crush her. She pulled herself through the open window, the only egress from the battered vehicle, with some bruises and a sore back, without her shoes or cell phone, with some nightmares to come, without broken bones, with her heart racing, with her wits somehow still about her, and she didn’t die.
She was very much alive.
And that moment swelled up, became greater than the sum of its details, became eternity, gratitude, and love, became hope itself, became crystal, slow-moving molecules, momentarily visible and shimmering in the sunbeam that found its way into their space on a grey, gloomy day, reflecting all the small graces of a year or more.
And her husband coughed, and her daughter reached for a pencil, and the music ended, and she sucked in a great gulp of shimmering air that no one noticed except, perhaps, God.