You should be dead.
Now that’s not something one wants to hear. Especially not from a highway patrol office, a fire fighter and an EMS guy.
I was in a pretty serious car wreck in March. 5:00 traffic in Oklahoma City, lots of start and stops on the interstate. I was NOT on my phone, looking at the radio or distracted. The cars in front of me stopped quickly and I just did not react quickly enough. No matter how hard I braked, I knew I was headed into the rear end of the car in front of me. So, at the last minute, I swerved to the lane to the left. Unfortunately, that lane is an exit lane for another highway and a semi-trailer truck was headed that way.
The truck clipped my car and I flew into the air. Evidently, while making my car-flying debut, my tires ran over the roofs of two cars in front of me and I flipped and landed on the driver’s side door. Honestly, I don’t remember much except feeling the impact and then hitting the pavement. I looked around and realized that 1) I was alive and 2) I was stuck.
Immediately I saw a face looking in at me from the back window. He was an off-duty fire fighter who was in a car behind me and saw the spectacle. He stopped his car and ran up to see if he could help. He said, “Are you alive?” Umm. . . yeah. He asked me my name, what day it was, and if I could move. I made the mistake of saying “I can’t move my legs”. He thought that I was injured and paralyzed and became very concerned. What I meant was, the steering wheel was jacked down and had me pinned into my seat. And, of course, I was dangling from my seatbelt. He assured me that help was on the way.
Soon there were 2 firetrucks, 3 wreckers, 5 highway patrol cars and an ambulance. On the highway. During 5:00 traffic. I know that there were a bunch of drivers cussing me as they were stuck on the highway for miles. I hung on to the roof to balance while waiting to be extricated, and watched a bunch of shoes walking around trying to figure out what was going on.
The firefighters tried to see if they could get me out of the passenger door, but it wasn’t going to happen. So, they stabilized the car and then busted out the windshield so they could pull me out.
The ambulance crew was standing by with a backboard and all kinds of equipment. Imagine their surprise when I walked over to them and told them I was fine. And I was! They worked on me for ten minutes just getting all the glass out of my hair and from my clothes, took my blood pressure (it was a little elevated. No kidding!) and checked me out. And, they were shocked that I was fine, just as I had told them. They said “You should be dead. You are so very lucky”. I know. They asked if I wanted to be transported to the hospital to be checked out, just in case. I tried to talk them into taking me to a certain hospital because it is literally across the street from my apartment and I could walk home. They were not amused. We are not Uber.
So, they finished with me and I stood on the side of the road, watching the wreckers hauling off three cars, sweeping up all the glass, and allowing traffic to start up again. I called my husband and explained that I kind of needed a ride. I sat in one of the highway patrolmen’s car waiting for Joe to get there and for all the paperwork to be completed. He said, “You should be dead”. I know.
And then I was completely blown away by the kindness of strangers. The highway patrolman responsible for gathering all the information, handed me a long list of names, numbers and insurance information and said, “I’m not giving you a ticket. You’ve had a hard enough day and you are a walking miracle.” Thanks.
That evening, the owners of the two cars that I had damaged texted me just to check on me and make sure I was OK. I ran over their cars! But they were concerned about my wellbeing. That was shocking and very sweet.
Two days later, one of the highway patrolmen called me to make sure I was OK. He said, “You should be dead”. I know.
That evening after Joe and I got home and I was sitting on the couch in shock, my dear, sweet CPA husband, the man who supports me and patiently puts up with all of my travels and my crazy schedule, said “You know, this is tax season. I DO NOT have time for a funeral right now.” Gee, thanks for the kind words, honey.
I called the insurance company, they took care of everything and all was well. When the insurance adjuster called me back that afternoon after talking to some of the other drivers, she said, “So, you were the one in the white car that was flying through the air?” Yes. She said, “And you are talking to me on the phone?” Yes. “Well, here’s how this is going to work. We will take care of everyone’s damage and repairs. Do not worry about that. But, if anyone tries to give us trouble, I’m going to tell them that my insured should be dead, so don’t mess with us”. I know.
But that traumatic event did begin a bigger conversation. Now, I’m a licensed funeral director and embalmer. I teach funeral service at a university. I spend a large portion of my life creating funeral services for others as a Funeral Celebrant. I sit with families every week listening to their plans and needs for creating just the right memorial and send-off for their loved ones. This is what I do.
But, do I have my funeral planned? Nope. Like most of us, especially those of us “in the biz”, we are the worst about putting down our desires and wishes for our final gathering. We’ll get to it. Someday. But, someday sometimes happens much sooner than we thought. “You should be dead”. I know.
Joe has told me repeatedly, for 33 years now, that he does not want a funeral. OK. We’ll see. But, he knows that having a funeral would be very important to me—since this is my thing. He asked me if he would have to do a Glenda Goodbye Tour and travel around that country so all the Celebrants could have their chance to say goodbyes. I assured him that that was not necessary. However, it did occur to both of us that it was time to create last wishes.
The most embarrassing part of this story is that InSight Books has a Funeral Planner. A wonderful little book that talks about the value of gathering and ceremony, and has pages in the back to write down important information, suggestions and specific elements that one would like to have in the service. It’s not like it’s hard for me to find a place to capture all these thoughts. They are right here in my office. Right here.
So, my promise to my family is that I will write down some of the things that I would like to have at my funeral. I’ve escaped death once. None of us should assume that we will be here tomorrow to take care of the details. “You should be dead”. I know.
Glenda Stansbury is Marketing Director of InSight Books and Co-Founder of InSight Institute Certified Celebrant Program. She is also a speaker, a trainer, and an observer of life, and one of Doug Manning’s adorable and talented daughters. You may email Glenda at OrdersAndInfo@InSightBooks.com.