Monday, December 5, 2011

I was not meant to die today.

As some of you may know, I am exhausted. And I have a history of falling asleep driving. Remember that trip to Pennsylvania earlier this year? My sister and I drove from Cincinnati to Hershey, and at one point (right before we switched drivers) my sister commented from the back of the van, "you know, it's very disconcerting to see the same expression on the face of my sister who is driving that I see on the face of my nephew who is nodding off in his car seat."

Well, I have fallen asleep driving before. Three times now. And I guess that is why, with the third time, I finally struck out.

I was driving between Indianapolis and Richmond on I-70 with my cruise control set exactly at the speed limit. I felt tired, but I was only twenty minutes away from my destination, so I thought I could make it and I didn't want to be late to church. I tried calling people, but everyone was either doing something that I didn't want to interrupt or didn't answer the phone. The last thing I remember was driving in the right lane, trying to decide who I could call who could talk to me and keep me alert the last twenty minutes.

I felt tired before I even left Indy, but I felt like it would be dumb to say that. "Oh, I'm too tired to drive, so I guess I'll just sit here and wait until I make two people drive a few hours to get me and have one drive my car back while the other is alone in his car." I don't know. It just sounded too weak and really inconvenient for others. I had no real proof, like a broken leg or something. Surely it was all mental.

So I drove.

And the rumble strip woke me up.

I was then in the left lane, headed right toward the guard rail. I was not very alert, so I immediately jerked my steering wheel the other direction. Going 70 miles an hour, this is never a good idea. I drove in a complete tiny circle, hitting the guard rail on the way around. Then I drove in another quick circle. Then I became a little more alert and realized that hitting the brake would be a good idea. I still can't believe I didn't flip my van jerking the steering wheel like that.

So I slammed my foot on the brake. At that point, my car was perpendicular with the road, straddling the dotted line in between the two lanes.

I was still pretty disoriented, and I could not decide whether my car was turned on or off, so I turned the key off. Then I realized I was in the middle of a highway, blocking both lanes, and I turned my car back on, drove over to the shoulder and called my parents, 911, and the relatives I was going to go visit in Richmond. (Jeff was at church, so I didn't think he would notice his phone. I did eventually reach him.)

Danny was asleep for almost the whole event. He woke up at the end with a bit of a squeal, but seems to be completely unscathed. Thank you infant car seat!

I have some bruises, and my neck/head is sore.

My van sustained some damage. The first estimate came back at $2,080.

As I sat there waiting for the police, it was pretty scary feeling my car rock as every truck and vehicle whizzed past me. I was amazed at how busy the highway was, because during my accident, I neither hit another vehicle nor was hit.

How is that possible?

Then I got to church with my relatives and was wondering how I was going to get home. I was about an hour and a half away. My van was still drivable, so I didn't want to leave it in Richmond, but I REALLY did not want to drive. The adrenaline and shock was not enough to make me not tired. I was still exhausted.

As I sat in Sunday School, I recognized a couple (Russell and Amanda) who I had met a few weeks earlier at my cousin's (Shannon) temple sealing. Amanda was a cousin of my cousin Shannon, and we had never met prior to that, but at the sealing, we discovered that we both lived in Cincinnati, about 20 minutes apart. I decided I didn't feel comfortable asking Amanda, but my cousin Ben was actually also related to this couple, because his wife (Heather) was Amanda's cousin. (The Bakers and Homers are connected in many ways!) And Ben did feel comfortable, and Russell said they didn't mind at all! So, Russell drove my van, and Amanda drove their vehicle, and they dropped us off at the stake building, where Jeff and my father-in-law met us.

I asked Russell and Amanda how often they go up to visit family in Richmond, and they said this was actually the first time (other than holidays). They have always wanted to go and make an effort to be closer to Amanda's extended family, but it had never worked out prior to this.

Hm. It had never worked out until the Sunday when I would need someone in Richmond who was driving to Cincinnati any way.

And I did two hairpin circles and came to a dead stop in the middle of a highway and didn't hit any other cars and did not flip my car.

And I hit a guard rail going 70 miles an hour and did not injure myself or my child, and my car is still drivable.

All I kept thinking over and over again on Sunday was "I was not meant to die today."

Incidentally, I did say a traveling prayer before I left Indianapolis that morning, and my prayer was definitely answered. And up until Saturday, the plan was for me to take Jill with me, but last minute we decided to leave her with Jeff. I am so glad she was not with me, because the experience would have terrified her.

I feel so stupid for driving drowsy and falling asleep. I cannot believe I risked my family dealing with another funeral.

And I am not sure when I will feel comfortable driving long distances again.

I feel so, so lucky and blessed.


  1. MIMI! I am so glad that you and Danny boy are ok!! And that the van isn't totaled!

    If you need to, you can call me. And remember this--the Lord doesn't care if you show to church late, as long as you SHOW.

  2. I'm so glad you're alive.

    Do you know if you have sleep apnea? Apparently lots of people with it fall asleep at the wheel. Also, Corey has started listening to audiobooks in the car. He listens to Terry Pratchett and they're so funny and having a plotline helps keep him away. I hope you and your doctor can get to the bottom of this, whatever is causing it. It is not normal and should be investigated.

  3. I can't remember if I've shared this story with you before or not, but my dad once fell asleep at the wheel and ended up in a horrible wreck. I'm glad that you were kept safe!!!!!

    I know Russell and Amanda! GREAT people. That's good that they were able to help you get back home safely!

  4. What a terrifying story! I was scared for you as I was reading it! What a miracle that you were protected. I have been with my friends in accidents before where no other cars were involved and you definitely feel the Lord's hand in situations like that. I am so grateful that you and Danny were kept safe. Thank goodness Jill stayed home. You can always call me too! What a bummer Christmas expense to fix your van- but totally worth when you think of what the accident could have cost...

  5. So very glad you're ok! I'm sorry you had to go through that. I'm proud of you for recognizing all the Lord's little tender mercies protecting you and Danny. He truly was watching out for you!

  6. I still feel awful that I didn't answer the phone. I hate that thought "If only I had..." I'm so sorry, Meems, and so glad you are safe!

  7. Oh, Ames. Don't you dare feel guilty. The only real "If only I had" was if I had been smart enough to pay attention to how tired I was and had pulled over or not left that morning in the first place.

    Today, Jill, Daniel, Grandpa, and I were playing downstairs. I fell asleep sitting there watching them. When I woke up, Daniel was half way up the stairs, but luckily Grandpa had noticed.


  8. So glad you are ok. I sure hope this doesn't happen a fourth time!!

  9. Mimi, I am so relieved to know that you and your baby are all ok. I can only imagine how very shook up this must have left you. It sounds as though narcolepsy may run in the family. (Sleep apnea is where one stops breathing while sleeping, a very different condition). Have you talked with your doc about this? Also, what did the police say/do?


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