Moving Forward from a Terrible Accident: Four Lessons

Last Sunday, my friend was on her way to her cousin’s wedding in Montreal when a truck rammed into their car. The collision was so bad they had to be airlifted out of the scene. Her brother unfortunately, died. My friend and her parents were able to hold on and are more or less stable at this point, at least physically. Just in this past week, my friend has had three surgeries, and her brother was buried last Wednesday.

It’s been mentally and emotionally quite a bit of a week. It took me a while to gather my thoughts. But at the end of it, I’ve narrowed it down to four main points.

One: Unity and Prayer.

It is extremely beautiful when people come together in unity. This friend of mine is part of what we call our Emunah group, a group of all the alumnae who have ever taken this course by Devorah Stieglitz. The night of the accident, everyone went a little crazy – everyone knew this friend. Everyone said Tehillim (Psalms), gave money for charity, spread the word… Everyone was praying desperately for her to stabilize and be okay. I personally never knew I was capable of praying that hard. And it was the most comforting thing – I genuinely felt like after each Psalm I said, I was helping towards her recovery. I wasn’t sitting around just waiting for news. So next time something of this sort happens for you (G-d forbid), pray. It works, not only for the person you are praying for, but for yourself. It calms you down and reminds you who is in charge, and who is taking care of everything – and that in itself is beautiful.

Two: Learn, don’t Blame.

Everyone could have gotten mad at the truck driver. Arguably it was his “fault.” But truth is, finding the blame isn’t often what’s important. What’s more important is finding solutions and learning from them. This truck driver was overtired and so lost control of his truck, which led to the catastrophe. Personally, I was spurred to learn about the effects of not getting enough sleep (I listened to this interview, for starters), and over the past few days have slowly been adjusting my sleep schedule. (Which leads to point 2.5: your health is important, not only for your health’s sake, but for your safety and those around you.)

Three: Forgiving and thanking more often.

Things can change any moment. Whenever you’re annoyed at someone, think: what if they, or I die later today (G-d forbid)? It will put things in perspective for you, and reconsider what things are really worth getting upset over. Forgive more easily. And on the other end of the spectrum: when someone makes you happy, let them know. Say thank you more often. Things can change at any moment. I was chatting with this friend about the wedding she was going to, went to sleep, and woke up to these news. You never know what will happen the next moment, I can’t stress this enough.

And finally, four: know your definitions.

Meaning: Everyone says they want to be happy, to be fulfilled, to be a good person. But what does that mean for YOU? What point do you have to hit for you to call yourself “happy”? What do you need to do to be “fulfilled”? How do you know when you have crossed that line and have become a “good person,” what signs are you looking for in yourself? The problem is, most people run around not knowing what they are chasing. People complain they are unhappy, but when asked how they define happiness, they have no answer. So take a few minutes for yourself to know exactly what you are working towards. You may or may not find the answers, but it’s good to sit and figure these out, and the more specific you are the better. That way, you can purposely act in such a way to constantly build towards that point. Any day is great for this, but with Rosh Hashana coming up next week, now is probably an extra great time.

Why that lesson? Because this incident again reminded me that life is short and anything can happen anytime. So you want to make sure each moment is worth it, that you’re actively building towards something. I’m still working out my definitions myself. But what I do have is something of a “life quote,” just something I try to live by every day. And that is from the recently canonized Mother Teresa that goes: “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of G-d’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” At the end of the day, in my opinion, it’s all about the love you were able to make others feel. That is my personal definition of a great person: someone who can connect with others and empower them and let them feel their own importance in this world.

What’s your own definition of greatness, happiness, fulfillment, and success?

This entry is dedicated for the refuah of Chava bat Chana, Chana bat Messody, Meir Nissim ben Simy, and for the aliya of the neshama of Moshe Yanik Machluf Chanania ben Meir Nissim. If you would want me to dedicate my next entry to someone you know in their memory or for their refuah, feel free to leave a comment below, or email me at berimbaugirl@yahoo.com.

P.S. Here is a news article on the accident my friend  and her family were unfortunately part of.

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