We were ready. Car packed, sweaters pulled tight, a cooler tucked in the back seat. Prime viewing windows claimed, playlists curated, sleepy eyes adjusting to the lack of morning light. We planned to chase the fog a thousand kilometers from West to East, from the Pacific to the Kootenays and arrive by early evening to a cabin in the mountains filled with family and old memories.
Sixteen hours and eleven hundred kilometers later, we returned home, defeated.
Up until the early afternoon, we were making good time. We stopped only for gas and drove through rain and snow, through mountains and valleys. The weather was rough at times, leading to squeezed hands and tight breaths as we drove on highways with no visibility and passed cars stranded in ditches but we carried on, anxious and excited to arrive. I was nodding off to Johnny Cash, head leaned up against the window, when I heard my dad and sister comment on how it had been several minutes since they had seen any Westbound traffic.
Minutes later, we ground to a halt. We kept the car running, my dad’s foot on the brake, but soon put her in park after five minutes had passed and cars began to queue behind us. Soon it became apparent that there must be an accident, and a quick twitter search revealed that the only highway in our area of BC had been closed - a terrible accident had occurred. No further updates would be posted for another ninety minutes, so we had no choice but to sit tight just three hours from our family.
Big Christmas snowflakes were falling all around, covering the evergreens with a thick blanket. With nothing else to do but make the most of the moment, my sisters, my love and I got out of the car and walked down the middle of the Trans Canada Highway. We were in a pretty remote area, about thirty minutes away on either side from even a gas station, so everything was untouched. However, the increasing number of sirens and the number of minutes passing began to cast a somber shadow across the whole experience.
Finally we received an update. The highway would not reopen for at least another nine hours. We had no choice but to turn around and start thinking about whether we would stay overnight and finish the drive the next day (which would leave us with only a day and a half to spend with family) or turn around completely. After driving Westward for forty-five minutes and realizing that all the hotels were completely booked with other stranded travelers, we realized that our only real option was to head back the way we came for another eight hours and sleep in the same beds we made that morning while our family reunited without us.
We were crushed. Phone calls were made and plans were debated, but there really was no other option. We would be traveling for 16 hours only to end up back where we started.
We spend the first hour in silence and passed another two semi-trucks in ditches while on the road. Blinding winds and snow and fog caused us to hold our breath again, even more so as details of the accident were released. A semi truck collided with a passenger vehicle and two people lost their lives.
We didn’t make it to our family, but at least we left knowing we could try again next year. Two people didn’t make it home, and never will.
If only, we kept saying. If only my sister didn’t delay us by looking for that book. If only dad didn’t set off the alarm. If only we left ten minutes earlier. At first our if onlys were said with the intention that we would have skipped the delay, but soon after realizing that the crash occurred just ten minutes before we got near the site of the crash we realized perhaps it was the little annoyances that saved our lives.
2014 was a year where I constantly thought “if only.” If only I joined that club. If only I took that class. If only I didn’t choose not to job search right away. If only I didn’t take that risk. If only I said goodbye.
some photos by the lovely juniperanne
Usually my “if onlys” were negative, causing me to think of the good things that didn’t happen. However, maybe I’ve been looking at it the wrong way. Maybe things are happening the way they should, and I just can’t see that yet. Maybe things aren’t happening according to plan because the plans I’ve made for myself ultimately wouldn’t’ve satisfied me anyways.
I’ll never know how things may have been different in 2014, just as I’ll never know if we could have been taken that day had we not been delayed. But perhaps it’s the approach and attitude that matters, not the potential results. Perhaps it’s how we see how we could be benefitted when things go wrong rather than how we dwell on the things we may or may not have lost.
May 2015 be a year of new opportunities, joy among hardship, and peace that surpasses understanding for you all.