In June 2011, I received a phone call that you never want to get. As I was busy finishing the frantic "last minute before company arrives" cleaning of my house, the phone rang and it was my mom. She said, "We've been in a horrible accident." They were driving across the desert to come and visit us and my mom had fallen asleep at the wheel while my dad was already napping in the passenger seat. She said they both seemed to be okay but that the emergency vehicles were coming.
My heart sank and I sent my husband off on the 2+ hour drive to get them. I was so shaken that I feared I would cause another accident so I stayed home with the kids, planning to meet the at the hospital.
The car had been on cruise control and my sleepy mom drove from the slow lane across the lanes of traffic and sped right into the median area. Luckily the median was wide and they didn't cross into oncoming traffic. They rolled their car and landed upside down in the middle of the freeway. My dad was able get out of his seatbelt and crawl out through the trunk which had been blown open. My mom was hanging there, upside down, until a good samaritan came and helped pry the door open with tools.
I met them at the hospital, insisting that they get medical care. They went through all sorts of tests and x-rays and were told how lucky they were to be alive and relatively unharmed. While we were waiting for hours and hours at the hospital, the discussion kept turning to questions such as "Why did this have to happen?", "What could we have done to prevent it?" There were complaints from my tired parents about the long and slow hospital process. They were upset that I had to be up all night at the hospital with them and that we were all losing sleep.
Finally I said, "IT IS WHAT IT IS." There was no use second-guessing what we could have done differently. There was no use complaining that the care we were getting was not quick enough at the busy hospital. There was no use worrying about what tomorrow would bring. We were all in the situation we were in and we just needed to deal with it the best we could in the best way we knew how.
I've thought a lot about that situation with gratitude in my heart that my parents were spared. It made me think about all the challenges and tragedies that life gives us. When they come our way, there is no point in dwelling in self-pity, anger, fear or despair. IT IS WHAT IT IS and the only thing we can do is choose how we react and move forward in faith.
It seems that the summer of 2011 was unusually full of unspeakable hardships. I have friends who lost their dear children in accidents that summer. I have friends who were battling cancer while worrying about their young children. I have many friends who were having huge marital challenges and dealing with the pain of addictions. I have friends who were losing their homes and battling unemployment. I have friends who were dealing with major problems with their teenage children. And there are many other challenges that I haven't mentioned. I have asked myself why the trials seem to be coming at a more frequent and frenetic pace. I feel it is because we are in the last days.
Earth life is full of hard experiences. That's just a fact. If we didn't have trials, we wouldn't grow and our lives would be stagnant and pointless. While I certainly don't welcome challenges, I realize (usually in hindsight) how much they have helped me become a better person.
How can we understand the Atonement if we never feel the need to apply it in our lives?
PS - Even though this happened almost 2 years ago, my attitude is still changed and I will never take my time with my parents for granted. My parents are doing great and amazingly have no lasting effects from the accident. Every time we go visit my parents and siblings, we make the fairly desolate drive from central Arizona to Southern California and pass their accident spot on Highway 10. It happened about 30 minutes east of Quartzite, AZ. I always say a silent prayer of gratitude that I still have my parents with me and that when they ran off the road, they landed on a relatively flat spot in the median, not a spot with big ravines or other obstacles. I am grateful that I didn't lose both my parents from one split second mistake. Someday it will be their time to go but in the meantime I will treasure every moment I have with them. And I have had plenty of "IT IS WHAT IT IS" moments in my own life since then and will continue to have more like we all do in our path to perfection.