One Year Ago Today…

Has it been a year?

Esther Mulaney

Esther Mulaney

Mom’s birthday for several years now has been a combination sad, reflective day. I miss her. Last year, I was struggling through some ‘life’ stuff that I probably should have just let go, but it didn’t feel right to let it go. It seemed appropriate to be concerned, pray about it, and hold onto the struggle, while I worked through it.

The day started off rather interesting, me taking a load of my belongings to my ‘new home’ and settling in a bit. I unloaded at the house, put some things away, and other things I chose to take to a storage shed I’d rented a few weeks earlier. Unloading at the storage shed seemed overly taxing, and by the time I was done unloading I felt exhausted. But I still had work to do.

I stopped by Kenton’s store to grab some supplies, pens, paper, the usual working girl necessities, and then ran off to meet a client, still feeling exhausted. I needed to take a nap, but it was noon, the client was meeting me for lunch, and I was hungry, so off I went. We met at one of my favorite places, and had a quick and uneventful lunch, me answering questions, and getting paid, then… I walked to the truck.

Out of breath, I answered a call from another client who was running late and asked if I could meet him in Estes Park. 30 minutes drive away from me… I took a deep breath and agreed to drive up the valley to meet him, thinking what a relief it would be to drive through the mountains. I wanted that experience. I wanted to see the trees, see the mountains, hear the rushing water of Big Thompson River, and enjoy a day of mountain time. I needed to grasp God, and feel his presence again. For some crazy reason, through the struggles I’d been dealing with, He had felt absent. I needed Him.

I pulled through the drive through at the bank, deposited the check I’d just received and drove up the mountain.

Jack was already waiting at the coffee shop in Estes, and there was a parking space right in front of the shop. As if it was meant for me, I pulled in. Stepping out of the truck took a moment. I felt as if my lungs were exploding, and I couldn’t get enough air. I blamed it on the sudden altitude change and made my way slowly, breathing deeply as possible toward the door. Jack had already ordered my coffee and a snack, and waited at the table near the door, so I didn’t have to walk far. I sank into the chair and he commented on my pale complexion. I smiled and said, “I think I need a day off.”

He laughed. We’d had that discussion often, both of us spent too many days working, not enough days enjoying life. I thanked him for the excuse to drive up the mountain, and for the coffee, thinking it would be just the thing to kick my energy levels up a bit, and make me feel better.

By the time I left, he’d noticed the color was returning, and I definitely felt better. I almost felt human.

The walk back to my truck seemed to drag every drop of energy from me, but seated behind the wheel, I felt fine. At the very least capable of driving away from the coffee shop, although I had plans to stop for a nap on one of the pullouts, on the river. I had earned a nap. I’d earned a few moments to enjoy the river sounds washing over boulders and moving toward wherever it is the river travels. I wanted that sound. I craved that experience.

Peace. I wanted to feel peace. I really wanted to feel God.

Driving through the valley, I realized that my feet hurt horribly, and I really wanted to soak them in the cold water, wash them in the river. So, I started looking for a place to pull over and stop. I found it. The perfect place. A small family in a red SUV had pulled off, and they walked down the rocky trail to the river. I actually stopped, got out of my truck and walked around the truck, holding onto the side of it. I felt good, but out of breath and a little wobbly, so I decided that walking over rough terrain to the river wouldn’t be a good idea. As the couple came back to their SUV, the man asked if I needed help. I said, no. Then I told him I had planned to go down to the river, but decided against it. I saw him exchange a look with his wife, and he said, “We’ll stay for a bit and walk down with you if you’d like.”

Suddenly, I didn’t feel like I could do it at all. I just needed to breathe. I just needed to BREATHE. 

I shook my head and climbed back into my truck, started the engine and pulled out onto the road. The curves of the Big Thompson can be daunting if you don’t like mountain driving. I love it. I enjoyed the drive down, feeling my breathing patterns ease as the altitude changed. By the time I got back to town, I was feeling better, and decided to take some time to get some work completed. I stopped at a fast food place and worked most of the next three hours, before I decided it was time to grab a sandwich and head back to the house.

The rain started before I decided what I wanted to eat, a pouring, drenching, washing rain that would fill up the lower valley before I could get home. I stopped to order a roast beef sandwich at Arby’s and took a couple of bites, leaving the fries in the bag. I returned the wrapped sandwich to the bag before I pulled out of the drive. The wipers cleared away the rain, but not fast enough. Visibility was ZERO.

I drove slowly out of town, stopped on the road out, to look down the river, already running bank to bank. At the development, I turned right onto another paved road and followed it around the circle to the house at the back, where the drive dipped, over a culvert, and then rose to the garage door on the other side. Water was totally over the road and most of what should have been a visible drive was filled with rushing water. I couldn’t SEE the road beneath, so I stopped. I clicked the switch to open the garage door, and it opened, the light came on, and I could see the rushing water lapping within a few feet of the garage floor.

With the garage door open and the light on, I realized there was a large piece of equipment half sunk in the side yard and partially covered with the water rushing around it. The yellow form of it implied that it was most likely the backhoe that had been ordered to repair the septic tank earlier in the day.

I didn’t pull into the drive way. I didn’t trust it. I drove the circle and back onto the highway headed for town. With the rain washing as fast as it was coming down, I expected flooding. I half expected the bridge to wash. It was still standing and appeared secure when I arrived there, so I crossed it, judiciously looking at the river flowing higher and higher under it.

I am not a fan of water.

I know, everyone needs water to live, but fast moving water isn’t my thing. I prefer not to wash down river. I drove back into town thinking seriously about renting a motel, then I remembered that I still had the key to my son’s apartment, and he was gone for the weekend. I started in that direction, slowly. Rain sheeting down kept me moving at a slow pace. I don’t remember at what point I realized it was nearly 8 PM, but I do remember looking at the clock and thinking how totally exhausted I felt. I didn’t want to drive in the rain, and there was a lovely parking lot where I could get off the highway and watch the lightning storm as the rain continued. I pulled off the road.

I nibbled at my sandwich and watched the storm.

When the air grew cool, I remember pulling a sweater over me and relaxing into the reclined seat to watch the lightning and listen to the thunder…

Then, the rain stopped. The lightning had moved off to the east out of view, and there was no thunder rolling.

The smell of the sandwich in my truck was turning my tummy. I had to get it out of there. I needed fresh air. I opened the door of the truck, and there was a dumpster visible, about three spaces from my truck. I gathered up the trash from my front seat and walked across to the dumpster. By the time I got there, I lifted the lid, gasping for air, tossing my garbage in, and allowing the lid to fall. I stood there, leaning against it, gasping.

Thinking, I can make it back to the truck if I walk and breathe. I have to make it back to the truck. Nobody knows I’m here.

At the truck, I dialed my son’s phone. No answer. I dialed the other son, no answer. I was too far from either of my daughters. I looked around trying to figure out where I was… I didn’t know. I needed to pull out onto the highway to find a cross roads, I recognized the main road, and looked to see how far it would be to a hospital on my phone. Nothing pulled up, so I dialed 911 to get the address.

My breathing was labored, but I was talking to the lady on the emergency line, she kept telling me to pull over, and I said, “No, I have to get to the hospital.” She said pull over, and I repeated my dilemma. Finally, I said, “Okay, I’m pulling into a parking lot.” She said, “Okay,” and we stayed on the line.

In the parking lot, I opened the door of the truck, intending to stand up so I could wave to whoever arrived to pick me up, but they were there. They had followed me into the parking lot. Two EMT’s ran to my side, and two more brought a stretcher. I grabbed my purse, my keys, my phone, and my charger (I have to have these things!) and insisted on locking my own door as I seat myself on the stretcher. The EMT’s began their work, fastening straps, taking blood pressure, etc. All while moving me to the ambulance a few feet away. In the ambulance, one fireman repeatedly asked if I had chest pains, front or back, etc. I told him I felt pressure, but no pain. I remember distinctly that there was no pain, only pressure. And I had trouble breathing lying on the stretcher. They elevated me so I could breathe easier, and kept working.

I texted my sons, and then as we arrived at the hospital, I texted my daughter. Call me.

In the hospital, they gave me a blue pill to hold under my tongue, and breathing came easier. They ran tests, and the Doctor reminded me that I was in good hands. I kept telling him I had to call my son. Finally, my son called me, and asked what was wrong. I told him I was at the hospital, and he said he was on his way. He arrived and I could stop worrying…

I remember him coming through the door, saying, “Mom, you’re going to be fine, we got this.” His assurance was what I needed at that moment. And sometimes even now.

Within a few hours, three of my four kids were there, and the other one had been called. I had blood clots filling my lungs, and the Doctors were working to stabilize me. But I would survive.

I remember one thing from the hours in the hospital that haunts me to this day, “You only had a little bit of air space left… You were critical. But you made it.”

I’m a survivor.

Those words echoed through my brain for days, as I attempted to catch up with work that needed to be done. I tried to get it all done, and I managed to get most of it done. Most of it was completed, and I achieved my goal of meeting deadlines that had been preset.

Today I know that being in that parking lot, in the middle of the night, where I had to call for help, and couldn’t possibly have just gone back to bed – when I couldn’t breathe – was a God thing. God put me where I would be most likely to SURVIVE the crash.

It’s been a year, and I’m in a better place. Life here is good. There are solutions I never knew were available, and I’m a survivor. I can overcome anything, with God at my side.

If you’re struggling. If you don’t know how you’ll make it through. Look up. Seek God. Find the solution you need in Him. I did. He’s amazing. He gets the glory for my survival. And I am here, serving at His pleasure. Thank you God.

coffee talk



One Year Ago Today… — 5 Comments

  1. Wow. I am exhausted and joyous after reading this; exhausted for your exhaustion…joyous that you were helped and are okay now.

    And you ARE a survivor Jan; never forget that.

    And, you are Loved.

    • Thank you! It was an exhausting memory. I still struggle with the emotion of that night. And the gratitude… I still have to write the story of the firefighter, EMT who I met that night! Soon.

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