the accident that ended my life

December 27th, 2021

Not long ago my husband and I watched the season finale of a British detective show. The chief detective is driving home from work late at night. She is exhausted, and on top of that, distracted about a disagreement she’s had with her aging father. As she is driving, she picks up her phone and calls him for the umpteenth time, but he is not answering her calls. She leaves a voicemail apologizing for the anguish she has caused.

Then she hangs up, runs a red light, gets hit and dies.

I turned to my husband and said, “That happened to me once.”

It was in the old days, in my old life, when I was driving back from a client meeting that had gone on way too long. I can’t remember what the meeting was about, but it was irritating. This was a good client, and by that I mean a big-name, well-paying client, but I had begun to see the lies and larceny in everything they did. It’s a sickening feeling to realize that you’ve devoted a good part of your life to a truly dastardly cause — your own greed.

This was before mobile phones, or at least what we think of as phones now. So when I was stopped at a red light, I picked up my “car phone,” a contraption the size of a shoebox and as heavy as a barbell, and called my office to say I was twenty minutes away from the appointment that I was already thirty minutes late for. I would never catch up. But then again, that was how I felt every day: behind.

I hung up the phone, and then, out of an unconscious impulse, pushed the accelerator, ripped through the red light, and plowed straight into an oncoming van.

No one died, no, not really. My BMW was totaled, and the beat-up van I hit was probably never driven again. Three guys got out and waved their arms at me as I sat numbly behind the wheel of the wreckage. They looked like they might be housepainters, construction workers, or odd-jobbers, like the van was uninsured, and that I’d just destroyed their everything. I probably did.

The police came, then a tow truck, and someone drove me home. The insurance company did its job, but things were never quite put back together again.

After that, my first marriage ended and I left my home with just the things I needed. I quit my job, went back and then quit it for good. I never again drove a BMW. I drove a Camry, then a Corolla. I was done with cars as status or accessory. I still don’t have a phone like the ones everyone else has. It must seem pretty silly. People keep telling me I can’t live without one. But you can live without a lot of things. I lost my reckless ambition in the accident, or at least my momentum. Someone died, and someone else came alive.

People sometimes ask me how I made such a big change all those years ago. But I didn’t make a change. I made a mistake, a terrible mistake, and it changed everything.

Offered in the spirit of fresh starts, second chances and, please Lord, better days.

Photo by mohsen ameri on Unsplash




  1. My change has/was not that dramatic. More like a slow-motion roll with the loss of nearly all that I “cherished” and pursued. I initially freaked but then I didn’t. It no longer mattered. I found myself questioning everything I’m my life to include why I cherished or loved or sought anything, material or relational. I slowly emptied myself, letting go of things. And that emptying is not done. It continues. Sitting has made the difference.

    Comment by Phil Odom — December 27, 2021 @ 3:12 pm

  2. You are right, Phil. Sitting makes the difference. In gassho, Maezen

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — December 29, 2021 @ 7:32 am

  3. Thank you again Karen for an insightful, disturbing, yet uplifting post.

    Comment by Tom — December 27, 2021 @ 5:31 pm

  4. Out it comes. Your story. A little bit at a time. Course correction.

    Comment by Larry — December 28, 2021 @ 8:15 am

  5. I’ve made a couple mistakes in my life and I’m likely not done. For sure I’m not.

    Comment by Bonnie Rae — December 28, 2021 @ 8:36 am

  6. My life is one continuous mistake. That’s how I keep going.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — December 29, 2021 @ 7:33 am

  7. Clean, light, valuable – typical Karen Maezen Miller

    Comment by Bill — December 28, 2021 @ 1:53 pm

  8. I lost what I cherished and valued in the way that Emma Thompson described her divorce from Kenneth Branagh, until I had no fingers or hands left to grasp with, they were ripped (metaphorically speaking) from my body.
    I’ve started to paint in the new academic year, it was an eye opener. I try to sit with it and let it be it’s own thing but by God it is difficult.
    Sometimes when I finish I am high from the experience, you just want to jump back in for another hit. Amazing.

    Comment by Simone — December 29, 2021 @ 5:10 am

  9. Powerful story. It sounded as though this was the first time you’d spoken of it to your husband. And yes, the often remarkable series, Unforgotten.

    Comment by Steve Gilzow — December 30, 2021 @ 3:27 pm

  10. Your mistakes are a gift to us. Happy New Year Maezen.

    Comment by Tina — December 31, 2021 @ 8:44 am

  11. Do you take all the pictures in your blogs, some of them, none of them?

    Comment by Larry — January 2, 2022 @ 1:03 pm

  12. Very few. I use the site Unsplash to find free photos and I credit the photographer on the bottom of the post.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — January 14, 2022 @ 6:36 pm

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