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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Father (as in paternal parent, not God) (04/10/08)

TITLE: Driver Error
By Sheri Gordon


“That was the coroner’s office…”

I held my breath waiting for my uncle to finish his sentence. The extended pause was an obvious indication that something was wrong. But how more ‘wrong’ could it be?

“Your dad’s autopsy showed no signs of a heart attack. The cause of the accident is being labeled ‘driver error.’”

What?! No. That information had to be incorrect. My dad is, or rather was, the best driver I knew. He was my driver’s ed teacher—he didn’t make driving mistakes.

The preliminary accident report indicated that “the driver” was most likely momentarily distracted. The investigator theorized that my dad may have been changing the radio station or reaching for something.

No way. My dad never listened to the radio while driving—except baseball games. True, this was baseball season, but there would have been no reason for him to be changing the station. Besides, it was always Mom’s responsibility to manage the radio dial.

And Dad would never be reaching for anything while driving, either. He was a two-hands-on-the-steering-wheel driver. He practiced what he had taught thousands of students in driver’s ed.

Yet…the accident was deemed his fault. According to the investigator’s report, Dad hit the berm on the opposite side of the road and over-adjusted, resulting in a head-on collision with a motor home. Because the accident had occurred 1500 miles away, none of us had actually seen the site. Therefore, we had to rely solely on information we received from the Canadian police. What we were being told, however, made absolutely no sense.

The first driving lesson Dad gave to every one of his students, and especially to each of his daughters, was this; if you end up on the shoulder on the opposite side of the road, DO NOT turn back into oncoming traffic—stop and stay put. He explained that the natural reaction of any driver coming toward us would be to swerve left—away from us. Therefore, if we tried to get back to the correct side of the road, we would actually be steering directly into oncoming vehicles.

So I could not believe the investigator’s conclusion that Dad had overcorrected the steering. Maybe that’s what most drivers would do, but not my dad.

The only viable explanation was that something had hindered Dad physically…most probably a heart attack. That made sense. In that scenario, Dad likely would not have been able to control the vehicle, and the berm may have thrown the car back into oncoming traffic.

Except…the coroner said there was no evidence of a heart attack. No evidence of any physical impediment whatsoever.

“Are you okay? She’s pale…I think she’s in shock.” I knew my aunt was talking, but I couldn’t immediately respond. I sat transfixed as the reality of the situation slowly escaped my lips.

“It was his fault. My dad killed my mom.”

My sisters vehemently tried to defend Dad—understandably not willing to face the truth.

“No he didn’t. It was an accident.”

“He didn’t do anything on purpose. It just happened.”

Through numb pain, I tried to make them grasp the horrendous truth.

“Did you hear what the coroner said? No excuses. Dad killed Mom. He killed them both. He screwed up.”

From the moment our family learned about the accident, we were all convinced that the autopsy would reveal a heart attack. In fact, that was our somber mantra: “Mom and Dad were in a head-on collision while on vacation. Dad probably had a heart attack. The accident was his fault. They both died.”

But it was a lie. The truth was, Dad was to blame for our parents being killed. How could I live with that knowledge? How could I forgive him for taking them both away from me?

For years I harbored grievous anger and shameful resentment toward Dad. I loved him so much it ached, and missed him more than known words could adequately describe. But I was angry. What had he done wrong? Why hadn’t he been paying more attention to the road? Why? Why? Why?

Every day I picked up the last picture I have of my parents and asked the questions I knew could never be answered. “What happened, Dad? Why did you turn back into traffic? What went wrong?”

Daily, the ensuing silence suffocated me.

Until today.

Today, I received the answer.

My grace is sufficient for you.

2 Corinthians 12:9

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This article has been read 948 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Leigh MacKelvey04/17/08
So well written and meaningful!
I loved the opening and the closing matched it! Very, very nice job.
Lynda Schultz 04/17/08
There comes a moment to let go of the "why?" and reach for the "what." What's always there to meet every situation? God's grace. Well crafted story.
Debbie Wistrom04/17/08
Well done. Enjoyed your slant on the topic. We all need grace, don't we.
Jan Ackerson 04/17/08
Oh wow--the ending took my breath away. Just...wow. What marvelous grace!
Laury Hubrich 04/20/08
How sad. Makes me wonder why autopsy results have to be told. They are very hurtful sometimes. Very nice writing.
Shirley McClay 04/21/08
So tragic. Very unsettling story until the last three lines. What power His Word holds.
Chely Roach04/21/08
Incredible ending to a melancholy story...loved it.
Celeste Duckworth04/21/08
You know my own mother left this earth tragically and I had to leave the why in God's hands, too. But in reading your story I still was wanting a different outcome 17 years later. Your ending was right on. I'm ever grateful God is constant.
Sharlyn Guthrie04/21/08
Very well-written account of the accident and excellent internal dialogue. It ended a bit abruptly for me, but your conlusion is right on.
Joanne Sher 04/22/08
Praying, Sheri. :)

The ending is incredible - and you put me right in your mind during this whole thing. The voice was just right too. Well done.
Loren T. Lowery04/22/08
This was so powerful that it is almost overwhelming with grief and the guilt felt by the children for their honest feelings and questions...but your ending could not be more perfect. Indeed, His grace is sufficient. Amen.
Dee Yoder 04/22/08
Sheri, I'm sitting here trying to put myself in the MC's shoes-no way to do that-but I want you to know how sad this made me feel, and that I went through a similar kind of grieving; time heals some wounds, but not all of them. What ifs can be so hard to ignore, but His grace IS sufficient. And that's all that can be said. Wonderful writing.
Clyde Blakely04/23/08
Thank you for sharing your inner thoughts and hurts. Well written and powerful. I do want to comment from a medical stand point though. Yesterday I was driving home with my wife and asked her, "what if I had a stroke and suddenly the car veered to the left, across the road." She reached over to grab the steering wheel and would instinctively pull the car quickly back into the right lane. A hemorrhagic stroke can cause an immediate lose of consciousness causing the above.

No one knows exactly what happened. Dwelling on the "what if's" doesn't work.

You are absolutely correct in His grace being sufficient. God bless with His comfort.
LauraLee Shaw04/23/08
As usual, you moved my heart in all the right ways. But this:

Daily, the ensuing silence suffocated me.

Until today.

Today, I received the answer.

My grace is sufficient for you.

I just cannot put into words how much this ending touched me.
Sharon Henderson04/23/08
How wrong is it for me to say "I loved this"? Is it okay to say that about such a sad, tragic story? Wonderful job in telling this.
Sara Harricharan 04/23/08
Wow. Amazing stuff. There's a lot going on, very powerful.
Peter Stone04/24/08
Perfect conclusion to one of life's many questions that cannot be answered. God's grace really is all we need, He really does hold everything in His hands. This is something I have come to learn during 'questioning' times too.
Betsy Markman04/24/08
A very moving story. You did a great job of expressing the pain and frustration of unanswered questions and of loss. I'm glad you found His grace to be sufficient.
Mariane Holbrook 05/06/08
This is so good I wouldn't even know where to begin to toss the accolades. I kept thinking "Wow", "my goodness"
"oh, dear, no." You touched me deeply with this! I kid you not.