My Son Is Alive


This past Saturday I was in a car crash that justifies the oft-used phrase “severe”. I fractured my spine, my hips, my ribs, my right leg, and required surgery to keep a small part of my spleen in the game.

The young woman with me was hurt much worse than I was though she is conscious and communicating now. The older couple that hit me in the passenger door had some rib and sternum issues; it’s my understanding they are out of the hospital now.

But my son was spared. Not a scratch on him.

He came to see me in the hospital today and he was brave about it, the way he was brave at the crash site and in the ambulance. He had drawn an ambulance and cut it out for me. He showed which person in the ambulance was me, and him, and the driver, and the EMS person. Then he offered to share a cookie with me.

There are legitimate and explicable laws-of-physics reasons why John was not killed or even injured on Saturday. But will go to my own grave believing the hand of Christ reached down and preserved him. For a greater destiny. For something. Something, at any rate, greater than the need of his tired old father to have a reason to keep living. But for that, too, I am grateful.

18 Replies to “My Son Is Alive”

  1. CGHill

    We do appreciate the updates. (Caroline told me on Twitter before TTAC went public; I blogged an article from the local fishwrap.)

    As for the Almighty, keep in mind that He, too, knows the laws of physics.

  2. Brian

    I also believe that there is someone up above watching out for our children, too. As the father of a 3-year old son, I echo your sentiments on hoping for a greater purpose for our children. Being a parent is one of the single most important things a person can do in this world, and I pray every day that I am doing it right. Glad to see you are back online communicating with your loyal readers, and hoping the recovery process goes as smoothly as possible.

    God bless,


  3. Lowell

    Learned about the accident from TTAC over the weekend. Very glad to get an update from you, and join you in delight that your son was uninjured. Prayers for continued recovery to all involved.

  4. Captain_Slow

    I also learned about this on TTAC over the weekend, but thought I’d wait to say something here. I’m glad to hear you’re alive and that your son came through it unharmed.

    You’ve got my best wishes for a speedy recovery.


  5. jz78817

    I remember when I was a kid, children’s car seats were little more than lightly padded fiberglass/plastic tubs held in place by the car’s seatbelt.

    haven’t thought much about them since then, since I don’t have kids. But just before Christmas, I was riding in a co-worker’s car to a dept. lunch and when I saw her daughter’s car seat, I mentioned how much it resembled the seat of a NASCAR stock car. heavily padded and bolstered, anchored at several points, and had its own five-point harness.

    Now I know why.

  6. mike

    Replaced my 4 1/2 year old son’s car seat last month with the best 5 point harness side impact protection seat i could find (damn things never go on sale). When people ask why I don’t just get a $50 booster seat, i always think of something like this happening. Saving $400 doesn’t come close to offsetting the anguish i’d feel if my little guy got injured any worse than band-aid level and i could have prevented it. I know you’ll be reliving this event in your mind for years to come, and second guessing your actions and choices. I’m glad you won’t have to worry about your son’s recovery as part of that.

  7. Mark in Maine

    A very humbling piece of writing, Jack. I learned of this, like most everyone, over at TTAC. I followed the links and saw the pictures of the crash. I am glad that you and your passenger are improving daily, and that the Cantrells will recover soon – but the fact that your Son made it through the accident with out a scratch is miraculous. The title of your most recent post here says all there is to say.

  8. Domestic Hearse

    Grace spared you, too, Jack.

    Sometimes, God gives us what we need, not what we want.

    In that regard, I have a good friend, cycling buddy, theological writer, who claims “There are no accidents.”

    Having debated this existential theory with him on many occasions, I tend to concur (this is a guy who lost his wife and mother in the span of one year, so it’s not like he hasn’t given this a good deal of thought). In some cases, it’s subconscious sabotage. In others, a seemingly random series of events which ends in tears. But almost always, there’s a narrative arc – beyond our comprehension at the time – which leads to what we call an “accident.”

    As humans, we always tend to ascribe meaning to things. To make rational the irrational or inconceivable. But for those of us who have faith in a God who treasures us, who works in unknown and unseen ways, we know there’s purpose – His will – even in our suffering. And ultimately, our death.

    The events of Saturday last broke you. Stopped you for now. And will slow you down in the months to come. Perhaps, that’s God’s plan. A period of reflection without the distraction of deadlines and races and instruction and projects of all sorts. A time to be still. A time to write. A time to appreciate fully your life and the people in it.

    There will be mental, physical and spiritual anguish for you in the months to come; I’m not going to pretend to tell you otherwise. Having had several severe “accidents” myself, along with a debilitating congenital brain condition, I can admit to moments of hopelessness and helplessness. And this is where grace and faith come full circle. We walk through these new doors broken and confused, and are met with new opportunities and people we otherwise would not have met. Come to realizations we’d have not made otherwise.

    I join you in giving praise that your son was unharmed. And together with you and fellow readers, offer prayers to those like you who were injured.

    Now log off, and enter the world of surreal, morphine-induced dreams. Keep a notepad handy. Perhaps the silver lining – and God’s will – is already being delivered to you via the drip-drip-drip from the bag attached to your arm.

  9. Acd

    Absolutely amazing, especially after seeing the pictures of the Lincoln. Just know that there are many of us who you’ve touched with your writing over the years who are praying for a speedy recovery for all.

  10. Ronnie Schreiber


    I don’t know why John was uninjured, but in the past month my grandson has outgrown the car seat my son had loaned me for when I weekly babysit Aryeh. After seeing how your son came through a wreck unharmed that badly injured adults using seat belts and protected by air bags, I went out and got the same model Safety 1st OnSide Air child car seat that John was belted into.

    It’s quite possible that your choice of that particular brand of seat was a factor in John’s coming through the accident unscathed. According to the company, they’re specifically designed for improved protection from side impacts, and it looks like you took a direct hit from the side.

    I was talking with my ex about car seats and she reminded me of how when we took our eldest, Sarah, home from St. Joe’s in Ypsi in 1979, they would’t put the baby in the GM Love Seat we’d gotten. They would have been fine handing the baby to be carried home in mom’s arms. Today, hospitals won’t discharge babies if the parents don’t have approved car seats.

    Peter Himmelman said that most of the time he’s pretty stupid, like most people, but now and then for just a few seconds, his eyes are open and he gets really smart. One time was at his father’s funeral, others were the birth of his kids. I once fell about 30 feet down a steep hillside with my daughter Tova, then 10 years old. When you’re smashed up and bleeding and the only thing you care about is how the kid is and thank God she’s crying, you quickly learn how unimportant most of what we do is.

    • jz78817

      I can’t remember where I read it, but I recall something that said the human body is particularly vulnerable to injury from lateral acceleration/shock even without a direct impact to the body. Particularly because the spine will be forced to bend in ways it’s not meant to, which also heightens the risk of internal injuries. with a fore-aft acceleration, you mostly have to worry about your neck.

      all that side bolstering in modern child seats (and many race seats) is there for great reason, and thankfully it does its job.

  11. WiredChuck

    I cannot express how grateful I am that John was spared any injuries, and to see you are well enough to write, however briefly. Godspeed to you, to her, and to John. Let me know if you need anything at all. Anything.

  12. Sean7

    Just heard about this from our mutual acquaintance, the photographer. Great to read that your son is okay, but really sorry to learn of the injuries to you and your friend. You both seemed like good people when I met you at Sonoma. And thanks again for your candor and advice regarding my car. Get well soon, please.


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