The Last Photographs Of My Life … Not Yet

Wales 2013

Multi-Car Accident on A40 in Slebech, Wales ( I took this from inside the ambulance. The blue van in the middle of the road is the one that hit us. She also hit the car to the left, near the sign.)

Four days ago my husband John and I were hit by a woman in a van. It was 2:20 in the afternoon on a Friday in Wales.

The driver was drunk … almost twice the legal limit.

She drove head-on into our lane and only John’s quick reactions saved us from something that could have been very ugly. I don’t know why she made the decision to drink and drive or why she felt it necessary to try to pass a delivery truck on a crowded two-lane road after having had the equivalent of four pints of beer, but she did.

None of the cars were moving slowly although 40 to 45 miles an hour may sound slow to those used to higher speeds on major roads. I imagine the drunk driver was also accelerating when she pulled out from behind the large truck that witnesses said she’d been trying to overtake for a while before reaching us. They said it almost looked as if she had someone else in the car jerking the wheel back several times before she drove into our lane.

I looked up from a book I was reading when I felt John shift suddenly and saw the van coming at us, his quick response moved us to the edge of the road or what they call ‘the verge’ here. She hit the side mirror before striking the back side car near the tire which caused our car to go into a spin. We left the road temporarily while spinning … moving through the grass and mud before going back into the road and coming to rest across both lanes.

Wales 2013

We were traveling in the opposite direction of how the car is facing in this photo.

Wales 2013

The blue van in the middle of the road in the distance is the one that caused the accident. She also hit the car near the sign to left in the photo. You can see the grass we brought with us after spinning through it. The white car was behind us and stopped to help. (That’s our tire jack on the right … it flew out during the spin. We lost a big suspension coil as well)

Knowing there were other cars traveling in both lanes, I expected to feel the impact of more cars even after we stopped moving, but all was still afterwards except for the sound of my own coughing.Β As the dust from four airbags cleared, I knew I was unharmed, but I had to force myself to look at John because I knew his side of the car had taken the hit.

I was afraid to look for fear of what I might see.

Seeing him unharmed except for a bit of blood on his lip was unbelievable given the wild ride we’d just experienced and before we could say more than, ‘Are you alright,’ we heard a man yelling, ‘ Get out of the car, get out of the car!’ It turns out having four airbags going off at once can give an impression of a car filling with smoke and as we jumped out I didn’t know whether the car was on fire or about to be hit by something larger.

Having my camera in my lap at the time of impact proved useful and I snapped a few photos before a mad adrenalin rush and uncontrollable shaking had me sitting in an ambulance being evaluated. I took a few more photos from a sitting position inside the boxy vehicle which is larger than most American ones.

Wales 2013

My window to the world from inside a Welsh ambulance (enlarge to see the Welsh writing on the wall.)

Wales 2013

After hitting us and the delivery truck she was trying to pass, she hit the wall to the right and scraped the road. Somewhere during her out of control ride, she also hit the white car on the left side of the road too.

My title would suggest these were the last photographs I was referring to, but at then end of our day after being released from the hospital and having arrived by taxi at our B&B for the night, I was going over my photos when I came to those I’d shot less than an hour before the crash occurred.

I told John as I flipped through them that had things not gone as they had, someone else might be looking at the last photographs of my life … my final view.

These are some of those images.

Wales 2013

Wales 2013

I don't usually take photos that include the car, but I liked the cloud's reflection in the hood.

I don’t usually take photos that include the car, but I liked the cloud’s reflection in the hood.

My Last Photo ... Not Yet

My Last Photo … Not Yet

The photo above of the rider-less horse … is the very last one I took before the crash occurred. The rider had dismounted just before I took this shot.

Big big thanks for all of the kind thoughts from our Facebook friends. You heard first about our encounter with the drunk driver and your supportive comments were very much appreciated.

60 thoughts on “The Last Photographs Of My Life … Not Yet

  1. Whew! Some harrowing (but informative) photos, the rest beautiful and tranquil. I am so glad you and John are ok (the earlier photos and your story brought tears to my eyes β€” it was such a close call).

    • I felt like crying too, Jennifer. It was so close … the tiny difference between hitting us full head-on versus the side of the car. I couldn’t believe we were safe when the car stopped moving. I can still feel the impact when I think about it. 😦

  2. Well Elizabeth my friend, where would you be right now if John had not jerked the wheel and you were killed? Our great conversations of the past should now come to the forefront and press you to think about your final destination once again. It is only to late to trust Jesus after you die….not everyone is given the gift, that second chance, that you received that afternoon. God places in every persons mind and heart His wish for everyone to be His child, but not everyone listens. You can know with certainty where you will be on that final day. We all sin and deserve that judgement/punishment of God. But God did something so amazing/loving, and sent his own Son here on earth to die on that cross paying in full all of your transgressions, and giving you the gift of eternal life. That is the Gospel. That is the good news that follows bad. I trust Him. Do you?

    • Jules! You would have laughed to see me hooked up and still shooting though the small window in the back. Goes to show you can’t leave me with a camera and expect me not to try to document what’s happening around me. I couldn’t see what was happening behind me, but I think once they put me in the ‘bus’ they went back out to check on the others folks she’d hit.

    • Thanks, Judy … it’s four days post accident and I’m doing exercises to get my neck and upper back back into shape. I’m skipping my spinning classes this week too. John has not been sore at all and the car hit his side. He was wrapped in airbags though with three of the four going off all around him. Glad you like the photos and thanks for commenting.

  3. Powerful, wonderful and poignant words; thanks for sharing and thanks for a post that helps put things in perspective. A fine reminder to grasp everyday for the joy, and possible sorrow it reveals. Thanks, and I am so glad you are both ok.

    • Thanks, Steve for taking time to comment and reminding me about perspective. I had to deal with a difficult woman at work today and coming home to your comment was good for me to see. Thanks for the reminder … it was a gift!

  4. I am very happy you had such a near escape from total disaster. I hope that woman was pulled from the road forever. And the presence of mind to take all those photos! Having something to do can be a way of dealing with the shock, I imagine.

    • It’s funny Viktoria … I didn’t start shaking until I stopped shooting. I guess that’s when it really hit me. Once they put me in the ambulance and I got a chance to shoot more photos, I felt better until they came back. There’s more to that story … it’s kind of funny and I may share it later.

  5. Wow — that sounds terrifying! So glad you’re okay, and thanks for keeping us updated πŸ™‚

    I have to say, though, those photos you shared are so beautiful. If they had been your last, they’re to be proud of πŸ™‚ I especially like the first of them, though the location looks INCREDIBLY familiar. Mind you, I’ve been to Wales quite a few times on holiday, so it’s possible I’ve been there, ehehe πŸ™‚

    • Thanks, Kelly … It was very scary and I get chills still when I think too much on it. I meant to tell you that I loved the huge and amazing painting you just completed. The birds made me think of Cornwall.

  6. Very good news that you are both alright. Today’s car design and use of seat-belts really do make a difference. You must have been holding tight to your camera for it not to fly away.

  7. So sorry to hear of the accident. Listen to your body for the next few days, because “soft-tissue injuries” (aka whiplash) sometimes develop after the fact.
    What kind of penalties does the driver face?

    • Thanks for the advice, Donna … your timing is great by way of explaining this pain in my arm and shoulder. I didn’t have this level of pain in that spot when the accident occurred or even right after, it came on more gradually, so that by day four post accident it was a constant achy hurt, but now, on day six, my left arm and shoulder are killing me and not much use. I can’t tell whether the pain is from the neck or what, but I have sharp waves of pain down my arm, around my collar bone and my shoulder blade. Oww!

  8. Oh I am so glad you are both ok, I had to read the whole thing twice as the exact same thing happened to us four years ago in Cornwall, a drunk driver doing what they seem to do best and wrecking other peoples live`s, he totally wrecked our car and two other`s.
    Sounds like a good piece of driving through what must have seemed like the whole world was falling in on you, well done John and, thank goodness you are both well.

  9. Hey Liz… the title of your post made my ticker skip a beat, until reset by the “not yet.” πŸ™‚ Very glad you and John are OK. Though I’m sure that, like all such occurrences, it will leave quite an impression. My Dad, many years ago, when teaching me to pilot an automobile, advised, “When you’re driving… DRIVE.” And also, “Always give yourself a way out.” I still find, as I hurtle down the road, I contemplate ‘what ifs’… and where to steer if that ‘what if’ drifts into my lane. It’s clear John was paying attention, and reacted quickly and skillfully to the situation. I hope the intoxicated fool who caused all this finds the event life-changing, and sobering.

    • Always good to hear from you, Jim … I imagine my title could give someone a fright. Your dad’s advise about always leaving a way out is great stuff. I always try to do that by keeping several car lengths ahead, but we didn’t have any place to go really. I hope this experience make the woman make better decisions in the future.

  10. I just felt “led” to pop in on your blog and see what you and John were up to…I always get a joyous “English fix” from you and love you both from afar….(Southern California). All I can say is praise God for His watchcare over you both! Seems the pic of the clouds on your car was almost prophetic. So thankful for John’s quick responses and your deliverance from the ravages of the alcoholic woman driver! Amazing grace…

    • I thought the car shot was interesting too especially as it was just about to take its last drive before its forced retirement to the salvage yard. I really liked that car too. 😦 The safety features were great with airbags down the side and in the door and dash area, but I did wonder later how we would have been protected had we been hit by other cars after the initial one that caused them to deploy. John and I both expected to feel the impact of another vehicle. She hit two other vehicles during her dangerous journey and it’s a miracle the outcome wasn’t worse. Thanks, Pam for your kind words and support.

  11. Thank the Lord and all your Guardian Angels. So glad you are both safe and well. Moments like that make you step back and realize what is truly important. I’m looking forward to your next beautiful photos, too. Bless you both.

  12. That sounds like a very lucky escape, it could have been much more serious. Yes, little did you know when you took those beautiful photos what danger you would be in shortly afterwards. People never seem to learn that a surfeit of alcohol fatally affects your judgment, and when you’re driving a potentially deadly vehicle that’s utterly irresponsible.

    • We were very lucky, Nick and it is interesting to look back and see what my last hour and indeed last day looked like by the images I’d taken, beginning with the sunrise over the sea from our hotel window. It would have been a lovely last day, but I’m certainly glad to be here for more.

  13. As the last person on the planet not yet on Facebook (how I feel some days), sending belated but heartfelt thoughts of thankfulness to you and John that the accident wasn’t any worse than it was. Having lost my brother in a car accident, I can hardly read your post without a sense of terror and what might have been — as your post title reveals. Well done to John for his reflexes and again sending you both all best wishes for the rest of your time on ‘holiday’. Take care xx

    • I wish you would join Facebook, Carolyn. So many little things (and big) get a quick blurb there and I feel a good bit more connected to my friends and family in the US with Facebook. You just have to be careful about wasting time with it.

      I’m sure car accidents do create a special fear/pain for you. I can’t imagine losing someone so dear to someone’s else’s stupidity or carelessness. We came out alright and I’m still going back and forth between anger and feeling sorry for the drunk driver. (based on things we’ve learned since) Thanks for checking in and your kind thoughts. xo

  14. So glad that you are OK. There was a horrific story in NY — on a road I often use — of a woman who was driving 60 mph in the wrong lane and killed a number of people, including several of her family members. Her husband has denied that she was drunk or drugged. It was horrific.

    Every time we get into a car we are at the mercy of the other drivers. Huge hug to brave/quick John for his reflexes. Big hug to you!!!

    • Thanks, Caitlin … it was an unusual twist in our holiday plans and we’re grateful to have survived. It was very scary. What’s almost as bad is how the feeling of the impact and spinning out of control have not left us yet. Ugh!

  15. I’m SO glad to hear that you’re safe in the end. What a scary incident. I rarely consider how quickly life can change, but stories like this are a reminder to truly enjoy each day. The last photo of the riderless horse is beautiful, but if that was truly your last photo, it would be unbelievably poignant and sad. I’m grateful there will be more!

  16. I’m so glad you and your husband are okay. What a horrifying incident. The photos you shared at the conclusion of this post, particularly the lone rider on the beach, are truly moving and powerful ~ even more so in light of such a scary experience. Thank you for following my blog also.

  17. Pingback: The joy of blog pals « Broadside

  18. Gosh reading your post as just sent me tumbling back in time…..I was hit a few years ago taking my son to school, by a driver coming out of a side road without looking. He was in a rush….but unfortunately he hit so hard he pushed my car into the oncoming traffic….still gets my heartbeat up thinking about it. I know exactly what you mean about being frightened to look and see how your husband was. It was my sons side which took the impact. luckily we were both relatively ok. Then three years ago my son was a passenger in a head on collision at high speed, while visiting a friend in Dubai. That was the worst phone call of my life, and he nearly died, but again thankfully he made a full recovery. It’s such a split second between life and death, and this has stayed with me.
    So glad you are ok. How are you finding being in cars now? It took me a while to feel comfortable again!

  19. Oh, so glad these are your words and images YOU are posting and that you both are fine…You are still feeling fine I hope? I had a near similar accident 10 years ago. I was headed southbound on the highway and cresting the hill when my view was no longer the empty highway in front of me but the front grill of a large truck and the instant I veered away from him toward the grassy median between southbound and northbound traffic he hit my rear passengers side and sent me spinning in such a way that I ended up facing northbound on the northbound lane…and tho’ my car was totaled and the newly purchased groceries in the trunk were crushed and tossed about the highway I was blessedly fine (thankfully I was the only one in the car). The highway patrolman on the scene assumed I had been headed northbound until he observed the tire marks gouged in the median. It was all in an instant. with no sense of what was about to come before. I also know my entire body was sore for more than a week afterwards. Do take care and rest/relax as much as possible.

  20. It can take one amazing event and you suddenly see life from a completely different angle. That same event for another brings a totally different outcome. We’re so blessed when we have these revelations. Thank you for sharing it.

  21. Thank-you for sharing your experience. Good to know that there was an angel there for you both.
    Our perspective’s change each day from every adventure. Some allow us to keep believing in miracles.

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