On the Corner of Tulip & Levick

Photo Credit: Google Street View

Much too often we believe that are our most traumatic life moments can only bring us gloom and doom and for that reason we react to them with such regret. How difficult — painful even — is it to conceive that every negative life event has the potential to generate good from it.

For what good could ever come from being run down and left for dead by a drunk motorcyclist one sunny day while riding your bike at the age of 9?

Well, according to Dan, my fiancé, we’re about to find out a whole lot…

He revealed to me the details of the accident on the train back to Philadelphia from Washington D.C. We had traveled together to celebrate the birthday of a mutual friend who lived near the University of Maryland.

It was the second time we met, but was the first full day we’d ever spent together. As the train rocked back and forth through that frigid, but snowless February night, he unraveled for me the critical details of his past.

“Do you mind me asking how it happened?”

He waved his right hand side to side as he insisted, “No, no. Not at all. It was on Labor Day and my cousins, brothers and I were swimming. One of us suggested that we take our bikes and race around the block until dinner was ready.”

“I bet you regret having taking them up on that offer.”

“Naw. If it wouldn’t have been me, it would have been someone else. All I really remember is riding fast and coming around the corner of Tulip and Levick when he hit me from behind. I don’t remember anything after that.”

“How horrible. Who found you?”

“I think my brother Matt was the first then the rest of the cousins. I was in bad shape they say. The doctors thought I wouldn’t make it.”

But make it he did.

Though the accident left him in a coma for three months, his left side partially paralyzed, a strong tremor in his right arm and a speech impairment, his body did a miraculous job of establishing a new equilibrium (as most bodies do).

What was most amazing to me that night on the train, however, was what he said next after answering all my prying questions with openness and kindness that I soon learned was characteristic of Dan:

“I don’t regret the accident. I’ve met some fantastic people from it growing up. And…”

He paused. I looked up from the spot on the train floor that my eyes had been transfixed to and met his. His green eyes gleamed in the dimness and a half smile formed as he continued, “It got me to meet…you.”

For a moment I thought to dismiss his comment as a dramatic come-on of sorts, but I studied his face again. With eyes widened in nervousness mixed with hope I registered that he actually meant what he said.

It’s been nearly four years since that fateful train ride back to Philadelphia and it was Dan who knew then that we’d form a connection that will last a lifetime. I took a bit longer, but I eventually realized what I stumbled upon.

Ours isn’t a perfect love (no love ever is), but it’s authentic. It’s full of an understanding, acceptance and deep commitment to be our best selves for each other and ourselves. We recognize this as both a gift and a rarity.

Dan and I wonder sometimes if we would have still found each other had he not been in that accident and what we would have been like as people. Life would have certainly been physically easier for Dan, but that kind of thinking is useless because this is our reality now.

And we believe it was all worth it.