Gulf Shores

Gulf Shores
Photographer Patricia Gulick

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

2/3/14 RMB August 27th 1967

2/3/14 RMB August 27th 1967

Dear Rita Mae Brown,

When playing with our gifts sometimes we get carried away. I find the more significant a situation is, the clearer the resonance. I try to be careful, but sometimes I overstep. Teddy said go for it. And I did.

She had mentioned “the accident” enough times for me to know it was a serious event in her life. She also said she had a horse. So when I asked if I could find the details on my own, and she allowed it, I wondered if it had been a riding accident. That didn’t feel right. When I concentrated on it, I got that it was a car accident, someone ran a stop sign, there was impact on the passenger side, a female, either her or a passenger was hurt on that side, there was someone else dear to her in the car, something pushed into her right side, possibly a steering wheel, there was something about her school, there were emotional words spoken at the scene by someone that looked at the people in the car, before they were removed, there was someone that knew her there before her family arrived, and so on. 

Then she wrote the actual details and sent them to me. I was speechless. Maria read both my insights and her details, then commented “All I can say is Holy Smoke! And as for you…right on”

I was playing with something deadly serious, an accident caused by another driver, in a car with no brakes, running a stop sign. Teddy was the passenger who took the brunt of the impact. The pressure on her side was from both cars that had been crushed so badly that they landed in her lap, first the dashboard of her car, with the other driver’s car atop of that. In her words, she “took out the windshield” with her face. She knew one of the first responders from school, but it was the other driver that looked at them crushed in the car and spoke at the scene. They took her to UCLA, the hospital associated with her school. Her fiancĂ©, far less injured, was driving. She remained conscious through much of the ordeal.

No one expected her to make it. They let her lay on a gurney while handling other cases that they knew would make it, a kid with a snake bite for one. When they called her mom, they asked for photos so they could reconstruct her daughter’s face. There were many injuries. They opted not to amputate her leg that night and then again later when infection set in. They didn’t even realize the other leg was broken because they were so busy trying to put together the worst of the two.

This happened on August 27th in 1967, just after her 21st birthday. Her mother became her nursemaid and she recovered. She went on to sing and dance and entertain for many years. The first time I saw her, I said “I don’t see any scars”. She said “They are there. I know where they are. So, I can see them.”

Some people who face the greatest challenges become those who appreciate life the most. Teddy is one of those people. She has begun the writing of her life’s story. There are many more details about this one event that I will leave to her to reveal. I am honored by her friendship.

Driving home tonight, I passed cars, buildings, animals and such, along streets lit by occasional street lights. Could I name what I passed, an hour or a year from now? Yet vivid visions of someone else’s accident a half century ago appeared when I called to them. Whatever we know, we know for a reason and I am searching for ways to understand it all. I am grateful for Teddy and her willingness to join in this exploration.

And to you for listening,


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