By Lyn Burnstine
We - my accompanist friend, her partner, and I - had been to a spectacular birthday party of a dear young friend whose request of the guests was to sing a song for her—preferably their own.
Almost every folk musician in the Hudson Valley who didn’t have a gig that afternoon was there. The music flowed for hours, with time out only for a fabulous meal, thoughtfully considerate of the needs of gluten free and vegetarian guests. It was a scorching hot day, but comfortable inside. We headed for home while still daylight.
A sudden flash of metal, of light coming toward us, caught our eyes just seconds before our windshield became something from a horror movie, as first we hit the car before us, in spite of valiant efforts on the part of our driver to avoid it, then CRASH!
The car coming toward us in the wrong lane at 100 miles an hour had come to a final stop up against our car after wiping out a truck and several cars, killing one mother of four and seriously injuring several others, himself included, between them and us.
I was sitting in the back - doctor’s orders since the pacemaker in my belly could be a killer if hit by the airbag. Fortunately, my friends in the front were saved by the airbags, with only minor burns on their hands. Not so, me.
The force of the crash and the pain in my chest were unlike anything I had ever experienced. My friend turned to ask, “Are you okay, Lyn?”
I could barely squeeze out a faint “no” with a shallow breath. I thought I was dying, then the real terror hit as the airbags deployed, releasing thick, chalky pink powder into the car’s interior.
We truly thought we were going to suffocate until finally my friends managed to open a door and window. It took all of my will power to breathe, even shallowly, with the injury to my chest, which I eventually realized was caused by my little three-wheeled walker flying over from the side seat and hitting me.
I had been bragging for some time that I was making it through my lifetime without any bone breaks other than toes. Now my record was broken, along with my sternum, and four other little bones in my neck and back that I never even felt, paling as they did to the pain in my breastbone.
In the three miserable weeks in the hospital and rehab, I was frequently reminded by my many visitors of how lucky I was. Who could ever have imagined that this “frail-elderly,” 84-year-old with bones weakened by 62 years of severe rheumatoid arthritis, with osteopenia, if not osteoporosis, could survive such a crash let alone recover so remarkably well and speedily that all of my friends are convinced I’m the Energizer Bunny.
I’m not a believer in heavenly intervention but I do know that I still have a job to do here. I’m often reminded of it by my younger cohorts at the open mics where I sing regularly.
They count on me to keep them knowledgeable about American traditional folk music, as, more and more, they turn to their own and others’ contemporary singer/songwriter music.
I am proud that many of them and the more-than-200 followers of my photography on Facebook tell me that I am their inspiration for “keeping on” despite multiple health issues and increasing fragility.
It was almost worth it to have my accompanist, a wonderful songcrafter, write a beautiful song about me called Singin’ All the Way, the title of my first book of memoir and audio cassette, as well as my mantra.
The ironic sequel to this story: when I had nearly recovered, after three months, I suffered injuries to my tailbone in a hard fall, ricocheting off a soft, squishy mattress onto a pile of hardcover books.
In the reading of the x-rays, the technician announced, “No breaks now, but I see you have an old break in your pubic bone.” DAMN! Four years ago I suffered another painful fall that put me in the hospital, where a near-sepsis infection, of which I was unaware, was discovered.
The fall saved my life but the price was high as I walked around in agony for weeks, insisting it had to be broken, despite what the x-rays showed. I wonder what future x-rays will say about my coccyx!
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