Sunday, January 10, 2016

Moi aussi, j'ai besoin de toi




We were laughing, my friend Madame L and I, as the train pulled into the station. The sun had come out as a great gift after we had passed a wonderful afternoon together in Nimes. She had invited me to lunch as a post-Christmas present and we were full and content. Once boarded, I played with a tiny toy dog held in the lap of an impeccably dressed tourist who chatted in Chinese with his partner. The light dashed in and out of the car and so it took a bit of time for me to notice the note finger-drawn on the window across the aisle, "Moi aussi j'ai besoin de toi." A little heart punctuated the sentiment as the scenery whisked by.

Remi picked us up and I was surprised to see that he was driving the BMW instead of our old Saab. "I thought it would be more comfortable for L," he explained. We dropped her off in our tiny village and then headed into Avignon where Remi picked up his repaired computer and wedged it into the back seat. It was dark already and the traffic was heavy with those heading home from work. We were keeping to the speed limit of 70 km/h on the main road, talking about something or other when, at about seven yards ahead of us, a car turned and drove into us head-on.

The movies get the details right. Time did that drunken stretch. I said, "Remi" and then either did or did not say out loud but thought, "Oh my God, we are going to have an accident." And this part I know was silent, "...and it is going to hurt." Then I was lifting my head up from the airbag to see the other car spinning until it was ten yards away facing the opposite direction when another fishtailed, barely missing us and sped on. There was smoke and so Remi said first, "Are you ok?" "Yes." "Get out of the car, now!" And I did but I fell as my bag had been between my feet. I picked it up and then sank into the meridian's triangle of grass as to a found island in the Pacific. I was unhurt. 

Now, this is where things get interesting and why I wanted to tell this story (whether or not I will hit 'publish' is another matter). I looked up to see the other driver, a very young girl, trying to limp in my direction. Her face was a blur of blind fear. And then, Remi was at her side and another man too, we'll call him the military man, for that is who he is. He had been right behind us and used his training to act, immediately. He stopped the traffic and came to the girls aid, helping her down on to the grass and keeping her conscious by asking her questions about her hurts. Out of nowhere appeared a woman who looked so familiar to me, dressed all in black. She immediately knelt down to listen to the military man's instructions and propped the girl upon her bent knees. She consolled her endlessly. And at some point she turned around and saw me. "Were you in the accident too?" I answered thickly, struggling as my French floated to the surface. She gave me one hand to hold while she used the other to comfort the girl, who it turns out had only had her license for a few months,  her first car for three. "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry," she told us, "I didn't see you. I didn't see you at all."

Out of the shadows, so many people arrived, "Have you called an ambulance? Is there anything that we can do?" Assured, they would receed. Within minutes, I could hear the sirens wail. I wanted to tell the girl that they were coming but I didn't know her name and was still deep in shock. But I watched as the firemen arrived, a truck and their ambulance, as it works in France. They immediately sped into action to help secure the site, spot lights blazing, but already the military man and Remi had moved the girls car off of the road. The police arrived minutes later, then the municipal police and started their investigation. The military man's wife fetched a beautiful wool throw from their car to wrap around the girl as she was lifted onto a guerney.  She was taken to the hospital and I am happy to report is now at home, with no broken bones but just bruises as her face had smashed into the windshield, this despite that she had a seatbelt on and the airbag released. The impact was that hard.

The clean up crew arrived at the same time as the depanneurs, the tow trucks. Already, the woman in black had started to leave noiselessly but I called to her. Earlier I had asked her, "Are you an angel?" Her response was a slow head shake no. She came back and we held each others hands and locked eyes, "Merci...merci beaucoup." She understood that I meant more than I could say. I would repeat the phrase to the military man and his wife. They had all stayed so long, so selflessly. The firemen and the police were so efficient and present. I also thanked the head fireman, who is a professional, somewhat of a rarity as so many are volunteers in France and told him how impressed I was by how cleanly this had all rolled out and how much willing help I had witnessed. As one final proof, the tow truck driver offered to take Remi and I to a nearby fast-food joint so that we could wait in the warmth for our taxi to take us home. One more thank you to him for doing what hadn't needed to be done.

The next morning, I woke up feeling groggy and with a pain in my shoulders and chest from the airbag. But I looked in the mirror and thought, "I am fine." I couldn't believe it. So much chance (and Remi's quick reaction in turning the car at the last minute) had helped us and the girl. If we had been in the Saab, as we should have originally, then we wouldn't have had airbags and where would we be then? And if I was fine, what did that mean?

Then I remembered that little not so secret love note left on the train window. "Me too, I need you," is how how it translates. Or "I need you too." And I do. All of the kindness that we were shown helped us through something truly frightening. How those words had either shown dark or glowed bright depending on the background of the scenery that whisked by, how delighted L and I were by the simple beauty of them. We are all in this together, we all need each other. That matters, it makes a difference. And we do too.

Moi aussi, j'ai besoin de toi.







84 comments:

  1. Ah Heather,
    I'm so glad you and Remi are alright! as well as the young woman in the other car. (I do spare a thought for the 'repaired' computer in the back… returning to the repair shop, I suspect!) We certainly all need one another. I'm happy so many were present for you all

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    1. I think that you might be right about the computer, Lonnie! Not a good thing at all! But, but...just a material thing. :)

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  2. Heather! Good heavens, I don't know what to say! I am so glad you all were not hurt! You were so lucky and definitely Remi reacted in time. How can one NOT see the traffic coming from the opposite direction? Beginner or not... Well, well...

    Didn't you just pick up the BMW from long lasting repairs? Terrifying how the cars looked like.

    But yes, me too I often think how great those moments are when foreign people help each other, be it by profession or by sheer neccessity to be needed. Nous aussi on a besoin de vous tous!

    When did it happen? I hope you feel better now! Don't hesitate to share also those difficult moments.

    I send you and Remi much strength and confidence!!! To get your mind away from the shock!

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    1. The accident happened on Thursday night and I wrote most of this on Saturday night and Sunday. As you can see it took me a few days to start to come back down to earth! And yes, you are right, we just, just got the BMW back after lengthy and pricey (for us) repairs. Still waiting to hear if it is officially totaled or not.
      gros bisous...

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  3. I am SO HAPPY you and the other TWO are OKAY!MY GOODNESS..........not something I would want anyone to EXPERIENCE!!!I kept thinking as I was reading THANK GOD the DOGS weren't in the CAR.I am certain they are being GREAT CAREGIVERS at this point!
    Now, my HEART sinks as MY MISSION to come this year and TEACH you to DRIVE might be jeopardized just a wee bit!We will take baby steps here.........first in the empty parking lot of MONO PRIX!Are they closed on SUNDAYS??Then we can venture to the vineyards...........do we know anyone who would allow us BEAUTY's to bump along a dirt road that isNOT TRAVELED AT ALL..............??
    YOU stay WELL......and snuggled up.I bet you never got the name of the lady who assisted............I would LOVE for her to read this POST!
    HUGS TO YOU dear HEATHER!!
    XOXOXO

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    1. That lady was amazing, Elizabeth. I am so curious about who she is!

      And I can't bare to think about the dogs. Thank Goodness they were safe at home.
      xoxo

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    2. We had a similar incident two years ago. We were innocently driving in the carpool lane (at speed limit) on the 91 Freeway through Anaheim Hills on our way to the Christmas Displays at Roger's Gardens. (La Contessa, Elizabeth, knows them well!) We rounded a corner and suddenly every lane on the freeway, including the two carpool lanes, was stopped. Talk about your life flashing in front of you! We had our 3 year old granddaughter in her car seat in the back so my main concern was for her sweet little life. I had just had new brakes and tires but there was no way I could stop in time to avoid a huge chain-reaction accident.

      How long does it take to say a quick prayer in your mind? Don't know but I said, "Heavenly Father please guide me." I received an immediate impression to go BETWEEN the two cars ahead of me in the carpool lane. That seemed impossible but I followed the prompting. Amazingly, I was able to slip in between the cars with about an inch to spare on each side. When my car stopped, I was face to face with the occupants on either side. Imagine the horrible accident if I had hit anyone! Everyone's eyes were a big a saucers!

      The two cars on either side of me carefully inched away and we all went on our merry way. I will never forget that! Call it what you will, but I believe in the power of prayer.

      Happy to hear that you and Remi are alright.

      Smiles from Charlotte Des Fleurs

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    3. Your story gave me goosebumps. I am so glad that noone was hurt! Amazing.

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  4. Oh my, Heather. Glad you and Remi and the young girl are OK. One wonders why these things happen. How characteristic of you that you are caring, not blaming, and noticing and appreciating the help offered. And you also have a wise takeaway from the experience. Yes, we are in it together and there are angels among us. Sorry you had to go through this, and hope the resultant car issues are easily sorted.

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    1. I do wonder why this happened, Carolyn but not in a blaming way. It just seems so much that not only are we all linked but the bump after bump of events too. As my friend Tabby said on the phone yesterday, "so random, except not."
      Bisous.

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  5. Whew! What a shocking experience, so kind of everyone to pitch in to help. I'm not surprised, people here seem to feel that they should do what they are able to for others in dire situations. I had a breakdown on the autoroute at night a few days ago, and was treated very well by the towing company, they did more for me than they had to do. Relax as much as possible for the next few days, it will take a while for the emotional part to heal.
    bonnie

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    1. A breakdown on the autoroute! Yowza. It sounds like it wasn't too terrible and I am very glad to hear it. I wonder if we had car craziness on the same night (Thursday)? And yes, people do pitch in here, I think. I see people giving rides to hitch-hikers too, something I would never imagine in the States!

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  6. Oh Heather, luck was on your side that night, guardian angel on your shoulders for all 3 of you. thanks goodness, Ben & Kipling need you! speedy recovery. xxx

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    1. Yes, a guardian angel definitely Suzana.
      xox

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  7. Dear Heather, I am so glad that you and Remi (and the young girl) got out of the accident mostly unscathed. It must have been an awful experience but the main thing is that you're fine and that there were so many people who were kind to you. I think that, deep down, we haven't forgotten but it seems that it takes something like an accident for people to remember that we all need each other.

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    1. I agree Loree and wish (for myself too) that it didn't take something so jarring to remember!

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  8. Moi aussi, j'ai besoin de toi. Thank you for thinking that, and thank you for saying it. When you might have only been concerned for yourself (but you never only would) you thought of those whom you love and who love you and those who cared for you when you needed help. Thank goodness you and Remi and everyone are all right.....I and so many others would be bereft without you.

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    1. Katherine, that moved me to tears. Thank you so much for all of your kindness.

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  9. Thank goodness you and Remi are alright and the girl in the other car, too! I am convinced that a BMW is a life saver in an accident and vow never to be without one...no matter how old or new! I am also grateful that the pups did not come along for the ride.
    You and Remi take gentle care! I am sure you are bruised and sore from the airbags and impact. Tincture of time in order for both the physical and mental impact. xxT

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    1. Trudye, I am sold on BMWs now! It was so shocking the day after when I looked at the photos that I had taken and already with a tiny bit of distance from the event could see that her car was utterly destroyed while ours, even if it is totaled, really doesn't look that bad. The frame protected us.

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  10. So glad that you are okay and are counting your blessings along with all of us!

    Luck is an amazing thing when it goes your way. I am lucky that my oldest son wasn't stillborn -- it was every little thing, every right decision along the way on the day he was born. I focus on that rather than what could have been.

    I'm so glad you shared this reminder of how quickly and suddenly life can change when you least expect it.

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    1. What a frightening story about the birth of your oldest son, Judith. I am so grateful that fate (?) was on both of your sides that day. And thank you for the reminder to focus on what is.

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  11. I am a new reader of your blog (which I love) and I want to tell you I am so happy you are fine, that Remi is fine and that the young girl will be okay. What a scare and you wrote about it so well, I could see it happening. Thank God you were in the BMW, airbags save lives. I hope you rest well and that you don't suffer too much pain. Your care and your appreciation in this situation... it's really inspiring. My best to you XOX

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    1. Dani, I am such a fan of you from Ellie's blog and am beyond delighted that you are visiting here too. Something that Ellie and I have in common (well, quite a bit actually but I am talking about in blog terms) is that we both could argue that we have the best reader friends in the world!
      Gros Bisous.

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  12. My dear you are such a good writer, I was riveted with the story and read it with tears in my eyes. I am so glad you are all okay. I will hope that the whole world will behave as all the people involved in your experience did.

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    1. Oh my gosh, I am so sorry to have made you cry, Mimi! I really struggled with whether or not to publish this but hoped that the good would balance the bad.
      xo

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  13. Dear Heather, I haven't been able to visit any blogs regularly recently but I am so glad I spotted this. I am so happy for you and for the fact that you published this post. I absolutely adore your blog, your style of writing and honesty. All the best to you and Remi and 'the little ones', no longer from outside Helsinki but from Turku, Finland.

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    1. Hello Teresa Maria, it is wonderful to hear from you again and thank you for your kind words. I had to look up Turku. It seems smaller than Helsinki but also right on the water...and how pretty with so many islands around. I hope that your move was a good one.
      xo

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  14. That was a bad crash, but with a good outcome. So sorry as it is a horribly scary thing to go through. Air bags hurt but do save lives. Good to know from now on as it usually (hopefully) is the other guy/gal you have to look out for. Hope it never happens again dear one.

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    1. Thank you so much Donna. Me too! Remi is an amazing, amazing driver. He has driven across Africa! So I never worry when I am in the car with him...but...there was absolutely nothing, nothing he could have done to avoid this.
      PS. I nearly called this post "Dear Airbags, I love you"!!

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  15. Oh my goodness, I'm glad to hear that no one was seriously hurt. It's so heartening to read about the "helpers," those who go out of their way in a crisis.

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    1. They really were amazing. I admit that at times I think that people can be "each man for himself" so it was nice to see that wasn't the case when it counted.

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  16. Back in 1990 my husband an I had a similar experience....but in Malaysia. We had a head on collision and a man stopped...he was also military. He had gone to school in England and his English was perfect. He took control.....made sure our luggage was safe.....dealt with the police......got me to hospital. He and his driver were with us for at least 3 hours. My husband wrote a letter to our External Affairs to go to the Lieutenants superiors to
    tell them about this Good Samaritan ....

    Yes the kindness of strangers

    Ali

    Yes the kindness of strangers...

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    1. That must have been especially scary to have happened in a foreign country, Ali. And yes to the kindness of strangers. I am so grateful...

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  17. I was reading this with tears in my eyes. I am so glad everyone is ok. Accidents are truly surreal. Everything happens so fast, but seems to happen in slow motion.

    Several years ago I was sideswiped on a very busy Cal freeway and nearly lost complete control of my car. I just remember holding onto that steering wheel with every ounce of strength I had trying to keep from going sideways because I knew if I went sideways I would tip over and be rolling down the freeway. I was fishtailing back and forth for what seemed like forever, well over a dozen times. How I kept from rolling or hitting any other vehicles I have absolutely no idea. My arms were so weak from overexertion and my body was pumped so full of adrenaline that by the time I was able to get the car under control and over to the side of the freeway, I was shaking uncontrollably so badly I couldn't write to exchange info or even drive again for a few hours. It was a terrifying ordeal and I am glad no one was hurt.

    Moi aussi, Heather, j'ai besoin de toi . . . Merci . . . merci beaucoup.

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    1. We have shared tears over each others stories now. And sentiments. I am also very glad that you were ok. My parents lived in San Diego for many years and I know how tough those freeways can be.
      We all need each other...I am sticking by that.
      xo

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  18. Thank God you and Remi, (and the others) don't have serious injuries! It can take a day or so for injuries to show up, and if they do, then Please don't hesitate to see a doctor.

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    1. We are going to my doc even though we feel ok just to get an official statement and "ok" from her.

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  19. So frightening out of nowhere. So glad you all escaped injury.

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    1. Merci Jackie...au minimum, nous avons pas eu des mals physique...

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  20. I'm glad that you did hit "publish" - hopefully it was cathartic and you feel the love from your peeps! It's a powerful post - this scary event told in your eloquent style with stark photos to match. I think "I am fine" could be your phrase for 2016 - what do you think? To me it sounds powerful - a way to be grateful and to know that deep down you are okay. I know I'M so glad you're okay, after this crash, because guess what? Me, too - I need you, too!

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    1. Sister, you have no idea how potent the idea that "I am fine" should be my phrase for this year...in so many ways...! I will keep thinking about that for a long time. I love you so much!

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  21. Whoa...I kept hoping that you were writing fiction and was very sorry when I realized that you were not. Thank goodness this accident was no worse...I hope that you and Rémi truly are fine. I too experienced the kindness of strangers when I had a serious car accident, and that set me on a course of grateful recovery. Je t'embrasse à tout coeur, Leslie in Oregon

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    1. Merci my belle Leslie and I am so very sorry to read that you have had a bad accident as well. That is not something I would wish on anyone.
      xoxox

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  22. OMG! When you think of all the little decisions that brought all of you together in that same place at that same time. Wow. Also, you had the presence of mind to take photos. You and Remi and the other participants are so lucky it wasn't worse. Let me know if you need anything. XX

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    1. Thank you Tabby. We are all really grateful to have not been injured worse.

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  23. SO sorry to read this, Heather, but so glad no one was seriously hurt. It's amazing that life has little twists and turns--like taking the safer car--that have such an effect on larger events. So glad that you're all OK and so glad you were surrounded by such wonderful people:)

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    1. Merci, Mary. I am so glad for that too. :)

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  24. Thank god you changed cars and no one was seriously hurt!

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    1. I know N, it is so crazy isn't it...but then again if we had been in the Saab, well maybe one second less here, one more there...

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  25. Oh Heather, my heart stopped reading this. Sending you much love today, with gratitude to the powers that be for all the coincidences that stepped in to save all of your lives, and for all the angels in this story. xoxo

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    1. Thank you friend, the angels felt quite real.

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  26. I'm so glad no one was hurt beyond aches and bruises. Your post was beautifully written, too. Much love to you and Remi.

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    1. So lovely to hear from you. Thank you friend.

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  27. So scary to read, and so beautifully written. So glad you, all three, are safe and sound. And so very true, how much each of us needs all the rest of us.

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  28. Like so many others, I am so thankful neither you nor Remi, nor the young girl were seriously injured! I am sure you are feeling/reeling with the impact, maybe a bit more the days after. I hope you are mending in body and soul. I wish I were nearby so I could come over and make you a nice cup of tea and fluff your pillows and just wait on you. I think you all were very fortunate, even though the 'near miss' of it all will probably stay with you for a while. Be very, very kind to yourself!

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    1. Judi, you have been and are such a great friend even without the proximity! I know that you would outdo yourself with fussing over me if you were nearby and even for that I am so grateful.

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  29. The blessings. Divine blessings. I thank the Lord that all of you are well.

    "We are all in this together, we all need each other."

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  30. My goodness Heather, what a scary experience, so glad you are all ok, how lucky you were.
    It is strange how things happen, the note on the window, how Remi decided to use a different car, it does make us wonder, is someone watching out for us "up there"
    Susan.x

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    1. Yes...just maybe Susan. Still sending hugs to you over your recent loss of Maurice...

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  31. nous aussi nous avons besoin de toi, dear Heather, all your readers-friends. Stay fine! Kisses!

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  32. Only you Heather could make something beautiful out of something so horrific! You are correct. We all do need each other. Makes you wonder how all of the stars seemed to line up so perfectly to keep all of you safe? Janey

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    1. I know and wonder too, Janey but you give me too much credit - I am sure you would have said the same thing if (Grod forbid) you had been in the same situation!

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  33. Oh, my. Thanks be to God that everyone is alright. These things happen in a flash yet take a long while to process in our brains and hearts.
    Tears well up often when I have to pull over for an ambulance or fire truck, and I see everyone else doing the same thing. C'est vrai que nous avons tous besoin les uns des autres. At heart, people are so very kind and compassionate. I'm glad there were those "angels" to comfort and help you. Hugs.

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    1. Lorrie, I wonder if you are also an empath, like I am? I bet you are.
      Gros Bisous.

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  34. Have been away and just read this post. So glad everyone is ok and recovering. The kindness of strangers never ceases to amaze me. I have only been in one car accident and also came through without serious injury, but it is still a traumatic experience. Thinking of you today Heather, and hoping that everything continues to be better. You handled the situation with such grace and compassion. That of course is your way, so not surprising, but still very admirable and inspirational!
    Love and blessings to you.

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    1. Thank you so much Laura. Yes, I am still feeling the effects of the accident more than a week later. I can't tell you how much all of this kindness here means to me but I bet you know...

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  35. I just got to this post and do hope that everyone is in mental and physical recovery mode. Good heavens! What a reminder of the concept, Blink, in a moment or less how life changes. Glad this story had a happy ending. Take care. Hugs to you - Jackie

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  36. Oh my goodness Heather .... how awful. It's so frightening isn't it but thank goodness everyone was alright.
    Your story really did send shivers down my spine ...... I did think that you were going to say that no one else saw the woman in black !! But, what with all that happened and the message on the window it was rather poignant wasn't it ? So pleased that you all came out of it unscathed. XXXX

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    1. Jaqueline, when we met with the young driver the other night to sign papers I had to ask her if she saw the woman in black too! Something about her was...out of this world. And thank you fo r your kind words. xoxo

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  37. Oh Heather, this is terrifying. Thank God everyone is alright. The shock may last for a while or bubble back up now and then. You know that's usual, right? Sending love, love, love.

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    1. Thank you for that reminder about the bubbling as it is true. Much gratitude for the love as well, always.

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  38. So happy to hear you all are fine now. There really must be angels around us.

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  39. Only seeing this now. Staggered and so sorry. Wish I could bring you tea, wine, a visit by my massage therapist, who is good for body and soul, whatever would sooth you.

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    1. Oh my, thank you Joan - a massage therapist! When we went to see our doctor for the official post accident exam (for the insurance mainly), I was secretly hoping she would prescribe that for both Remi and I (hence covered by medical insurance) but no dice! Warm baths are taking the place instead...

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  40. I am so behind in reading my emails! I am so sorry to hear of your accident! I am saying prayers of thanks for your well being, Remi and the girl, too! I am so glad you all were not seriously hurt. I find it amazing how some people selflessly come to help those of us in times of crisis. I am so thankful they are out there! Please know you are loved all over the world for your insightful and heart warming blog! Love from Texas!

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    1. Such a beautiful message, thank you so much Vicki!

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  41. Bonjour Heather,

    Unlike most blogs, I find that I focus mostly on your photos. Not that I do not enjoy the words. But, it is the beauty of the photographs that brings me back again and again. I live in Southern California in the mountains between San Juan Capistrano and Temecula where the weather is similar to Provence. However, we have neither the history nor the architecture. When I need some "calm" time, your photos transport me to Provence.

    Have you, or would you, consider putting together a photo CD that one might use as a screen saver? The photos could be related (such as a walk in the fields) and could dissolve into one another. I would gladly pay $10 to $15 for such a thing. Perhaps Ellie could sell it for you in her "shop".



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    1. Hello Charlotte! Thank you for your response and for your idea. I have been thinking about what some of my next steps should be with what I have done here and yours is an idea that had not occured to me yet. Will put it in the hopper. Merci. :)

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