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Unless it’s been personally experienced, I’m certain most people could never understand the feeling. To press on through life come what may, in trials or blessings, and yet forever be drawn like a moth to a flame, to that one inescapable incident that happened somewhere in the folds of your life. I’ve worn that brand for many years from a horrible, five-second tragedy that’s been burned into my memory like a branding iron would sear and scar the tender flesh. It taps me on the shoulder almost daily, whether it’s a chocolate scent in the air, an old song on the radio, a cool, damp Halloween night, a light snowfall, or the sirens of an ambulance rushing to someone’s distress. The reminders are constant and couldn’t be any more telling than in my mirror on every “cold-water” morning. These scars I’ve never personally witnessed, if not for the stark visual in the reflection of my own mirror.

It was on Nov. 2, 1973 that a car accident that left me critically broken in so many ways. I’ve had it both ways, 47 years ago or only yesterday, since that night of the accident. I was a passenger in a car load of rebel teens that a five-second crash left us in destruction and totaling one less friend at the end of the night. I’m not sure I would have appreciated as a teenager how a bad decision can affect a person their entire life but I became that 15-year-old “believer” on Nov. 6, after regaining consciousness from a coma as a result of the accident.

We’ve never really talked about it over the years, but my Mom and I were visiting about that accident last month. She explained that when I was admitted in the hospital that night, the doctors told her and Dad that I was in “grave” condition and there may not be a happy ending. I’ve endured 18 operations and 47 years of continual visits to 1973, and always with a feeling that I was allowed to survive for a greater purpose or reason in life. On the one hand, it seems that such a traumatic experience shouldn’t be left buried within, rather, it should be shared for a beneficial purpose in some way. On the other hand, I’ve always had this fear that such an uncomfortable topic would not be welcomed or accepted. I’ve heard it said that the pen is mightier than the sword and, in this case, the sword happens to be my own fears.

It could be after all these years, what’s led me to this point of “crossing the Rubicon” comes in part that my 14-year-old grandson will soon be driving a car. It has me thinking about all the young teenagers who begin driving. At that age teenagers tend to have the mindset of being fearless and indestructible. An automobile can be a valuable passion and a life’s recreation but typically teens are oblivious to the danger cars can be. They couldn’t possibly realize the life-time repercussions that just one bad incident can cause.

I’ve always believed that if I wrote various chapters of my experiences in the hospital and it was shared with the students in Driver’s Ed. or something similar, maybe a positive could be born from a terrible tragedy in advance of one. Maybe a young person would accept the words from someone from their own town, or someone they can relate to. I’m not sure if herein lies a positive benefit or if this is just wishful “stardust” of the ramblings of a fool. What I do know is, if I can in any way be a flower that shatter’s that stone, I’d surely want to be.

Though my hesitation in submitting this and subsequent “G” rated chapters about my hospital stay is undeniable, I know for certain that my grandson Bergan, loves to read the paper.

J.D. Francis is a Waverly businessman and developer who also writes a monthly feature series called “Cattin’ Main.” He can be reached at

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