What Happened Last Week at the Teton Pass, Where We Lost Our Brakes Five Months Ago

There’s been a lot of death and disappointment in this part of the world recently. There was my grandmother’s passing, but there was also something else, something that I’ll write about when it’s time. For now the whole thing is still seeping through my consciousness, and it will have to wait.

It’s hard to know when the time is right, you know? It’s tough to tell when that thing can’t be held in any longer, when it demands the attention that only words on a page can give – words that stare back up at you defiantly, or shrug indifferently, or meander over into dark corners where they turn their backs and cast leering glances over their shoulders.

Words can be so petulant. And untrustworthy. And crucial.

* * * * *

During my grandmother’s viewing, my friend Tom came up to talk to me. He’s a trucker and has been for as long as I can remember. Maile and I met up with him in Iowa once, about a million years ago, and he and I ate at a diner and I ordered chili and grilled cheese and he told me all about life on the road.

So I was glad to see him when he came to the viewing.

“You’re not going to believe what I read in the paper last week,” he said. “A truck driver went over the Teton Pass, lost his brakes, and crashed at the bottom.”

“What?” I asked, shocked, and that eerie feeling rose up inside of me, the same feeling I get whenever I remember what it’s like to push a brake pedal all the way to the floor and still be picking up speed.

“Yeah,” he said, shaking his head. “He couldn’t make the last turn. The truck rolled over the edge, and the driver was killed.”

* * * * *

I remember that last turn going down into Wilson. The picture above is of our bus being towed around the last corner, where we so easily could have lost our lives, had we not driven up the emergency truck ramp about two miles before.

And with all of that comes the realization that, even with all of the recent death and disappointment, there is still so much grace. So much mercy. Mercy enough to keep me going.

Mercy enough to keep me looking for the next emergency truck ramp, because right now it sure feels like we could use one.

7 Replies to “What Happened Last Week at the Teton Pass, Where We Lost Our Brakes Five Months Ago”

  1. Did you happen to read the one and only comment on that news article you linked to? Sounds familiar…

  2. chill bumps!! So glad you guys made it out safely!

    I’m so sorry about your grandmother. I don’t think I’ve taken the chance to say anything since I heard the news. Nate and I have both lost two grandparents over the last couple years. We know it is inevitable and necessary, but it is still not an easy thing to say good-bye.

  3. My condolences on the loss of your grandmother. Mine passed away 8 years ago, and I think we’ll always miss her. I hope I never lose the sound of her voice in my mind.

    I love how you described the way words can be — it reminded me very much of a cat for some reason.

  4. A good reminder, Shawn, of how we all live so close to the edge, only a breath away. I learned today that a girl I knew in high school (and envied) died early this morning from a long battle with cancer, she left a husband and three young children. It’s so strange how we must cling to, sink down into the physicality, the precious presentness of life, while at the same time learning to trust, letting-go in our spiritual walk. Sometimes it’s hard to be present to the preciousness of life without clinging too tight, suffocating the gifts we are given.

  5. Mercy is a complicated business, one I don’t fully understand. That being said, I am selfishly so glad that it wasn’t you guys who went over on that turn.

    My condolences during this time of transition and remembrance of your Grandmother.

    In regard to whatever you can’t yet share, I am sorry for the heaviness in your mind and heart. I just have a sense that there is great Hope behind us, with us and ahead of us, if we have the eyes to see it. My prayer is that your heart and mind will feel and trust that Hope today. Take Care.

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