Mary Ralph plays guitar and sings in Chicago’s Scotland Yard Gospel Choir.
On September 24th, my band was in a horrific van accident. We all survived, but some of us were left with injuries which have greatly affected our lives. After spending time with a wheelchair and a walker, I left the hospital & have spent the past two months walking with a cane.
1. My relationship with my body has changed completely. When I was in the hospital, I found myself watching footage of BMX bikers & NBA basketball games, & cursing myself for spending so much of my spring & summer indoors.
2. People are always going to stare. I’ve found myself marveling that there was a time when I could disappear in a crowd & become invisible.
3. Strangers often ask what happened or offer a “feel better!” I always think how different, how inappropriate, that question would be if I was not going to recover from my injuries or if any of my bandmates had not survived.
4. People are often self-absorbed. I can’t count the number of times people have bumped into me, let doors slam on me, or not slowed their vehicles as I made my way through a crosswalk. It is a minor thing, but so infuriating when you are just struggling to live your life as you once did.
5. Strangers also have the power to make your day. I remember the first concert I went to after the accident, the waitress at Lincoln Hall was amazing. Without making me feel awkward, she checked on me every time she passed by my seat. When everything in the world feels like a challenge, sometimes an unexpected ally can change everything.
6. My college mentor was in a car accident when she was young that left her face disfigured. I remember her explaining her aversion to pictures by saying it wasn’t her face — her face had been changed by a steering wheel and then a plastic surgeon. I came out of this remarkably unscathed, but something as little as chipped front teeth has caused me to do double takes whenever I’m in front of a mirror.
7. It’s very frustrating sometimes, this whole experience. In my weaker moments, I find myself thinking how unfair it is to be carrying all this emotional baggage related to the crash, things that other people couldn’t possibly understand; and it is my job to excuse all the boneheaded shit people say to me because, hey, they couldn’t possibly understand.
8. Always wear your seat belt.
9. Everyone needs & deserves health care. I am one of the extraordinarily lucky people who has employer-provided health insurance. I simply cannot explain how much it has meant to me that I have spent the past three months focusing on my recovery, not fearing an ever increasing debt. Everyone deserves that. No one in America should go broke as they are fighting to survive.
10. I am very lucky. I flew out of a moving vehicle and I survived. I think about that everyday of my life. This has been the most difficult experience I’ve faced, but I know it could have been so much worse. I am so very lucky to have my band mates with me. We have been blessed with the most supportive families, friends, and music community. That’s what kept me going in those first few days. Thank you.
For more information or to give to the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir Recovery Fund, please visit http://www.bloodshotrecords.com/news/sygc-van-accident.
[I would like to send a heartfelt thank you to Mary for taking the time to reflect and make this very personal list. My friends in SYGC are near and dear to my heart, Chicago is a better place because of them. While Mary is insured medically, some of the other band members are not, and aside from those costs there is also the issue of gear replacement and income loss. Please consider donating using the link above--Erik]