Our drive up to Sacramento for my sister’s annual family New Year’s Eve gathering was uneventful…

…until we got sideswiped by a big semi truck, which decided to change lanes right into us.

No one was hurt. The driver moved back into his lane as soon as he made contact with us, and we both pulled over and exchanged information. The truck ripped out our passenger side mirror and the passenger door now makes an ominous creaking noise whenever it is opened or closed.

But the bottom line is that we made it to our destination – safe, if a little bit shaken.

And as I was contemplating the beginning of a new year, I realized that our little highway incident was a metaphor for the year that just passed. Overall, 2015 was a pretty good year that ended shockingly with my mother dying from a sudden illness, just a couple of weeks after we spent Thanksgiving together. Unbeknownst to the rest of the family, we made plans to fly our daughter home from Chicago, and kept it a secret until we walked in the door with her. My mom deemed it our “best Thanksgiving ever,” and two weeks later, I was still basking in that while getting ready for Megan to come home again for winter break.

I was out shopping when my sister called to tell me that our mom was in the hospital with a respiratory infection.

At the time, she didn’t think there was any reason for me to fly up there. That changed the following morning, and so I booked the first flight I could reasonably catch and spent the next two nights in the ICU with the family, watching over my mom. As she appeared to be responding well to treatment, I flew back to Los Angeles so I could be home when my daughter arrived.

Two days later, we got another phone call and this time all three of us were booked on another last minute flight to Sacramento. My mom passed away at 2 AM with both her daughters, our husbands, and all our kids around her.

We were all sideswiped.

That was nearly two weeks ago, but it feels like it’s been longer. Since then, we celebrated a rather subdued Christmas at home, and returned to Sacramento for a quieter-than-usual New Year, and tomorrow I will try to resume my responsibilities at work.

But today I want to acknowledge all of the things I am grateful for as I begin this strange, new, motherless chapter of my life:

I am grateful for my family, who love me no matter what. I don’t think I’ve ever understood exactly how much I need them.

I am grateful that my sister and I threw my parents a special 60th anniversary dinner in August. And I am grateful that her beloved cousins from Miami happened to be in town that weekend. My mother enjoyed that weekend immensely and I am grateful that I was there.

I am grateful that my sister and brother-in-law talked us into visiting Italy with them in October – and that we were able to talk them into beginning that vacation in the UK. I’m grateful that my family and my husband’s family got to hang out together for the first time since our wedding, over 20 years ago.

I am grateful that my husband fits right in with the rest of the crazy Schwartzes. And vice versa.

I am grateful for my nieces and nephews and of course, for my wonderful daughter. They have all grown up to be interesting people who are fun to be around. I’m proud of them, too.

I am grateful that my mother gave me one of her beautiful rings for my birthday this year, and that she was happy to see me wearing it before she died.

I am grateful to have found a job in late middle age, after spending 15 years as a stay-at-home mom.

I am grateful that when we were hit by a truck in California’s Central Valley that we were able to continue on and laugh about it later.

And I hope to do the same the next time I’m sideswiped.