Friday, April 12, 2013
“Please Hold On, Sudden Stops are Sometimes Necessary” cautioned the sign on the San Francisco Transit System bus. “I should take a picture of that,” I thought. “Good sermon illustration.” Two days later it would prove not to be a sermon illustration but a prophetic warning. Two days later I was back in Ohio driving south on Rt. 91 in Stow. It was raining. I was jet lagged. I was travelling about 40 miles an hour – a speed consistent with the flow of traffic. I turned my head to the right to see if the windows I had opened were letting too much water into the car. When I turned my head back, I was stunned to see that the car in front of me had come to a complete and sudden stop. Maybe the driver decided at the last minute to turn and had to stop for oncoming traffic. If I had not turned my head when I did, my Civic would have plowed into his back end regardless of whether or not I had braked. It was way too late to brake. Instead I whipped my steering wheel to the right to swerve around him – I don’t recall checking to see whether or not there was a car to the right of me. But there wasn’t. I am not sure if all four wheels stayed on the road, but as I veered to the right I began to lose control of the vehicle. It probably would have been fun if I was playing Grand Theft Auto or Super Mario Cart. I regained control and wrenched the steering wheel back to the left after I passed by the stopped car. The entire incident was over in just a few seconds of “real time,” but it still isn’t really over for me. I looked back in my rearview mirror to see that the cars behind me had slowed way down – they were giving this stunt driving man all the room I needed. I pulled into the post office parking lot and turned off the ignition. As I sat there I realized just how close I was to killing someone. How close I was to killing myself. Or at least significantly injuring myself or others. How close I was to the hospital, to the jail, to the morgue. To a complete shift in the direction of my life or the life of someone else. Life does come at you fast, sometimes, doesn’t it? Please hold on, sudden stops are sometimes necessary. I regained enough of a grip to start the car and continue on my travels to the church and later up to the Cleveland Clinic to see a church member. Another crisis averted, another return to life as normal, another list of things to check off my Kindle “To Do” list. When I finally got home later in the day, I opened some bottles and toasted with Holly – a toast to life. It was almost like a thanksgiving offering brought to an altar. I knew that I was blessed to be at my home that night with my wife. Earlier in my trip south on Rt. 91 before the sudden stop, I was sitting at a red light and examining a cross that nine year old Bella Curet has made for me and given to me a few days before Easter. Bella was the sole member of my pastor’s class and was baptized on Easter morning. The cross had been hanging from my mirror along with some Russian prayer beads. The cross had fallen and when I picked it up I noticed words I hadn’t seen before written on the blue material of the sewn cross. “He Still Lives,” the words proclaimed. An appropriate enough Easter message. But after my near death experience, I realized that Jesus was not the only one who still lives. At least for another day, “He Still Lives” described me. I am thankful.