From this point forward, October 15th will be a phoenix celebration for me. On Friday, the taxi taking me to the airport on a dark rainy windy morning spun out of control, slammed into the abutment of an overpass facing on-coming traffic, caught fire and then exploded. The picture to the right shows the taxi (ball of fire) and the Mass Turnpike vehicle directing traffic away from what would shortly be a cloud of acrid smoke. There wasn’t much to do but stand in the downpour beside my driver, Lee, and thank God that we were alive. When I took out my phone to call the cab company, I decided instead that I would capture a reminder about how lucky I am to be here.
Both the taxi driver and state trouper were concerned that I was going to be late getting to the airport, offering to find a way to get me there. The state trouper, a woman about my age, was great. While I had no intention of proceeding as if nothing has happened, I remained practical – “I have no clothes – my suitcase was in the trunk.” Also pragmatic, she replied, “That’s what credit cards are for!” But of course, I had no credit cards either. So home I went to check-in and regroup.
This isn’t the first time life has spun me around – literally – including 3 other snow-related spin-outs over the years and a forward somersault over my bicycle handlebars last summer. I’m not taking this wake-up call lightly – my inventory of nine lives is seriously depleted.
A few weeks ago, I participated in a fundraising walk for the Brain Tumor Society with my family. A young couple ahead of us asked me to take their picture. It was a beautiful fall day and I was completely delighted. As I stepped back to get a better shot, I found myself head over heels down a small embankment, miraculously landing on the grass rather than the pavement. As I emerged from my somersault (camera in hand!) the young couple looked at me the way a fallen toddler seeks a signal from its mother about whether to laugh or cry. In fairness, I was bent over – because I was laughing so hard – and ultimately saying that I was very glad they didn’t make their request at the Grand Canyon. Presumably, the universe has some other message for me that I did not quite hear then.
What could it be? Slow down, you’re moving too fast. Be here now. Your work here isn’t done. There’s someone to watch over me. Miracles happen every day. Life provides plenty of warning signs – pay attention! Speak now, or forever hold your peace. Live every moment as if it’s your last.
Maybe it’s all of them, or something else that comes from realizing my days are numbered and I’m blessed with a second chance – I still have some serious reflecting to do! I‘m always grateful to be reminded of the present, fragile moment though. I had gone to sleep the night before tossing and turning about a message I’d received and responded to somewhat abruptly. That, and not patting the dog before I left the house could have become eternal regrets. I hope I’ll pay more attention to these hesitations and omissions going forward, remembering that forgiveness is a powerful ingredient for resting in peace. On the other hand, I did kiss my mother goodbye, as well as my other family members (as much as they tolerate being kissed). I had rewritten and sent another message originally composed in haste to a dear colleague about something that ultimately felt like an appreciative pause in the conversation. I had put the trash out. I had completed all my urgent promises.
Years ago, I participated in a week-long retreat and was assigned a spiritual director. I don’t remember the particular questions that were on my mind at the time, but I hoped for some clarity and insight during a week of silence. At our last meeting, as he wished me well, he added that “I hope God speaks to you.” I’m quite sure I laughed out loud in response, because I found it very amusing to imagine that the universal divine was somehow the underperforming partner in this relationship! I know I responded that I was quite confident that my only concern was recognizing and then acting on the abundance of messages generously provided by life everyday. It still is.
And at 50-something, I can’t see or hear with quite the same clarity that youth afforded – although I’m often loathe to accept it. I feel fortunate to have so many wonderful companions on life’s journey, of which you are undoubtedly one – known or unknown. Perhaps part of our service to each other is asking about these signs and where they are pointing us. For now, I am clear that my contract has been renewed and there’s something important to learn, experience and do – with miles to go before I sleep.