We all know that we are mortal.
Most of us live like we are not, that we have all the time in the world, in a false sense of security that all those bad things that happen to other people are not going to happen to us.
We all have moments when that sense of mortality is a little closer to home, a little bit more real. It’s on my mind today because of a 20 minute diversion on my way home.
I had no specific plans for the morning. I knew I was catching up with a friend, I knew that I had study to do, house cleaning, all the usual. My Bug has been home sick for the last two days and neither of us was in any mood to start the day today. It was raining, arctic cold. I didn’t rush her to get ready because she is well enough for school, but still not well, and suffering hearing loss. We took our time and got to school 20 minutes late.
My morning was spent chatting with a friend as we meandered around town putting together Book Week costumes for our kids. We headed out with the plan to go to the fabric shop. Once there, we decided to go to a shopping centre. They didn’t have what we wanted so we walked to another one. A man walked in the door from outside, laughing that we didn’t want to go out there. It was pouring rain. So we detoured into a formal wear shop to daydream over all the pretty gowns. We decided to go home via a charity shop, one last stop to find those last few things we needed. I hesitated in their driveway. It was sleeting/hailing and I considered not getting out, dropping them off and going. I went inside for a while (20 minutes?).
It’s a 20 minutes drive home from their house. A few kms into the trip I knew something was wrong. At the bottom of the hill, a semi spread sideways across the highway. Lights and cars and people everywhere. The cars in front of me had stopped, then they started to turn around. The detour took me an extra 20 minutes to get home.
How close do our decisions bring us every day to catastrophe? Three people died in that accident this morning, which happened about 20 minutes before I got there. I drive that road at least twice, up to six times, a day. It’s the main road to get between where I live and where my life is. People I know drive that road every day. A million thoughts run through my head every time I see an accident, this one especially. What if it’s someone I know? What if I hadn’t been running 20 minutes late this morning? What if we hadn’t gone to the charity shop? What if I’d come straight home? Any different decision this morning could have changed where I had been 20 minutes before. Any different decisions could have changed where those three people were.
I was in a car accident as a teen. I was in the back passenger side seat and a car ran a red light to hit our car, inches from where I was. Fractions of a second, a slight increase or decrease on either our accelerator or theirs, were all that stood between me shakily walking away with a cut on my head and a sore neck, and more serious injury. That was my first lesson on the fragility of life and how every second, every decision, every millimetre counts towards something that is bigger than the moment, bigger than us.
We stress about the big decisions, what job to take, whether to stay with our partner, how we raise our kids. There is no doubt that these decisions can have a big impact on our lives and our futures. But we also make a million tiny decisions a day that affect our life, where we are at any given moment, what we do.
We can never be exactly where we want to be all the time. The best we can do is to be where we are meant to be and appreciate what we have while we have it.
My thoughts today are with the family and friends of the people involved in the accident, and with the people that attended the scene. They woke up today thinking this was an ordinary day. For most of us it was. Stay safe friends.