I opened the door to a woman I did not know. She was a bit younger than I was and wearing a ponytail. She looked into my eyes.
“I’m Linda, one of your neighbors from down the road. Your husband is OK. He has had a motorcycle accident. He and his bike are in my driveway. So is the guy who almost hit him with his pick-up. I already dialed 911.”
I grabbed my purse from the hook by the door and rode with her the two blocks to her drive.
I will never forget the image of my husband, Nick, the strongest man I have ever known, lying on his side on the blacktop. Several feet away lay his Harley which he had dropped instantly to avoid a head-on with the pick-up that had pulled out in front of him.
He was conscious, in pain and had decided to be still. The young man who had almost hit him was sitting on the ground beside him – pale and shaking.
As I ran to Nick, I felt my stomach wrench. The phrase “the mighty are fallen” flashed through my thoughts. He stretched out like a fallen warrior or an animal who had been struck down by a human predator.
“I have some major road rash on my arm – it hurts like hell. My helmet and my leathers saved the rest of me,” he told me as I plunked down and clasped his hand.
“My God, you’re alive, Nick.”
“I’m so sorry,” the young truck driver teared up. “I never saw him. He came out of nowhere. I didn’t look enough times or something before I pulled out.” He went on, “Y’know yesterday I was watching ‘The Faces of Death’ – those recordings of actual violent deaths of people. I wish I hadn’t. And now, the next day, I almost kill a guy. Damn, I feel awful.”
“Hey, I’m OK. I’m alive,” Nick retorted from his place on the ground.
Then we heard the sirens. Within seconds, the police, an ambulance and a firetruck arrived.
At the ER, the nurse wanted to cut off his jacket and boots.
“No way. This jacket is new. I’ll sit up and take them off.”
Tests and x-rays showed there were no internal injuries or broken bones – just a huge hematoma on his arm and a bruised hip – which were to bother him the rest of his days.
Our son Erik and his buddy Wolf hurried over to the ER from football practice. Such events can evoke loving response and comments.
One irrevocable disappointment was that Nick was to leave the next day to attend older son Nick’s graduation from boot camp at Fort Sill. I was to leave for seminary within the week. Big Nick was not in condition to travel. This is a haunting and damaging outcome of this accident.
What I do not catch as I am writing this is the pattern.
This is probably because at this point in my life I have not yet jostled into the faces of near death enough times.
Since then, when that particular specter has elbowed into me, I’ve noticed there is also, in some manifestation, a helper. Now I actually watch for this one who comes to comfort and, in time, to heal. The pattern is irrefutable.
There are times when a loved one or I have been sprawled out on the pavement with the vestiges of our disaster scattered around. Then someone shows up – to sit with us on the blacktop. Help is on its way.
In the end, the face of death-near-death is a mirage boogie man. Life can bring its nightmares. We do awaken into the light – accompanied, healed.
An old book title: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff . . . and it’s All Small Stuff ~ Richard Carlson
Just because we have heard it a lot does not mean it is no longer true.
This has been an anxiety of mine: How will I do driving by myself all the way through the city to Garrett [the seminary], on Sheridan Avenue, just north of Chicago in Evanston? This seems foreboding to a sheltered “wimpette” like me. Classes are starting in mid-September. I will be arriving alone and living on campus by myself with what I can bring in the trunk of my car. Every week-end or two, I will make the 260 mile commute from central Michigan to Evanston.
I am going to seminary to learn more of Christ. Either I trust, or I do not trust.
This week, my husband Nick has been doing some post graduate work at Garrett. He contracted pneumonia while there and I am to go there and drive him home — through Chicago. This will be my first solitary run. I have never even ridden to Evanston through Chicago from the South side before. I am timid.
Enter the perfect prototype of rescuing manhood. He is Kenny – a member of the parish – a farmer in his early 30’s. [What I do not know as I write this is how popular the matchmaking website, Farmersonly.com will become years later. Understandable.]
Kenny volunteers to drive me to Garrett. He will bring me there, take a look around Garrett and Northwestern campuses, and then drive home. (Nick already has his car.)
Early in the morning he arrives. I climb into his pickup. It is a 5 hour journey. I make mental notes regarding the route all the way – especially the turns in the city. [This was before GPS.]
The ride is a cross-cultural experience. The lean man, wearing pristine Western clothing and boots, his cowboy hat and his own brand of comfort in his own (my-God-perfect) skin is good company.
While we ride, he tunes his radio in to a station that plays polkas. Polkas. Yes.
“They have a cheerful vibe.” His grin is convincing. This cowboy takes me somewhere I have never been before. Straight through Chicago to toe-tapping polka music.
On seminary and university campus, Kenny gets a lot of covert, but positive attention. The hat? The boots? His towering physical presence? Glowing-cheerful-handsomeness?
It is a pleasant initiation to casual Chicago driving.
Conclusions: I am on schedule. God’s sense of humor is subtly outrageous.
It was a parched August afternoon. Several of us employees had met to brainstorm for a work project. At this gathering, four of us were newly introduced. After our time together, we all chatted outside for a bit.
“Have a good one,” I called to him as we were going our separate ways. He was mounting his bike to leave.
“Oh, believe me, I have a good one,” he grinned back at me over his shoulder. I was not sure I had heard right.
I remember what I was wearing that day: a well-cut soft cotton dress bought in Chicago. My hair was in a short asymmetrical bob, which was trending at the time.