A Face of (Near) Death

MY JOURNAL September 8, 1993

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.

 

big Nick
My Big Nick, my first husband and always my friend