Facing Death

I faced death yesterday.


It wasn’t what I was anticipating as I headed down the driveway to get the day’s mail right after getting home from work.

But I faced death as a 4 ton Chevy Avalanche came down the road, veered off the road, and slammed into the maple tree at the end of my driveway just 10 feet away from where I stood waiting – waiting for that very vehicle to pass so that I could get the mail. The tree stood steadfast between me and the truck that barely veered a couple of feet off the road. I instinctively began to back pedal just before impact. A loud BANG! and then flying bumper, headlight, and plastic shrapnel. The momentum of the truck rotated it a little around the tree so that it sat diagonally across the narrow road. Then the creaking and snapping of wood as branches rained down and a large dead branch fell just feet away from me. I pulled out my phone and began trying to dial 911, my brain trying to process the collision, the terror, and what I should do to help. The simple act of pressing three numbers became a monumental task as I tried to get a grip on the reality of the situation. Everyone in the truck was ultimately all right. Some cuts and some bruises – but no frantic ambulances rushing to the hospital – no life flight. Thirty minutes after the accident the truck, police, and people were gone. The injured presumably taken to the hospital by a relative or friend, and the truck towed.

Ten feet… This has stayed in my mind since yesterday. Ten feet away from where the right front side of the Avalanche crumpled into the maple. That tree may have been the only thing between me and the grill of the truck. If the tree had not been there, I could have been severely hurt… or worse. But that tree – that now has a two-foot section of bark missing – that was shaken but not toppled – stood solidly, and I was unharmed. But I can’t help thinking that I faced death. It was so close and could have happened so quickly. And it has my pondering.

If that tree had not of been there, and I had an up-close, personal meeting with death, what would I think of my life? What regrets would I have? What would I wish that I could have done differently? I wouldn’t regret much. I have achieved a lot. I have a wonderful wife and amazing friends. And it is a remarkable thing to think that I have touched thousands of lives with my art, my book, and my teaching. But I would regret not doing all that I feel that I am meant to do. My life is full, but I know there is so much more out there for me – so many more avenues of life to explore and so many more people to meet. I want to make the most out of my life no matter how long or short – to have an impact on the world. There’s so much more joy and life outside my front door.

I pondered this today as I walked down the hall, and I saw one of my students skipping down the hall. A freshman, 14 or 15 years old, and she was alone in the hall and probably did expect anyone to see her. But I turned the corner and she stopped skipping as soon as she saw me. As I said hello to her and passed by, I told her that I believed the world needs more skipping.

So I faced death and realized that the world needs more skipping.