It still shocks me how an average day could turn into the worst day of your life without warning and in the blink of an eye. No, don’t worry. We’re all fine as I write this.
I was forced to confront this truth today as I went out to get lunch this afternoon. I was driving down a side street near here when I came upon an accident scene. There was an ambulance, two cruisers, and a wrecker removing a Ford Explorer while some unidentifiable silver sedan waited its turn. Quite obviously someone blew through the red light.
That could just as easily have been me. A few times in my life, it was me, tooling along unaware and SLAM! Life takes a quick, hard turn.
I see it all the time in my commute, people driving to work as they normally do, but out of the hundreds of thousands of cars on the roads around Boston each day, they are the one whose number is up. Fender-benders, turnovers, jack-knifed trucks. Undoubtedly some bring it on themselves with reckless or careless driving. Just as undoubtedly some are innocent victims of circumstance.
A few times I’ve seen the accident happen in front of me. A few weeks ago, just down the street from work, three cars going the opposite direction had a chain-reaction crash. I don’t know what caused it, but I saw the aftermath. Back in March, as I was driving through a blizzard to get to the Boston Catholic Men’s Conference, as I sat stopped at a light, the car next to me suddenly jumped forward into the intersection, propelled by a giant black SUV whose owner evidently didn’t realize that the law of the conservation of momentum applies even when you have four-wheel drive and anti-lock brakes. If he’d been in my lane, that could have been me.
We can’t take our lives for granted. I bumble through my life, blithely assuming that I have plenty of time left to pray, to read, to travel, to spend time with my wife and daughter. But you never know. If there’s one thing I’m glad that life experience and maturity has taught me, it’s that I need to live in the “now”, as if I didn’t have unlimited time on my life clock, because after all, I don’t.
Our mortality is a gift from God, a time for us to grow and to change and to experience and to learn to love, but it is in the finiteness of that gift that we come to appreciate it. It’s never too late to start living as if it’s the last day of your life and to appreciate what is now instead of always chasing what it can be.