The intersection where death left me, again
No person can confidently say that he will be living tomorrow.
Last Thursday, I was at a lunch meeting with a faculty candidate and three colleagues. It was professionally pleasant and we ended by walking back to the Central Avenue building downtown that houses our school. Across the street from campus is a coffee shop where I decided to grab an English Breakfast tea for my drive to the MISS Foundation offices.
I went inside and the line was rather long, so I decided to forego the tea.
I headed to my car and was walking north down the street toward the parking lot. It was a beautiful February day in Phoenix, the clouds billowy and the warmth of the sun beamed on my face. I could feel my phone vibrating in my pocket but this day, unlike most others, I wanted to be present in the moment as I walked to my car.
As I walked north, I saw a medium sized white car driving southboand, unusually fast. I noticed it and thought she must've been going 45-55 in a 35 mph zone. As she approached the stop sign at the intersection, I noticed she wasn't slowing down at all. By this time, I had stepped into the crosswalk. I thought, "Goodness, I think she's going to miss the stop sign." Surely enough she did; then, she began to turn left, headed right for me as I was merely half-way through the crosswalk. At this point, I thought, "She's blowing the stop sign and is turning right into me!" It seemed like minutes but was probably only seconds.
My heart raced and I started to run across the street as quickly as I could. I was screaming at her but she didn't hear. I don't know how, but I managed to move out of the way quickly enough that her car brushed my back and I went flying forward onto the street dropping whatever was in my arms.
Two people came to my aid, and one of them turned and started to run after her car. The other made sure I was okay.
I was, at least physically, okay. My brush with death left me trembling and hyperaroused but I was alive.
It took me awhile to gather the belongings I'd relinquished to the asphalt. It also took me awhile to recall where I'd parked in the lot, as my memory was foggy and I felt disoriented. Once I got to my car, I wept- for a long time. Once I was calm enough, I drove to the MISS Foundation offices where I ran into Yasi, one of our counselors and my friend. Her intuition, keen as always, told her something wasn't right. I began to recount the story. As I was standing in the kitchen telling her the story, I glanced up at the thermostat, and noticed the office temperature was 72.7 (those who know me well get what this means, and I don't believe this was a coincidence).
I thought about how close I came to likely death. I thought about the alternate universe where my loved ones - family, friends, colleagues- would be getting that call from the hospital or the visit from the police department. Death notifications are excruciating. I thought about the MISS Foundation and what would happen to the organization if I died. I thought about my animals, my home, my funeral.
I think about death every single day, but this day was somehow different. Death was more tangible, more within reach. This day, death was a sliding door: Had I been on my phone, not paying attention, unaware and unmindful, I likely would not be blogging this right now. You might, actually, be reading my obituary. Sliding doors indeed.
I know this already, but if there was any doubt at all, it's been utterly solidified: Life is fragile. Each moment is, really, a gift. No, really. Pay attention and be fully present. One day, that full presence may well save your life or someone else's in literal or symbolic ways.
And to my beloved family, I love you.
Zou Zou, I love you.
My beloved friends, I love you.
Our beloved MISS Foundation children and families, I love you.
My students and interns, I love you.
All the creatures of the earth and maybe beyond, I love you.
World, I love you too.
It's amazing how a brush with death can break your heart open.