I was driving home from dropping a friend off at the airport at 4:30 AM, pitch black outside, and it seemed a little eerie, but unsure why. I only knew it wasn’t the darkness. Then I saw a five-lane-wide band of brake lights ahead. No way out; I was stuck on the freeway.
My mind raced a bit, wondering what had happened, but at the moment, I was more focused on how soon I would need to go to the bathroom and how quickly this would all ease up. Still, an uneasy feeling (outside my bladder) lurked, and then two ambulances squeezed by.
Half an hour later, when the five lanes of traffic finally began to merge into one, I saw the first of the (ultimately five) cars, half of which was smashed in, and four other vehicles were strewn across the freeway, one of which had been ripped in half.
At that moment, I felt my breathing stop on the inhale – not knowing for sure, but I could feel the shadow of death. In a flash, I thought, “What would happen if that was my loved one on his way over the hill to Santa Cruz to go fishing and…?” I released a huge sigh.
When I got home, I checked the news wire and learned the crash had been fatal. Two people had left their car when it stalled, a motorist swerved to avoid them, and the rest followed suit. One flash decision was a reminder of how fragile our life is. The pain the victims’ families would endure, let alone the injuries to others that indeed happened, lingered long past the next few hours or days.
This event felt like the universe was speaking to me, reminding me about the importance of being in the present moment. As we rush about through our days, in too much of a hurry to say “I love you” on the way out the door, too caught up in our busy-ness to hold a door open for a stranger or return the smile of a small child – when we spend more time looking at our phones than at the world around us – we diminish our connection to the present. We lose our ability to be present.
Do-overs are rare. How will you move through your day? Pause, be grateful, and tell people you love them - including yourself.