Out of My Mind: Flat on My Back

I was stopped at the cornern of Michigan Avenue and Ontario the other day. The light changed. As the walk signal flickered on, I waited for two cars who ran the red light. Standard procedure. This is Chicago after all.  When the way seemed clear, I stepped out from the curb.

A few steps into the crosswalk, my peripheral vision detected a flash of yellow. In the split second that followed, I experienced three successive moments of clarity. Thought #1: “He’s not going to stop.” This was immediately followed by thought #2: “He’s on my foot.” And then thought #3: “I’m lying on my back in the middle of the street.”

I have often wondered what thoughts will come to my mind during my last moments of life. Will I think about my family? Will I echo Christ’s prayer of holy resignation and commend my spirit into the Father’s hands? Will I evaluate my choices as I watch my life flash before my eyes?

I had my answer that day as the police officer and ambulance personnel helped me to my feet. When they asked me how I felt, all I could think to say was, “I’m supposed to be at work.” The officer standing next to me looked perplexed. “Do you believe this guy?” he said. “He almost gets killed and he wants to go to work.”

They say that nobody who comes to the end of their life wishes they had spent more time at the office. I know why people say this but I believe they are wrong. I imagine that there are many people who would much rather be at the office than lying on their death bed. I almost went to work anyway but my wife Jane wouldn’t let me. It’s probably a good thing. I spent most of the day feeling giddy and trying to process the experience. Jane told me that she thought it was God’s way of keeping from going to a meeting I was scheduled to attend later that day. That may be true. But it seems to me that God could have chosen a more efficient way to accomplish such a goal.

Then again, maybe there isn’t. Perhaps I am so stubborn–so set upon my own course–that the only way God could get my attention is to send a yellow cab careening in my direction. Upon further reflection, it occurred to me that this could very well be the case. And of course, as a good Calvinist, I know that everything which happens to me is part of God’s plan. He didn’t want me to go to work that day. He didn’t want me to attend that meeting. And to nobody’s surprise, everything went on just fine without me. The Institute was not shaken to its foundations. The committee met and had a good meeting in my absence–perhaps even because of my absence. And I got an unplanned day of reflection.

I was impressed with the skill and compassion of the police and emergency medical technicians. They treated me with patience and compassion (though I was not seriously hurt). They made sure I had all the information I needed. When one of the officers noticed that I was shaking uncontrollably from the shock and adrenalin of the event, she took my hand and held it. I wish I had thought to get their names so I could tell them thank you. Although I am sure they will never read this blog, I want to publically express my gratefulness for all they did for me.

Still, I learned an important lesson through all of this. There is really no good way to tell your spouse over the phone that you’ve just been run over by a taxi.