I look at the screen of my cell phone that is now ringing. Fifteen minutes earlier, my wife Carol had left for the local Wal-Mart. The screen indicates that she is calling. She probably wants to ask about something I might need from the store. Over the years, we have averaged one phone call anytime one of us goes solo to the store. It is our normal routine. Making lists and checking them twice does not stop the phone call. You can depend on it. One of us will remember something that needs to be purchased. I use the word “need” with some liberality.
I hear the words, “I am okay.” It’s one of those statements you hear and immediately believe just the opposite. By its very nature, telling someone the answer to a question they did not ask implies there is a big problem. In milliseconds, I go from, “She is not okay,” to the realization that it is Carol who is calling and she must be okay or she could not be calling. She is alive and that fact means something.
Then, before I can fully embrace the short comfort I feel, my thinking is reversed. She hits me like a Mack Truck head-on as I hear, “I was hit by a car!” I am processing the words and once again try to go forward, but am stuck in reverse. My first response is to not believe what I am hearing. She could not be hit by a car because she is actually on the phone right now talking to me. If she has been hit, I quickly process, someone else would be calling.
It is very difficult to measure time in moments like these. What might seem like an eternity may only be moments. You can review — and think about your entire life — within seconds.
I repeat Carol’s statement, in question form, as if asking would somehow negate what I am hearing. She tells me she has been hit by a car in the parking lot. Not by being in a car and being hit by a car. She is telling me now she has been hit as a pedestrian. My heart absolutely sinks. I cannot bear to listen to these words!
I hear just enough details before grabbing my keys and heading out the door. Violating a number of traffic laws, I frantically race to the scene! I break all past records for driving to the store.
Hastily parking in the middle of the fire lane, I jump out to find her in the store. Twenty minutes later, we are signing papers at a local medical center.
Ten days later, Carol is much better but not fully recovered; neither have I recovered. There is a difference . . . I can sense it.
Life is short. The phone call could have been someone else calling to tell me about an accident, perhaps one of greater magnitude. It could have been worse. I feel blessed to have Carol still here in my life.
We muster extreme clarity in such critical moments. Our vision is clear and our understanding is deep. We feel it in our souls. No one needs to coach or teach us anything at times like this. We become instant masters of knowledge about life. We know, because we sense it in our hearts. I know exactly how much I love Carol! I feel every bit of that knowledge in the moment on the phone with her.
Have you had such an experience in your life? If so, your understanding about your relationship with that person has grown exponentially. You value the education, even though you do not like the experience. You learn something that you will never forget.
It is now days later, and I notice that I am very much more sensitive and loving. This is my own evaluation of my behavior, Carol might say something differently. It is not that I lack sensitivity on other days. But, I notice that I am different after a day like this one. The accident, a terrible event, is a reminder to me that I can be loving and sensitive on any day of my life. It is a choice. Both good days and difficult days are opportunities to do what is right. There are no limits to love and care. They come to us in an unlimited supply.
There are no small moments in life. All of them are huge! We have opportunity after opportunity each and every day we live. Yet, many of these moments pass us by without having visible meaning. It’s not that we do not want to live our lives with significance. It is not because deep down we do not care. We are creatures of habits. Into the fabric of our lives we have sewn many practices that are now habits. Losing awareness becomes easy. We do not see what is taking place. We want to see it, but the habits we have formed are now the daily routines that control our actions.
Experience is a great teacher. We can, and should, take advantage of the major events to foster learning and growing. There is opportunity to learn in all of our moments. There are no small moments.
The phone is ringing. Life is calling. This moment is unduplicated in my life. I will try to answer. With new awareness, I will sew more love and care into my fabric. My vision is becoming clearer. Awareness is my friend. The author of my story is me.
Note: Carol’s accident occurred several years ago.. For the most part, Carol recovered from that event. It was her second one within one year, the other incident occurring at a bowling alley during a courier convention. I was present for that scary event and have concluded that I would rather be present than not.
I did not predict, a year later, I would be with her in the hospital after she suffered a stroke on Easter Friday. Today, there is little visibility that she ever had a stroke, or suffered any of these accidents. If you met Carol today, you would not know about these events from her appearance or conversation. But, Carol and I know. We know in a deep and special way. And with that knowledge, I live today with awareness of how great life is . . . how special all the moments are.