On Wednesday of this week the traffic on the way to work was unusually heavy, and the pouring rain made it an even greater challenge to navigate. As I crept along in the seemingly endless slow moving stream of cars I was imagining there must be a horrible accident up ahead, and so I tried to take the focus off myself and my lateness, and refocus on the unknown injured parties in the accident.
But when I passed the scene all it appeared to be was one patrol car that had pulled someone over for a traffic violation. I couldn’t believe that this tiny insignificant scene had held up traffic for so many miles.
When I arrived at work (10 minutes late), I carefully descended the outdoor wooden beam steps that lead to my office (most treacherous when rainy). Once safely inside I hurriedly put down my things, started up the computer, etc. and then noticed I did not have my cell phone with me. Assuming I had left it in the car I proceeded to walk back up the rain soaked wooden steps.
As I began my trek back up the steps I was thinking to myself, “Now be just as careful going up those steps as you were coming . . . ” and then BOOM! In an instant I had fallen, as if on ice. No time to react. No time to brace myself with my hands. BOOM!
All I knew was that my cheek had hit the corner of one of the wooden beams. And I am not referring to the cheek that sits halfway between my head and my feet. It was my face that took the brunt of the fall, with left ribcage and knees to follow. I wish I had a video of the fall. Maybe.
One moment I was upright, and the next moment I experienced a bone crushing blow to my face. As I rolled over, and moaned, I thought to myself, “Wow! You have really hurt yourself badly this time!”
I did triage on myself and decided I was worth saving. Upon inspection in the bathroom mirror I saw bleeding upper teeth and gums, and a bleeding cut on my face. I applied frozen peas to the affected area and began trying to read emails, etc. (hard to do with one hand – for me, anyway), hoping to reduce what was sure to be one heck of a swollen head.
Eventually, after running some work errands, it became apparent that I might be better off resting at home, and so my work day ended a bit early. Once home, I called the dentist, and he seemed to agree with me that any ensuing problems would make themselves known in the next few weeks (e.g. dead teeth from the traumatic blow, etc.) and that there was no urgent need for me to come in to be examined unless I wanted to do so. Nothing was cracked (apparently), and nothing loose. So, I applied ibuprofen and some more periodic icing therapy.
And there you have it! My sob story for December 2013.
Truthfully, I am relieved that things weren’t much worse. My left eye sits in that same vicinity. And believe me, if it had been hit with the same ferocity, having no protection whatsoever, well . . . you know how that might have gone down. I suppose I could have hit my temple, or the back of my head. Just three years ago a friend my age went to haul out trash from his house, fell on ice, ended up in the hospital with bleeding on the brain, and died days later. Several more years back another friend was golfing, lost his grip holding onto the back of a golf cart, hit his head, and has had severe, irreparable brain damage as a result.
It always amazes me when a traumatic event interrupts our lives and changes the course for us. It changes plans. It changes dreams. It changes families. It even changes us.
That same afternoon a family member called to tell me some details about a close relative’s developing condition: possibly some dementia or early Alzheimer’s disease. Hopefully, tests later this month will tell us more.
And in an instant . . . everything is refocused.
It seems that it always takes a hard hit to cause me to refocus. An accident, a death, a tragedy of some kind or other is required to get my attention off my routine. And it is in those moments that clarity comes: clarity about priorities; clarity about values; clarity about – life.
I wish I could say that I live with that kind of clarity on a daily basis. But, alas, I do not!
I must be jarred into clarity. I must be slammed to the ground sometimes before I open my eyes to the true value of the persons and things around me.
The Christmas season is upon us. A time when we are reminded (no matter our personal beliefs) of the value of family and friends. A time when we are encouraged to give of ourselves and our possessions. A time when sacrifice for others puts a smile on our face. And when assisting the needy or dropping a few dollars into a Salvation Army bucket just feels exactly right.
But it also is a time of bone jarring events. For no matter what personal decisions you have made about the man Jesus, and the meaning of Christmas, the events that ensued as a result of that man’s birth have changed history forever. Ancient history records stories about an amazing star, the journey of Magi, the murder of infants and toddlers, and a chorus in the night sky for Bedouin shepherds.
Some were tragedies. Some were amazing events, seismic in proportion to the every day life of the average person. But in each case their profundity was lived out in the lives of the persons they touched.
Those persons were never the same again.
They had to refocus.
And so do I. What we never seem to know is whether or not the trauma/amazing event we are experiencing at any given time is a life-changer, or merely a blip on the screen of life, a blip that one day we will hardly recall.
May we learn to read the events of our lives with both appreciation and appropriate pause.
And . . . watch those steps! Slippery when wet.