Some selfish thoughts on close calls and death

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I don't know what "Normal" people think about when they think about how they want to die and how their loved ones will be a part of that process, but perhaps because I have been a part of many people's passing and the communication and care that is needed for their families, I've thought about these things. Too much sometimes.

Last Monday evening as Lauralea and I were headed into town to lead a prayer meeting at someones home, the weather started playing tricks on us, and the snow began to rain. In January no less. My speed was considerably less than normal as I was taking the weather into consideration and there was no indication that the slush on the road was slippery, as in icy.

But then as they say, suddenly we were in a fishtail that I was able to correct nicely, or at least was correcting nicely until we hit some more ice and before anything could be done, we were doing a violent 360 down the highway in the darkness going about 80 kph. Upon the completion of one revolution the front right tire caught the edge of the road and we shot into the snow filled ditch. Hard. Because the snow was deep we didn't go far in and it slowed us down from 80ish to 0 in less than 15 feet.

When everything had stopped and the grunting and scraping sounds were silenced and the car was dead with only the windshield wipers squeaking back and forth, we sat there a while, stunned and quiet. Banged heads and arms on hard surfaces, my radio normally on the dashboard had found its way on top of my left arm still holding the steering wheel, and us with a profound sense of shock and surprise.

I remember realizing that the car was dead and so I took it out of gear and started it again. I remember a sense of gratitude that there were no oncoming cars when we spun out of control. I remember being so glad that the airbags hadn't deployed. Lauralea had hit her door as we hit the ditch kind of sideways, and I had hit something or rather something had hit me, and I remember my back feeling sore. After a bit, Lauralea began to call the people whose house we were expected at, and she txted Hillary who she had been talking to while the incident happened. I climbed out of the car to see the mess, and it was a climb because we were on such a steep angle. The car was up past the mid of the door on Lauralea's side in snow, but I was able to get out of my side. There would be no driving out of this or even shovelling out of this mess.

I was able to reach a willing friend who headed out to us with chains and ropes and as chance would have it his brother happened by on his way home. So between the two of them and shocked me, we managed to get it back on the road after some more stressful moments. We limped home with the undercarriage of the car and wheels packed with snow so we could only manage a slow speed. It took forever to get home but we were so glad to get here.

In all my 34 years of driving, and hundreds of thousands of miles travelled, I've never had such an experience of being out of control on the road as I did that dark Monday night. By Tuesday we were in some physical discomfort, bumps and strains here and there. And emotionally I think we are recuperating fairly well, although it's taken till today for me to start to feel mostly whole again.

But it is always that emotional piece that takes longer to bounce back.

We've had friends die in traffic accidents, even two who had the exact same thing happen, except that for them there was a truck in the oncoming lane.  The Lord only knows how many times I've been there to tell a family or spouse or a child that their loved one is dead as a result of an accident. So many of their faces have travelled though my mind again and again over the years that I've thought a lot about how I want to go.

I think that the ones who are held in love by friends or family who are there to see them off, they are the blessed ones in that regard, passing from life to death. How often I've thought, wished, and prayed that my family never has to have a stranger show up at the door with such bad news. Or have to go to a hospital and have a strange pastor stand beside them as they identify someone, or me. Yeah, I've thought those thoughts because I've been the strange pastor in the room.

I know that in bigger ways, life and death for a follower of Jesus should be a different thing. Yet we are all still human and as we all face death, there are different feelings and thoughts that happen. Yes as a Christfollower I know that the one I follow has faced death and as a result of beating death, has given me a similar opportunity. I know that death and the grave is only a physical death and that we are more than just physical creatures. So there is Hope, and good reason to have hope.

Still its been my experience and my work that death can be harsh and violent and messy and terrible and pain filled and if I were asked my opinion on the matter, I would much rather prefer to go, with a bit of notice and some people I love around me. :)

Of course, in death as in life it's not about me and my opinion. I'll be glad to defer to the One who knows the end from the beginning. At least I can trust him.


  1. Glad you are both recuperating and here to write these insightful words, sharing your experiences.

  2. Glad you're safe, Randall. I've sat in the remains of a car, completely surrounded by smashed metals and glass, feeling helpless and in awe. It's exhilarating, gratifying and terrifying. I'm glad God has you both here longer. :)

  3. This week has been 'interesting' as far as traffic and accidents go, but I am SO glad you're both basically OK.

    Monday night I got home late - 6.50pm - only to find Chris just leaving in her car. She parked up again and we whizzed off to Witney in order to collect Ben. Someone had turned right just in front of him while he was riding his bike home, and he'd binned it, sliding onto the verge on the opposite side of the road and stuffing the bike under the car that was travelling behind the car that caused the accident. He was OK, but the bike is bent.

    Tuesday when I got into work one of the ladies on reception told me that 2 other people from the innovation centre had had an accident. I went over to collect them, and when I stopped by the site of the accident the road was so slippery it was hard to stand. Neither were hurt, but one car had the front torn off and the other a burst tyre and bodywork damage. One of them, a divorced Russian woman, was clearly upset and confused, and it was good for me to be there, provide a bit of comfort & reassurance and enable her to get her car to a garage & then to work.

    Toward the end of your article I felt reminded of the joke about how I'd like to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather, rather than screaming in terror like the passengers in his car.

    Thanks for taking care, OK? Just because you've got Marc and Dixie installed doesn't mean you can go and fritter your lives away playing with the traffic!


  4. Yeah I saw a bit of Bens story on Facebook. Kind of unnerving.

    Actually been thinking of you guys a fair bit this week, in these sorts of ways.

    You guys take care of each other, and love to Chris.

  5. Thanks Randall. We take the POV that if God's in charge then He can keep Ben safe and bring him back in 1 piece. And if He doesn't then it's likely we couldn't have changed that anyway, provided he doesn't do anything deliberately stupid (and maybe even then - I'm sure there were plenty of times I might have wiped out).

    "You guys take care of each other" - and you too, my friends.

  6. Remember to be gentle on yourselves - it takes a while to recover from such a dramatic accident. Every Blessing


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