Wednesday, October 19, 2011

That Is Why It Is Called the "Present"

The day before my 33rd birthday I nearly died.

Yesterday morning was nothing remarkable. I had made a few loose plans to do laundry and read books with the kids. I had lunches to pack and errands to run and chores to do. I was preoccupied with a collection of quotidian details as I was driving home from my sons' school where I'd been helping with reading groups.

Just as I was starting to cross the highway to turn left at a green light, out of the corner of my eye I noticed a car flying like a bullet toward the intersection and showing no signs of slowing down.

I slammed on my brakes and lurched to a halt. My front wheels had already advanced half-way into the crosswalk the moment the speeding silver sedan shot through the red light. It was gone before I had gathered enough wits about me to honk my horn or read license plate numbers. With the sound of my heart swooshing rapidly somewhere behind my ears, I rolled forward again, trying not to let my knee shake as my foot pressed the gas pedal. I turned left, catching the eye of one of the drivers who had stopped at the red light. Her mouth was hanging open, and she raised her hands and shook her head in utter disbelief.

Death had just looked me in eyeballs, and my eyeballs were now open very, very wide. My vision, for that moment, was as sharp as shattered glass: My time is decidedly not in my hands.

Had I left the school just a split second earlier, had I proceeded from the stop sign up the hill just a moment sooner, had I driven just a hair over the speed limit on my way down that hill, I might have spent this day not enjoying birthday hugs from my children or lunch with my grandmother or a dinner out with my husband and some good friends but in a hospital bed or, worse, in a morgue.

Ironically, it's brush a death that may revive a love of life in all is mundane details. After that near escape, the fall leaves look a little brighter, the sky a little bluer, the laundry a little softer, my breath a little warmer, my family a little dearer. Life is good.

That "every day is a gift" may have been reduced to a greeting card platitude, but it's a truth nonetheless. Today I feel acutely that the mere fact of a beating heart is the gift of a lifetime.

Today I celebrate the day I was born. Today I celebrate that first day that life was given to me. But today I will also celebrate the other 12,044 days when that precious life was given to me again and again. Today is my birthday. Today I am alive. It is a very happy birthday indeed.


Carissalayla said...

Happy Birthday Hannah, here's to the good life, may you be blessed on your special day!


Bree said...

So glad you're alive! Happy birthday to you.

Irene Sun said...

What a story! Thanks for sharing.
May your days and years ahead be fruitful and blessed. Happy birthday!

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