By Jane Thornton –
Sun glinted off my handlebars, the wind whispered around my goggles, and the leather seat jounced under my rear as my ATV slewed to a stop on the side of the sandy road. Grinning around my gritted teeth, I jerked the kerchief away from my face. “Wes! We’ve found our new retirement activity!”
I was ready to sell his ’67 Mustang, buy a pair of four-wheelers, and hit the road. For three hours, my family zipped and bounced along the mountain trails, relishing the speed, admiring God’s magnificence, and laughing at each other’s antics.
Toward the end of our jaunt, we had tracked down the wandering youngsters and were aiming for our rendezvous with the tour company. Our group had strung out along the trail to avoid dirt in our eyes. I careened into the parking lot with five minutes to spare. My niece was two minutes behind me. Wes should be pulling up the rear in a moment.
The owner of the company checked in our vehicles and nodded his understanding when we explained, “The dust was really getting to him, so he was hanging back. He’ll be right here.”
Minutes ticked by. Conversation grew awkward. Jokes about turning down the guided tour fell flat—maybe as flat as a tire? My brother Mark took off to find my husband. More time dragged by. Cell phones don’t work in the mountains. The boss sent an employee with a flat repair kit.
Rationalizations ricocheted through my brain and out of my mouth. The whole family endorsed all my possible reasons for the delay. The owner and his family waived away our apologies for holding up their excursion.
A rumbling motor announced the return of the company rescuer. With a serious face, he went straight to his boss. We heard the words “off the cliff.”
My heart went numb.
Robin, my sister-in-law echoed the pronouncement. “He said off the cliff.” Sound jabbered around my ears with no meaning. Off the cliff.
My thoughts flew to hospitals, lonely years, and funerals. I prayed, no, no, no. Reason told me God never promised life. No, no, no.
My gaze desperately followed the muted conversation. Finally, the owner approached. “He’s all right. He was walking.” Two short, amazing, powerful sentences.
When Mark putted back with Wes perched and clinging behind, we found him bloody and bruised, perhaps with cracked ribs. He told his tale: he hit a boulder in the road, rebounded off an unbending tree, rolled down an eight-foot embankment, splashed into a creek, and lay dazed as the heavy machine landed across his shoulders. By nightfall the bank was twelve feet and the creek was a river. Two months later, I think he says he fell fifty feet into roaring rapids.
That evening as he tried to break the chill from shock and snowmelt, I hovered. He shuddered in the cramped bathtub, and I laid warm handcloths over him. I mopped up blood and ruined several butterfly bandages. I flitted out to the kitchen for boiling water. Reminded myself of every frantic birthing scene in movies through the years.
Depending on how you measure, five to fifteen minutes of terror can bring presumption to a shrieking halt and slap you in the face with perspective. Life is good. It goes fast. Every minute is a blessing.
“Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath” (Psalm 39:4-5 NIV).
Comment Prompt: Share a time when you were struck by the fleeting quality of life?