February 5, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

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?

About Jane Thornton

Jane Thornton, English teacher, wife, and mom of two almost grown children, strives to break free of the automatic boring label attached to those roles. Her two suspense novels eagerly await a willing publisher, and her articles search for inspiration in the humor and tears of life.
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8 Responses to “Speed”
  1. Dee Yoder says:

    Oh goodness! What a harrowing journey for you that day. So glad your husband was all right. I’ve had my share of knowing life is short, but the death of my son’s daddy brought it home to me forever. He was only 36. Since then, when I forget how short life can be, I’m reminded of Jim’s life. However, good things can grow from that awareness: blessings and daily life struggles take on precious meaning. Thanks for sharing this post!

  2. Lee King says:

    Jane, I know those were frightening times for you. But by the time I heard about it, the cliff was 100 feet high, the river was in flood and the vehicle weighed 3 tons and every bone in his body was broken. But he’s my dear nephew and I love him and am so glad he survived even though he will probably be in the hospital for another year. I’m glad he’s doing his email from there. Love you kids, yal

  3. Lee Carver says:

    It happens almost every day, Jane. Every time I get in the car go to a meeting, buy a loaf of bread, whatever…I know that I might not return. Deadly accidents always happened to other people until my precious mother-in-law caused her own death by car four years ago. When I leave the house now, my husband says, “I love you. Be careful.” We pray for safety. When we return, we thank God. Even while we yearn for heaven, we would not cut short what God has for us to do in this world.

  4. Julie Marx says:

    Ugh! Been there twice. Once when my husband was whooshed away by a riptide and missing for 4 hours. The thought of raising our then 4 month old son as a single mom plagued me for days.
    The second happened when we believed our long-awaited-for daughter was stillborn. She’s 18 now.
    Those moments truly drill into you the quality of a life.
    Good story, Jane (Not so sure I appreciate the memories it exhumed, though. LOL)

  5. Susette says:

    When I went to the doctor when I was 8 months pregnant with our twins. The doctor told me he didn’t know if he could induce labor. He was very somber; told me to take the other kids that were with us to a sitter and he would meet us at the hospital. I had pre-eclampsia. My resting BP was 194/107. I knew the night before that it was getting worse. Some foods affected me like poison and made my BP rise and I felt horrible inside.

    At the hospital, the doctor recommended that we not have any more children unless my husband wanted to be a widow raising the kids. I honestly wasn’t sure I would live delivering them. We prayed on the way to the hospital and a peace came over me. I haven’t worried about dying since because I know God has His hand on my life; even now, fifteen years later.

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