The Habitual as Distraction from Death

The way my day began I could scarcely have improved upon. I had been able to get home this weekend and see my wife and one of the children. I had had a home-cooked meal. I had played with my dogs. I had watched the deer just outside the kitchen window. I had piddled in the yard. I had listened to my wife play piano and sing in church. I had been with my Sunday school class and pressed on in the crucial book of Hebrews. I had sat beside my son in church. I ate lunch with my family at a restaurant just down the road from the church where the burgers are great, the sundaes are on point, the chicken is fried just right, and the employees come and ask if they can clean your table. It was, as cliche as it sounds, a good day. Then I drove back down to post where I work. 

For the first two hours on the road, no issues. Just normal Sunday afternoon traffic on interstates and highways I know as well as I know my own hands. When I got south of the city, still everything seemed normal. But when Interstate 85 and 185 split, both sides of the interstate were stopped. A blue GSP vehicle was parked in the grass median. Cars coming north were backed up as far as I could see. For miles. It was sunny at the time and I could see well over a mile. And as far as I could see, vehicles were stopped. 

Because I was driving south, and because the accident was not on my side, I was just one of the many who passed the tragedy, but not without looking: it seemed a car had clipped a motorcyclist. The interstate was full of leather-clad motorcyclists, scores of them. They had pulled off the interstate beside the crumpled car and the invisible motorcycle. The rider (riders?) of the motorcycle was/were not seen. I don’t know if he/she/they was/were under the crumpled car, obliterated, smeared on the interstate, or perhaps had been catapulted into the woods parallel to the interstate. 

A sick feeling attacked my stomach. None of us drivers could not look, however. It seemed impossible not to look. And still, the motorcyclists came. They rode slowly up the emergency lane to come stand alongside the interstate and await the helicopter (surely!) that would arrive, and ambulances, and firetrucks, and EMTs, etc. It was horrible. And it must’ve happened just seconds before I came upon it. 

And my mind was trying to come to terms with what I was seeing: lives had surely been obliterated. Biographies were being run through the minds of the friends of the deceased. The miles of drivers, cursing the traffic’s dead-stop, had no idea what they’d eventually discover, that lives had been snuffed out up ahead. 

And it occurred to me that the habitual is so often a distraction from death. I will die, too, I said to myself. This man (I’ve no way of knowing it was a man, of course; I’m only surmising) on the motorcycle is gone. His friends are parked along 185 now, on their phones, cooking in the GA sun in their black leathers, telephoning their network, trying to share the tragedy and trying to come to terms with it all. 

Just like that, I say to myself, driving my car south to post, it can all end. And it’s over. Live well, live fully, live coram Deo, live with the reality of who God is and that this life is temporary, live faithfully.  

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