Thursday, December 22, 2011


Quick!  Before Christmas.  Before New Years.  Before I forget.  I want to write this down.  Because it's the sort of thing that can really make a difference.  And it's also the kind of thing that wears out, wears off, gets lost in the day-to-day.  Like it never happened.

Here it is.  It's Monday at about 6:35 p.m. -- dead dark and drizzling.  There I go, driving The Flying Tomato across the familiar intersection of Lakeshore & 149th, with the green light in my favor.  And there it was.  My brush with Eternity.

Eternity was coming straight at me, driving a Cleveland Police cruiser, doing approximately 65 mph with its full complement of flashing red and blue lights.   (And siren blasting, I'm sure, although I missed that somehow in the amazement of the moment.)

It was large.  And quite colorful.  And close.  I registered a big-flashing-red-and-blue UhOh. And my foot saved me by stomping on the accelerator ASAP.  In an instant I was across the intersection and kind of parked.  In good repair and excellent health. With probably 3/4 of a whole second to spare.


I was spared!  Realistically speaking, in my smallish red car with my 10 lb. Le Creuset pot full of hot sweet potato and lentil soup on the floor of the front seat, I would have been -- upon impact with that cop -- a) crushed dead and b) covered in soup. And probably have damaged the police person pretty badly, too.   Not what I had planned for the evening. 

So, I drove calmly up the hill, ignoring the little voice that said, "Holy sweet jumping lizards, that was close!"  I drove past the Nela Park Christmas lighting display, marveling at how great it is this year after being only "just okay" last year, and ignoring the fact that there seemed to be a red VW bug, the very spitting image of mine, limned in glowing light, on the lawn. (No kidding.  Go look.)  Just driving along, and watching my speed to avoid the evil spy cameras on Noble Road and ignoring the fact that I was, mostly accidentally, still alive. Not dead or injured or even hot-soup-spattered. Spared.

I had a little more trouble, though, ignoring the white sedan in front of me with the vanity license plate that read (with vanity plate economy)  U R BLES  Oh, c'mon.  Truly?  And was Marley's Ghost driving?  Not as far as I could see. 

I  finally got the message. One wouldn't have to buy into the woo-woo of it all perhaps -- though I probably did.  But the wake up call?  For sure.  Because whether it was the hand of God, or the dance of the Universe, or the good offices of my fast right foot, I was alive and well and on my way to book group. No harm.  No foul.  Spared.

So, right away, that begs the question: "Spared for what?"  Because we know people in books and movies always say, "She was spared to do some good thing in the world."  Or "She was spared and finally appreciated the preciousness of her one human life." Or. "She was spared and gave poor Bob Cratchit a big turkey and a nice raise."  Or other things along that line, usually with examples.

Spared for what?  That's a great question.  Because if I look back -- and if you look back, you'll no doubt see this, too -- I've had a lot of close calls in my life.  As close as that, if not as colorful.  And I'm willing to entertain the possibility that others I don't even know about brushed by, like an asteroid, tumbling through the darkness, just as close or closer.  How about you?

So we're living The Spared Life, you and I, and probably everybody alive.  And I've found in the last handful of days that The Spared Life is a very fine thing if you keep inquiring of it, "Was I spared for this?"  To do this good thing?  To save somebody without knowing it?  To pass along the U R BLES message in short hand or long hand?  To move through the world as if the commonplace were holy?  That's a good question.  And best left open so it can keep moving unimpeded through the world.

Then, when annoyance strikes and I say or do or think something REALLY PETTY?  Here's a good question to ask:  "Was I spared for this?" Did I get rescued from the intersection of Soup & Death to be my old familiar jerk?  Surely the Universe had something a little more generous in mind.  Or, if we believe some holy, wonderful Something was not in charge right then, maybe it could be just me or just you with a suddenly better idea.  A kinder, better, more loving, more ultimately satisfying way to be.  In honor of the pure unbridled generosity of ... The Gift of Life.


So, here's my Christmas/New Years message unto myself and to you:  I am thankful to have been spared to intend to be a better, kinder, more generous, less jerkier human being.  I am renewed in my sense of gratitude for family, for friends, for home, for my juvenile delinquent cat, for my unmanageable lake and this extraordinary moment.

I tell you this not so you can watch for me, going about, doing good, because you'd likely be sorely disillusioned.

What I wish for you is that you ride my little hair-raising experience into a happily enhanced appreciation of your own gratitude-worthy life.

And to Marley's Ghost in the white sedan, I say, "God bless us, everyone. No exceptions."

And especially, "BLES U."


  1. Would you believe...

    That 2 1/2 hours after you wrote "UR blessd" I, just in a bit of idleness, went to your blog! And what an experience and what an entry. Glad you are alive and glad you wrote that!


  2. Well, just by happenstane, I was just passing through. Read your post sitting in the klm lounge in Amsterdam...Christmas eve, or morning,whatever it is. Excellent to see that you have been blessed and not smashed. Going to India in a few more hours. Long voyage long story. Happy Christmas and healthy new year.