by Christopher Harding

As the maroon Chrysler crossed the median strip, I held my breath, watching helplessly as it narrowly avoided hitting a cable truck head-on. Breathing a sigh of relief that the mystery driver had somehow averted disaster, I then realized that he was now headed toward me! My brakes grabbed the wheels of my Rodeo and I cranked the steering wheel hard to the left. In one of those prolonged moments of slow motion reality, I saw the driver of the Chrysler, a white-haired old gentleman, gaze out of his window like a lost child as his car sped by me, crossed three lanes of on-coming traffic, and jumped up onto the sidewalk. Like I was witness to some surreal stunt show, I gaped as the old man and his car sped down the walkway.

Just two minutes ago, it struck me, I had been leaving the office of my friend and client to return a library book when I felt the urge to stop and pick up my briefcase. ÒIÕll be right back,Ó I thought to myself. ÒNo need to take it with me.Ó But because the impression wouldnÕt leave me, I stopped for a couple of seconds, picked up the leather case and carried it to the car with me. Had I not followed that internal urge the Chrysler and I would have been perfectly timed to meet each other in a spectacular collision.

People were jumping out of the way as the old man roared down the sidewalk narrowly missing a large power pole, next he missed a fire hydrant, then he clipped a large "For Lease" sign, which toppled end-over-end in slo-mo fashion. As I watched in awestruck horror, I realized that if the old man didnÕt somehow stop his vehicle, he would very shortly reach the end of the walkway, jump the curb, and head back into on-coming traffic. I wanted to cover my eyes, but somehow couldn't.

Had I not volunteered to return my friend's library book, I realized, and had the library not been closed when I dropped by last night, I wouldn't have even been on this street, wouldn't have even know about this moment. There must be some reason I'm here right now. There must be.

And then, with a precision that defies logic, the Chrysler clipped the side of a large tree --- not enough to send its passenger headlong through the windshield, or even set off its air bag, but just enough to catch a piece of his left front tire and rip it from the wheel. The tire shorn metal wheel now dug into the pavement, sending sparks flying as the car ground to a precise halt just one inch from the end of the sidewalk (and one inch from head-on disaster). I waited for traffic to pass and then I backed my Rodeo across three lanes and pulled to a stop just in front of the old man's car.

As I jumped from my truck to see if he was all right, a woman who'd been watching from a nearby parking lot arrived at his car at the same time. The sweet old gentleman was dazed and confused (and who wouldn't be after such a feat). But as I spoke to him I realized that something else was wrong. "A stroke," I found myself thinking. Another passerby quickly called 911. "Tell them he's disoriented and very confused maybe a stroke," I said, as if I'd had some kind of medical training (which I haven't).

With the help of the passersby I pried the driver's door open and helped the old man out from behind the wheel. After spying a wheel chair and an oxygen tank in his back seat, we quickly assembled the chair, sat him in it, covered him with a blanket and hooked his oxygen up since his breathing was labored. "Will someone call a tow truck?" the old man asked pleadingly. "It's already done sir," the cell phone owner reassured him.

When the paramedics, ambulance, and sheriff deputies arrived, it was confirmed the driver had indeed had a stroke. By knowing that this was a possibility ahead of time, the paramedics had phoned ahead. The hospital staff would be waiting. "Every minute counts when you're dealing with a stroke," the ambulance driver told me. After administering an injection, they loaded my old friend into the ambulance. I patted his hand as they prepared to shut the doors. "You were very lucky," I told him. "IÕve never seen anyone navigate an obstacle course like you did." He smiled at me with a childlike expression. "Thank you for helping!" he halted for moment, overcome by emotion, but then continued. "Thank you for helping me not be afraid." A single tear rolled down his cheek.

Next to us a paramedic commented, "No way that old man could've driven his car like that. That stroke left him unable to even move his arms." "Angels," a crossing guard said. She was one of the people who had dived out of the old manÕs way when his car jumped up on the sidewalk. "Angels drivin' that car," she reiterated. "Split seconds," a deputy added. "It all comes down to split seconds. And if it's not your time yet, then miracles happen. It's like the whole universe conspires to keep you alive." "You're a lucky one too," the crossing guard said, looking at me. She'd seen my narrow escape from a head-on collision. "Not my time," I said, looking at the sheriff's deputy. "But it was your time to help this old gent," the ambulance driver said, as he turned to jump into his vehicle and head to the hospital. "Split seconds," I muttered. "Yep," the deputy said, patting me on the back. "It all comes down to that." "Pretty amazing how the whole scheme of things works," the cell phone owner remarked. "I was going to turn up a different street, but something told me to turn up this one."

We all looked at each other and smiled. The whole universe had conspired today to save an old man's life. And each of us had been called to play a role in that conspiracy. "Split seconds," we said to each other as we turned to get into our vehicles. "Split seconds."

Tibetan Book of the Dead
Egyptian Book of the Dead
On Death & Dying at the Nau-shop

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Last Update: 12/1/2005