409: Reflections

Being a reflective person is both a gift and a curse. See, reflective people actually think, analyze and consider their lives, how things are going, have gone and will go (not necessarily in that order), the world, other people, sex, politics and religion, and myriad other topics, both at random and deliberately seeking to understand, make connections with all those dots, and trying to make life better not only for me, myself, but for others I care about, those I don’t particularly care about, and the universe in general. So. How is this both a gift and a curse, you might ask? Ask or not, here goes:

People who are not reflective just live their lives in the moment and don’t bother a single brain cell (of the few they have operational) with any thoughts of how they might have avoided past problems so that future problems are eased, much less whether their roles in various situations contributed for the better (or not), and the thorny (thornLESS, for them) area of self-improvement. You know, like those women who are more than 150% overweight who post memes about ‘like me the way I am,’ with never a thought on actually imposing some self-discipline to do other activities/hobbies available in life besides gastronomy – leading to an early death due to the health complications of obesity. Yeah, live in the moment – the few of them you are ensuring for yourself.

Now, stop taking off your shoe to hurl at me. I know perfectly well that you can live a disciplined, ordered, reflective life, and accidentally step off the curb and meet your maker at the hands of a bus. Nobody is guaranteed any particular life span. However, to continue to do things proven to hasten your meeting with God (once you actually know what those things are) is demonstrating not a whole lot of self-preservation instinct. Living in the moment. Must be nice to be so oblivious.

Of course, humans rationalize everything – there are some who say that if Heaven is supposed to be perfect, why on Earth would anybody want to live a longer time on Earth? Yeah – that is exactly the motivation for all those Islamic suicide bombers and terrorists, too, and I certainly do NOT want to align myself with THAT sort of thinking, even if the theology is sound.

Still, there is something to be said for the brainless sort of person who is just totally laid back, dude. I just don’t think I will be that sort of person until about 15 minutes before I die. Until then, I will continue to live reflectively, self-improving to the best of my ability on this journey called life.


224: Causing Someone’s Death

Some mistakes cannot be fixed. That is one reason why most real grownups try very hard not to make them. Some mistakes are permanent. I made one of those. On the last day of school in 2004, I made what was supposed to be a normal journey: our morning commute to school with my daughter, and my husband’s son and daughter. We made it to the end of the road, where our small residential road joins the highway. There, I pulled out into the road in front of a black pickup truck.

I only know this from what others have told me, and what I have managed to figure out after the fact. The last thing I remember is opening the car’s door to look and see if there was any traffic coming. I did this because the window would not roll down, we had not yet had it fixed, and there was condensation on the glass. So I opened the door to be sure before I pulled out into the road. I never saw the truck. I tried.

The truck hit us in classic “t-bone” style, on the driver’s side, which explains why there is a big blank spot in my memory of the event. I was knocked OUT. My daughter said my eyes were open, but she said, “Mama, you were not there.” She called my husband, who was still at home, and he was the first to arrive; even before the paramedics or the police…or the life flight helicopters they called for us. My daughter, in the front passenger seat, was not injured other than a bump on the head – apparently my head and hers collided. My husband’s son, on the passenger side in the back seat, was very mildly injured, but was treated and released. I had a broken collarbone and some broken ribs, along with the big blank place in my memory. My husband’s nine-year-old daughter, who was sitting with her seatbelt on (all of us had them on) directly behind me, got the brunt of the blunt force trauma. That’s what they listed on her death certificate as her cause of death. They tried. The surgeries she underwent at Emory in Atlanta, where the life flight helicopter landed at the state’s finest trauma center, totaled a quarter of a million dollars in cost, and would have been worth every penny (and more) had they managed to save her. They could not.

I won’t go into the horrible details of her funeral home family visit, where her mother’s family (my husband’s ex) blamed me publicly for her death, as if I had intended that she perish, and had set out that morning to accomplish that feat; or the horrors of her funeral service, where they again did the same thing in front of my church family, even though I personally had paid for the entire service and all the other arrangements because they were all too generationally poverty-stricken to be able to afford to bury her.

That is something I will live with forever. I caused her death, even though I did not mean to do so. I pulled out in front of that truck, even though I looked, and did not see it. Even though I had no intentions of harming anyone, I am responsible. I was driving. No one can take that away, and it cannot be fixed.