Friday, May 6, 2011

There, But For The Grace of God, Go I . . .

This is supposed to be me, contemplating life's questions. Yeah.

May's Challenge of the Month ("Mayday!") was meant to spark us into writing about funny, goofy, and/or unusual moments of desperation in our lives. The events of the past week, however, seem to have made us all pensive instead. In fact, one of our friends and critique-group partners, Maleah Warner, wrote a very thought-provoking piece about how her husband was supposed to have been in the World Trade Center on 9/11. (You can read it here.)

This got me thinking about near-misses. And as I did a personal inventory, I realized that I have had an inordinately large number of them. Enough to make me grateful for guardian angels. (And possibly enough to make me wonder why I need so much guardian angel-ing. A dork-gene, perhaps?)

Here are just a few:

1) It was 1:00 in the morning, right after Sadie Hawkins and we were driving home. My friend's date was behind the wheel and we were heading down a winding hill when a car that had looked like it was in the other lane (an optical illusion created by the bend in the road) turned out to be in ours. It was headed straight for as at super-sonic speed. I remember seeing the oncoming headlight in front of me, and it looked the size of a dinner plate. Which means it was VERY close. There was no time to react. We all sat there frozen, waiting for impact.
Then, all of a sudden, we were in the next lane. We didn't swerve, our driver didn't over-correct, or even have to correct, we were just in the other lane. The dude trying to kill us was so close that the air between the cars whistled as he went past, and when we turned to look, he was at the top of the hill. No idea how he didn't hit us, or why we didn't roll.

2) I was on the freeway with my husband and kids coming home from a friend's house at 11:00 at night. We were being followed by another friend and their family. All of a sudden a car from the southbound lanes ripped across the barrow-pit (which was a trick) and was right in front of us cutting across the lanes. I remember my hub slamming on the brakes but knowing we were going to hit the other vehicle. The oncoming car threw a ton of dirt and rocks up from the pit onto our windshield, cracking it and blinding us. We braced for an impact that never came. The kid cut across all three lanes without hitting anyone (and there was post-basketball game traffic out there), rolled, then came to a stop. The driver was okay. We were okay, except for the windshield--in which there was a huge cracked  hole right about level with my head.  Here's the kicker: the kid was too close for us to avoid him. My side of the car was dead-set to hit him. Yet we didn't. AND our friends who were driving behind us swore the kid drove BETWEEN our two cars. Between. They saw him. But I can tell you, he did not drive between us. He was in front of us, hence the destruction of our windshield. But the first thing my friend said when we stopped was, "Did you see him shoot between us like that?" And to make it weirder, you could see where our skid marks crossed his on the freeway for like 2 months afterward.

3) I was on stage during practice for a high school play I was in, listening to the director give us notes. All of a sudden I got this overwhelming urge to move about 10 feet away, diagonal to where I'd been standing. So I did. As soon as I got there, the 700 pound light tree behind me crashed to the ground. If I hadn't moved it would have cleaved me in two. Dude.

Yeah. Gives me shivers just remembering it all. And there are many more stories where those come from. I've been spared a lot. But there has also been plenty that I've not been spared. Ultimately I've learned a ton from the narsty stuff. I don't know why things happen to some people and not others. But I do believe everyone has things they are spared and things they are not spared. And I'm a big believer that there is something to learn from every experience. I'll tell you one thing: I am grateful I'm still here.

How about you? What have your near misses been, and what are your thoughts on them?


Robin said...

Great stories!

My near miss stories all involve nearly missed opportunities. A different kind of danger, maybe? I'll have to give it some thought.

shelly said...

I'll tell you two since my fingers feel chatty this morning.

In 1987, I went canoeing with my abusive boyfriend and his two boys. The canoe tipped. Within seconds, a big set of hands grabbed my neck heaving me in and out of the water. Right before the pressure of the water in my lungs took over, blood pooled around me and his hands released me. His one little boy was brave enough to bite his father bringing the monster under control. I was saved by a courageous little boy. I honestly though I was going to die. My life falshed before my eyes and everything.

Two: Just last week when I was pulling out of my neighborhood into traffice, a pick-up came out of no-where. It came within inches of my door. I'm glad I stopped.

Janiel Miller said...

Wow, Shelly. That little boy is a hero. I hope he and his brother are okay now. And I'm glad you're away from that situation. Sheesh. What a story.

As for the pick-up? I'm glad you stopped, too.

Robin - Glad you only nearly missed the opportunities. That means you grabbed hold, yes?

Donna Banta said...

Wow, great stories. And scary!

We were in Manhattan right before 9/11. Not a near miss by any stretch of the imagination. But on Tuesday morning, 9/3, we were on the far upper end touring Columbia with our daughter while our son and his friend were in mall underneath the WTC. I can't help but feel frightened for families and tourists on 9/11 who scrambled to find each other.

Romina Garcia said...

This post gave me goosebumps.
I believe very strongly in fate.
Things happen (or don't happen) in life for a reason.
We need to rejoice in life everyday in some form, because it truly is a gift and not a birth right.
Great thought provoking post :-)

Janiel Miller said...

Oh, Donna, I think about that often. It's such a heart-wrenching thing.

Romina - I love that sentiment! "We need to rejoice in life everyday in some form, because it truly is a gift and not a birth right" It's a good one to live by. Thanks!

mymy said...

your guardian angel seems to be working overtime! lol. seriously, it's great that 'something/someone' was (or is?) always there for you. keeping you safe. :)

CMSmith said...

Wow. Scary stuff. I know I've had some near-misses and would love to tell you them if I wasn't having a senior moment with a temporary (I hope) lapse of memory recall.

Good post. It's good to be reminded how fragile life can be and how lucky we are.

SJ @ Homemaker On A Dime said...

Yes, I have near-misses, too, and I'm so grateful to be here to reminisce them. One was a car accident where just a hairline and my spine would have been smashed. I shiver whenever I recall that event. Russo, thanks for the ego-boosting comment in my blog :)

Russo said...

BTW girl, the pic is stunning.

Toesthattwinkle! said...

Nice post and such a pretty picture!

Lori said...

Wow! I'm amazed by all the stories....I've been so lucky in my life. Maybe, a close call in traffic (but nothing like these). I hope my guardian angel is there when I have the need (or maybe I've been protected so well that I don't even realize the near misses)!

Janiel Miller said...

Lori, I actually think you are right that we often don't notice how well we are protected. When that light tree fell where I'd been standing I never even connected the fact that I'd just been standing there. I was like, "Dude. That tree wasn't very stable," and that's it. Took me a few years. (What can I say? I was 15 and clueless). When I realized, years later, that that urge to move had saved my life, and how horrifying it would have been for everyone there if I had't moved, I was pretty stunned.

I've gotta figure out how to stop working my guardian angels overtime like I do, though.

Thanks for you comments, everyone!