The brake sign is flashing


Seems we always find religion when we are standing on the brakes. All I could think — and say aloud — as we skidded, squealing tires, seat-belt constricting my heart, which seemed poised to leap out of my chest, was “oh God! Oh God! Oh God!”

One moment you are chatting about the seventh grade, thinking about things to do and wondering if you bought enough ham, admittedly not necessarily paying attention to the moment right in front of you like you should.

The next you are on a collision course and powerless to stop.

Time stops

The sports car was speeding, the pavement was wet, and I was sure we would not be able to stop in time. I could feel the anti-lock clicking, the tires dragging and ’til we were sliding right toward the little red car.

Eyes locked on the windshield, trying desperately to convince myself that the other car would stop in time, or make it through the intersection ahead of us, but knowing without a doubt that we were going to meet in the middle.

In all this split-second factoring, what I heard crystal clear above it all was my daughter’s frightened cry “Mom?”

It wasn’t an exclamation “Mom!” Nor a statement: “Mom.”

It was not the startled but still satisfied confidence of a child that mommy can fix anything.

No, as we slid inexorably toward the coming collision it was a question. The cry of a child aware I was doing all I could do to save us — and that it probably wasn’t going to work.

When hurtling toward what seemed the inevitable impact, that bright red light on my dash suddenly had all my focus — shining brighter and redder than the stop sign the little red sport car had clearly just run. It lit up, flashing “Brake.” I didn’t know if the light meant that the brakes were working, not working, or it was just a suggestion in case my stomping on the brake pedal with both feet wasn’t getting my point across.

By now the other vehicle had become aware of the error his ways and he, too, was clearly attempting to stop.

True to the laws of physics (a practice I have never quite trusted for being so darned UNPREDICTABLE since I never really grasped it all that well), the other car began fishtailing. The wet pavement doing neither of us any favors.

The situation was already set in motion. All I could do was brake, grip, and pray.

Stopped by a prayer

The prayer must have worked because, blessedly, we came to a skidding halt.

A mini-van is not a high-performance vehicle. I’m not sure it was ever intended it to stop on a dime but fortunately for all involved, it did.

There is no earthly reason why we avoided that accident so close to the other vehicle that I could pick out the pattern on the startled driver’s tie.

I heard my daughter exhale, her voice shaky as she said “I thought we were going to crash.”

You and me both kid. Yet we didn’t. Shaken but unharmed, we drove on.

It’s trite but true that you tend to appreciate your life most at the very moment it is flashing before your eyes. What I remember most from the experience is that single glowing word: “brake.”

Can’t ignore signs

I’m a “signs” girl. I see signs everywhere. In the patterns of numbers, letters, random remarks and the offhand happening. Where others see coincidence, I see the Universe trying to tell me something.

Being among the more obtuse of God’s creatures, I fully admit I need my signs to be big, bold, and splashy. I think a bright red one flashing “Brake” really works, don’t you?

Brake. Slow Down. Stop and smell the roses, remember to enjoy the view.

Even when doing our very best, going along at a nice pace, obeying the laws of life, we can become so focused on the road ahead — and our goals in life — that we miss the moments upon us.

We go from one “to do” to the next and spend so much time focusing on where we need to be and what we should do, that we forget to live in the moment right in front of us until something happens to remind us that moment matters, too.

Sometimes a moment matters more than you might know. Growing up in a town criss-crossed by train tracks, one of the first sings I ever learned to read and heed said “Stop, look and listen.” That’s pretty good advice for every day, too.

May you have a safe and prosperous 2012 and remember to slow down, and even stop from time to time, to soak it all in.

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