Near Death Experience

Speaking of Interstate 5.

Several years ago a newly-hired anesthesiologist at my clinic and his whole family were wiped out by a car that crossed the median of I-5 and crashed head on into them. Roland, his wife, and two young kids, gone. (He was very religious; they named a chapel at the hospital after him. That god! What a way to get another place to glorify himself.) The last case he did was one of mine, a big-deal case, esophagectomy, requiring lots of skill on both sides of what's still called, by some, anyway, the "ether screen." At the end of the operation I'd told him what a great job he'd done. I was glad of that, at least.

Yesterday, coming home from Oregon, as Roland had been, the same thing almost happened to Judy and me. Had it not been for a Jersey barrier, I'd not be writing this.

Traveling around sixty in the left lane, going through Tacoma, I had my eyes ahead. I didn't see what caused it, but suddenly a car heading south crossed a couple of lanes and hit the barrier at high speed and at right angles, its trajectory right at us. Pieces of the car hit mine, and my thought was that I'd just seen someone die. (Amazingly, according to the paper today, there were no major injuries. Surprising: it looked horrible. And reassuring: it was a Miata, the same car Judy drives.) It was only a minute later that I realized it would have been us, too, absent the concrete.

Life is fragile, death can be random, the human body is flimsy as a wet paper sack. There's no sense to any of it, other than, as they say, to live like it could end in a heartbeat, although I'm not sure what that really means or how a person can do it. Quit work? Buy a VW bus, stop shaving, live by the beach? Or just wear clean underwear and don't let your bladder get too full.

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