“Remember, Thou Art Mortal”

My wife and I talk often about life and how, in an instant, it can be randomly snuffed out.

A driver blows through a red light and runs into another car.

An undiagnosed medical condition takes the life of a young man.

A freak accident at home kills an infant.

Maybe it’s because Meg and I have decades-long backgrounds in news that our exposure to the unpredictability of death ranks above average. We also have both experienced the loss of someone close to us.

It certainly makes for grim dinnertime conversation, but it also serves as a reminder to appreciate what we have in our lives.

No matter how much wealth, material possessions or professional success we amass, it’s all immaterial in the end.

It is said that during Roman times, a slave stood behind a triumphant returning general or emperor and whispered in his ear: “Remember, thou art mortal.”

This comes to mind because tomorrow marks three years since Meg and I and my son Daniel were driving back from visiting Skytop Lodge in the Poconos.

As we got on Route 390, it began to snow. The road was covered quickly and there was not yet a chance for the plows to get out.

I was driving about 35 mph when I saw a car coming around a curve in the opposite direction way too fast – fishtailing like mad – and making a beeline right for us.

To avoid a head-on crash, I pulled over to the side of the road as far as I could.

It wasn’t enough.

I found myself screaming: “Brace for impact!” (Yes, for real.)

With that, the other car slammed into our driver’s side with a teeth-rattling, body-jolting impact. I can still hear the noise.

Both driver’s-side doors were pushed forcefully shut and we could not escape from the passenger side because the car was now wedged tightly against a rock.

Thankfully, passers-by and rescuers got a door open and we escaped – unharmed.

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It was scary how close that came to being a head-on collision.

There it was: We randomly happened to be there when this knucklehead (who was ticketed BTW) was driving way too fast for the road conditions.

Any one of us could have been killed or seriously injured.

More recently, Meg emailed me while she was running errands in Middletown, N.Y.:

“I was driving on 211 — just left the mall and passed a giant collection of cop cars and ambulance, etc, just at the turn I would make to go into the strip mall where Starbucks is.

A minute or two earlier and I would have been one of those vehicles. I thought ‘Thank God’ and then of how many near misses there are in our lives that we don’t even know about.

Then I knew that I wanted to tell you that I love you — and I want you to save this one if ever there’s a time when I can’t say it — know that it’s in my heart always.”

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