We met a woman this weekend who ran the Boston Marathon.
It didn’t come up until we’d chatted for a while at a party. She didn’t even bring it up, but after she casually mentioned that she’s a marathoner, I asked if she knew anyone in Boston.
I was there, she said, before adding she’d finished just 23 seconds before the bombs went off at the finish line.
I was astounded at how calmly she shared that she’d had a brush with death just a few days before.
Then her partner scribbled down the URL for his blog, where the two of them shared their moving experiences of trying to figure out what was happening then find each other in the chaos.
It is this set of pictures that has caused me the most consternation. Looking at the clocks triggers heart palpitations, shortness of breath and a tightening in my midsection as well as a desire to breathe into a brown paper bag. 23 seconds? 23 seconds! 23 seconds. Originally, I told people it was less than 2 minutes; then I said less than 1 minute. I even amended it to less than 30 seconds. But that was a best guess at the time. Until I saw the pictures. 23 seconds.
I recently summarized Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder:” a trip back in time to a dinosaur hunt, a scare and misstep off the path, a step on a butterfly and . . . history changed. Just one small alteration and all of humankind was affected! I’m not making an extrapolation of my experience to all of mankind, but I am thinking of all the places where I stayed on my path that led to those 23 seconds.
Reading Kirsten’s experience got me reflecting on the thin line between us and our demise. Had she been just a little
faster slower* in Boston, we might not have met her on Sunday.
My husband, John, hates getting caught in traffic. Sometimes as we’re inching along, I’ll say that this little delay might be the thing keeping us from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe our guardian angels work in the form of road repair crews?
Sometimes our brushes with death are dramatic — a car crash, cancer, a bombing — and other times, more subtle or maybe even missed entirely. But I’m taking Kirsten’s story as yet another chance to reflect on my own gratitude for waking up each morning.
** Thanks to Margaret for pointing out I had the speed element backwards.
Related blog posts:
- If someone you love died today, would you have regrets?
- Before I die … an interactive art installation
- Frank Sinatra reminds us to live until we die
- Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture
- Making sense of the untimely death of our neighbor, Martha Atwater
- “One Month to Live” encourages readers to face mortality and live life to the fullest