“For man certainly does not know his time: like fish caught in a cruel net, or like birds caught in a trap, so people are trapped in an evil time, as it suddenly falls on them.” Ecclesiastes 9:12
I’m in awe. I just got back to the firehouse. Your mom brought the three of you…SD, NE and SI…to the station this afternoon to visit me on my second day of a 48 hour shift, and while you were here, we were dispatched to a motor vehicle crash on the highway. You had been here about 20 minutes, climbing all over the ladder truck as usual…playing firemen…wearing my boots and my helmet. When you wear my helmet, it’s so heavy on your little head that when it’s sized for me, not you, it falls down over your forehead, covering your eyes…so you winch it down to your size, so it fits.
You have been doing this for months now, maybe even a year or more. I always would forget to enlarge it back to my size after you left, and it used to drive me nuts to slap it on my head, and it not fit. So much so that I’ve not let you play with it as much recently…my OCD kicking in. I’m over that now.
I hate the highway…always have…always will. I’ve been saying it for years…I’d rather run into a burning building than work a wreck on the interstate…any day of the week. As I prepared to step off the truck onto the interstate this afternoon, I grabbed my helmet and was putting it on my head as I opened the door. As I dropped it on my head, I realized it was too small…and I immediately, instinctively thought of you. My mind raced back to the laughter and smiles as you played firefighter in the very same seat, not 5 minutes earlier…to the memory of you standing there waving and saying “I love you” as we drove out…to the thought of you standing by the radio desk at the station, eagerly listening for my voice on the radio. And I paused ever so slightly. Not long…just long enough to make a difference. In that pause, a car raced by at full speed, inches from my open door…me still in my seat. In that moment, I instantly realized the blessing in a helmet that was last on the head of a 5 year old boy.
Have you ever given any thought to what you would do right now if you knew with certainty that tomorrow you would die? Would you act differently? Would you treat people around you differently? Would there be something you’d want to say to those you love? Is there something that you’ve put off doing that would quickly be moved to the front burner? Is there something you’ve always wanted to do, but didn’t?
What’s holding you back? Is it that you think you have more time? That your time’s not up yet? That “it won’t happen to me”? Are you afraid of offending someone? Afraid of embarrassing yourself? Afraid you’d be laughed at?
Get over it. The one certainty in life is this: all things die. You and I are no different. And you don’t know when it’s your time, so what are you waiting for? In the first 12 verses in the ninth chapter of Ecclesiastes, God uses King Solomon to encourage us to enjoy life, despite the death that awaits us. Live today like there is no tomorrow, and instead of living a life full of tomorrows, “what-if’s” and “if only’s”, you’ll live a life full of today’s…a life worthy of the admiration and respect of your fellow man…and more importantly, a life worthy of the approval of the Father. Few people on death’s doorstep look back on their life and have regrets for the opportunities they seized. More often, they regret the missed opportunities…those things they should have done but didn’t. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 16 years in EMS, life is too short to have regrets.
Not saying that my experience on the highway today was a close call…but it was closer than I’d prefer to experience. It was close enough to remind me what’s important. Close enough to remind me there are no guarantees that the next call won’t be my last. It was close enough that I’m over my earlier OCD about my helmet not fitting my head, and will instead encourage you to play with it, rather than be frustrated by it. It was close enough that the next time I put my helmet on after you’ve worn it, I’ll pause when it doesn’t fit my head…say a short prayer for protection…and be just a bit more safe in what I do.
P.S. Within a month of this note, I responded to A Garage Fire and came off the truck with a helmet that didn’t fit. I believe it was a blessing then too.