My mother and adoptive mother both always remind me to start a story with “I’m okay”.
This morning, I had a near death experience, once again. I’ve been through dangerous and near-death experiences before, and have somehow evaded the worst each time. This time, I had a feeling, just like in some of the other situations, that something was looming.
“I really should wear a helmet when I leave the neighborhood and ride my bike down big streets in adjacent cities. But it’s so nerdy to wear a helmet. Wait, I have one in Jerusalem that I keep forgetting to bring back each time I go. But it’s so nerdy. But having ridden ambulances for over a year, I know what can happen. Okay, I’ll have to start wearing one when I go intercity, especially when I’m going to physical therapy where I’m not worried about seeing anyone I know.”
This conversation and resolution went through my head as I pulled up to a red light while riding my bicycle in the left lane of a main 4-lane street. As soon as the light changed I pedaled as fast as I could so as not to hold up traffic. Not even thirty seconds later, my foot slipped, my brakes failed…FLIP, CRASH!
The sequence of events I remember started with my foot slipping off of the pedal, causing me to lose some of my balance. Immediately, I tried to hit the right (rear) brake and steer close to the dividing fence so as to get out of the way. My brake didn’t slow me down. I tried to slow down with my feet but the road was too slick and I was going too fast. I started to lose control of the handles and steering. As a last resort I squeezed the left brake, which stopped the front tire and inevitably caused me to flip forward. The car behind stopped a few feet short of buying me a coffin.
I landed on my previously injured shoulder and opposite hand. I got up immediately, and cleared my bike out of the street so as not to block traffic on the already packed street. Having served in the army and been to so many calls with Magen David Adom, I know well to try and stay calm and deal with the situation with a clear mind: don’t panic. I waited two minutes for the adrenaline to wear off and the pain to sink in. There were scrapes and bumps, but where was the break? Had I really gotten up and walked away from all of this without hitting my head hard, breaking a limb, or even a finger?
My bike took some damage, but its condition wasn’t exactly superb before this. I called my physical therapist to tell him I would be a few minutes late and then managed to jog most of the rest of the way there.
Having evaded death before, I could’ve gotten up, walked away, and aside from washing up and bandaging wounds when I got home, forgotten about this. However, I want to share the message I took with everyone – whether they be Jewish, non-Jewish, religious or atheist – all the same.
I could have died, again. Instead, what I believe to be the hand of God directly intervened. So many things could have been so much worse. The driver could have been doing what most drivers do – everything but drive. He/she could’ve been eating, shaving, applying makeup, talking or even texting on the phone. Any of those factors could have led to my death. But they didn’t. I could be to blame for wearing the wrong running shoes or not giving my bike the proper maintenance deserved. All in all, while they are important lessons for prevention next time, they are just semantics. The focus is that in essence, nothing happened.
Whether you believe in God and divine intervention, a global energy, or simply the greater good and the big picture, there is something we can each take from this story. Blame is not as important as we think. Getting upset is not as important as we think. Crying over spilled milk or a broken bike is not as important as we think. Aside from the obvious message of being willing to be the nerd who wears the helmet, what is important here is the big picture and always trying to stay positive.