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When It's Not Your Time

A crash course in gratitude, God's grace, and German engineering.

Scott Rockman is an old college buddy of mine. We met 42 years ago as freshmen at Northwestern University. Scott is a consultant to non-profits and lives in Scarsdale, New York with his wife Melissa and dog Riley. When I received this email from him a few days ago, I wanted to share it with everyone:

A bit of advice.

The next time you are cruising down I-95 at 70+ mph and you get run off the road by an unauthorized driver in a rental car with a suspended license be sure to point your vehicle safely towards a cedar tree.

It doesn't hurt to first take out a road sign, then spin and flip a time or two before hitting the cedar. But make certain it's a cedar. Not an oak or a maple. Both are much too hard and less forgiving—at least that is what the otherwise "speechless" State Trooper Gary said when he brought the preliminary paperwork to us at the Yale-New Haven Hospital Trauma Center.

Deflated airbags


Arrive at Trauma Center. Probably before 6 pm. Rolled into emergency room. More ceilings. Met by a team of doctors. Lee. Bruce. (Obvious joke—another quiz?) Ready, lift. Transferred off the board. Melissa is on the other side of the curtain with her own team. Lots of poking and questions. Another IV line, just in case. Ultrasound. All clear.

Rolled back into the hall. Still restrained. Still need a chest x-ray. But they need my bed for another trauma patient. Good sign, I guess. Where's Melissa? Still in the trauma room. Why? "She's okay." Having a portable x-ray. Finally, she's rolled into the hall too. Together again. Squeeze her hand.

I get my x-ray. Collar comes off. Everything's okay. "Hang around to be observed for an hour or so and we'll send you both home." Need a phone. (Ours were in the car.) Get a phone. Call the girls. Need an outside line. Not easy. Finally get through to Katie. Voices. Tears. Joanna is on her way to pick us up. It's around 7:30 pm.

Allowed to get up and get dressed. Given a paper shirt and a package of giant wet naps to clean up the blood. Men's room. One of the small head wounds hurts. Something inside? Nurse Kathy checks. Agrees. Calls for doctor. Lidocaine shot to the head. No scalpel. Dug out a small pebble-sized piece of glass. Feels better. No stitches. Apple juice. Turkey sandwich.

Have I been clear how wonderful everyone was? Kind. Caring. Professional. Thoughtful. These folks are saving lives, assisting families, protecting pets. Going above and beyond. Never making us feel like our crisis is just a job. From EMT Donna who talked us through those first chaotic minutes... to the hospital support staff who helped us use their phones to connect with our girls... to the anonymous animal control officer who opened the Old Saybrook pound on a Sunday night to let Riley in and, more importantly, out. Dozens of men and women who we will probably never see again doing whatever they can to contribute to a positive outcome.

The cedar tree