With the rainy season hitting and the busyness of life, poor Shadow had been cooped up too long. I hadn’t been riding but once in the last couple of weeks. After dinner tonight I asked the hubs if he would go on a quick ride with me. I needed to get home and study, so we decided on a quick errand that he needed to run anyway.
It was one of those beautiful nights that are all too rare in Florida in August: low humidity, clearing skies and a breeze. Rush hour was over, so the traffic was light, even on the one busy road we needed to use. We were sitting at a left turn, waiting behind a minivan who was clearly as conservative as we are trying to cross three lanes of traffic. The red car opposite the van had been patiently waiting to make the same sort of unprotected left turn.
That’s when we heard it- the unmistakable sound of a speed bike opened up full throttle. Exactly the opposite of our cruisers and defensive riding style. Both of us turned our heads to see this bike blazing past, but the red car had already started its left turn. The driver could not have anticipated a motorcycle approaching at more than 20 mph over the speed limit. There was no way the red bike and the red car saw each other. Not until it was too late.
The sound was sickening. Everybody around the intersection froze. Pedestrians, cars, everyone. We turned off our bikes and checked to be sure someone was calling 911. I could hear my dear one helping keep people from moving the rider before another bystander – a former paramedic – could find a way to check vitals. Others started directing cars away from the intersection until the first responders could arrive.
It was only after I checked with the folks in the van in front of us that I saw the whole scene. It was heart-wrenching, to say the least. The rider was clearly just a kid, about the same age as my own. I looked to the car he’d hit, the driver was bleeding, but seemed much more worried about the young man.
It seemed unreal in a way, even as it was all very real. The smell of burning rubber when the bike’s tires rubbed against the road for another quarter mile. The helmet next to a puddle of blood. The glove and backpack and shoe randomly scattered by the immutable laws of physics. The rear fender of the bike on the median next to the “yield to oncoming traffic” sign. The man standing and watching and pointing with one hand while holding his toddler with the other. The woman inexplicably taking photos of the scene while paramedics worked on their patient and officers worked to keep them safe. The sounds of cars slowing while being urged with whistles into detour routes.
I wondered if his ride had started like mine – fueled by the joy of being on the bike on a beautiful night. I wondered why he was going so very fast on one of the busiest stretches of an always-crowded street. Was he late for work? Late for class… or maybe a date? Who would be waiting and wondering about him? Oh geez- does he have family in town or was he here for college? How would they hear about this? And when?
While we waited to speak to the investigating officer, the former paramedic said that he and his wife had been watching the young man weaving through traffic. As he shot ahead of them, going way too fast, he said something to his wife that we’ve said a thousand times: “That’s a good way to get yourself killed.” He hadn’t known they would be witnesses to that very outcome. “One moment,” he said, “One bad decision. That’s all it takes.” We all nodded.
Just this week, I’ve been reviewing doctrine related to God as Creator and humanity as created/creature. I’ve been looking at providence and agency. I’ve been thinking in theological terms about death and hope, God’s omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence in light of the logic of systems in creation. The academic part of my brain needs to process all that (and more) in preparation for an exam later this month.
But my heart needed to remember that faith, hope and love endure. That God is at work in the good and the bad that we experience in life, including death. And that the personal God in whose image I am made would listen as I prayed for the families whose lives were changed in that one moment of impact. Including mine.
We stayed long enough for my husband to give his statement and write up a report. The officers stopped traffic so we could make the turn we’d been waiting to make an hour (or more?) earlier. But the errand would wait; it seemed a little trivial at this point, even if the store was open.
As we joined traffic on other streets, the people in the cars around us had no idea what we’d just witnessed. We were just a couple of bikers out and about. The sweet gal who served us at Panera didn’t know that the polite gentleman in the Bike Week vest was on the verge of tears as the adrenaline left his body.
But I did.
So I drank some lemonade. And talked of banal things. And squeezed his hand a bit.
And when he was ready, we rode home on two bikes and a prayer.
The weather was still beautiful.