Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Adidas On The Asphalt

Today began before sunrise for me. I am nocturnal. I love the night. The calming silence is a healing balm to the often weary soul. My days and evenings are spent trying to love people well. When I curl up with a book or a laptop after my bride is asleep I find my mind coming alive with ideas and fancies that never strike me at the noon hour. Morning bugs me. I smile when people poke fun at my disdain for morning. Most think that makes you lazy. I’m not. It is 11:10 at night and I just finished working on Sunday’s sermon. I prefer it this way.

But today I got up early. I had a meeting to go to. After its completion I began driving through the city of St. Louis to my sons house. I was listening to talk radio … a rarity for me but I was interested in the conversation about local baseball hero Albert Pujols. The sun was bright and the temperature was perfect. The post-rush-hour traffic was light on I-70 until, without notice, the vehicles ahead of me all moved into my lane and nearly came to a complete halt. I made what can only be described as a “panic stop.” My eyes were on the rearview mirror as the tractor trailer behind me squealed his brakes and left tire smoke in his wake. I was grateful that friction completed its task with roughly ten feet to spare. After a moment the traffic began moving, slowly inching forward. And then I passed emergency cones that blocked off the two left lanes. Three police cars and two fire engines came into view. Finally there was a single ambulance-like vehicle marked “Mobile Triage” parked at an odd angle. There were no mangled cars. No sign of any accident. As I drifted by the mobile triage the unthinkable appeared. Fifteen feet to my left lay a blue tarp. Four people knelt around it. From its nearest side protruded two legs and two feet. The image seared in my mind is of black Adidas with red soles.

Not good. Not good at all.

You never expect to see death in the morning. Death is reserved for the late night hospital call or the mad emergency dash to the nursing home. But here? In the middle of the day in the middle of an interstate with no accident? Running shoes that will never again run? What caused this? Was the dead stranger jogging on the interstate? Did he fall off a bridge onto a vehicle and get carried to this spot? How can you die on the middle of an interstate highway without getting in a wreck? Why was he interrupting my happy morning with his unhappy fate?

That's the thing about dying. All of it's sentences end with question marks. The cause of death may be perfectly clear with no autopsy needed but there is always somebody left behind aching for answers. Why him? Why today? Why like that? We live in a world of "why" and the question marks vastly outnumber the exclamation points. It is entirely possible that before the sun rises again my blood may be congealing within my veins. Heart attack. Stroke. House fire. Falling meteorite. Hey ... could happen. Probably not, but it might.

The rest of my day was normal. Like clockwork. Still, as night time has fallen again and I have curled up with my laptop the memory that will forever mark this day is of a pair of black Adidas. Red soles. Blue tarp.

And the never ending question mark.