Thingish Things

Daddy, How Do You Know When You’re Going to Die?

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Feb• 26•12

My five-year-old daughter is half Irish, so, naturally, she is semi-obsessed with the concept of death. Earlier today she asked me how you know when you’re going to die.  “When God decides,” I answered. “And there’s no way for us to know when that will be — but it should be a very long time from now,” I reassured her. 

A few hours later, I was driving with her on a highway with occasional traffic lights. We came to a stop at a light, where an improbable set of circumstances unfolded.  I’ll try to explain them clearly. 

We were stopped behind a car. There was a turning lane to the left of us.  But no car was in it. My daughter had been playing with an electronic gadget in her booster seat in the back.  It had frozen, or somehow malfunctioned, a half mile back or so and I delayed fiddling with it until we got to the light. As I was rebooting the thing — I should not have have been — the car in front of me moved forward, presumably because the light had turned green. Without seeing the light above us, I gunned the car forward.  But instead of going forward, the car in front of us made an abrupt left. The driver had missed the turning lane and decided to make a super sharp left when the green arrow signal clicked for the lane next to ours. So, in short, distracted by what I should not have been doing and suckered forward by a follow-the-leader dynamic, I drove right through the red light just as car passed directly in front of me, perpendicularly.  We missed each other by a heartbeat. 

The collision would have been 100% my fault and it would have been a bad one.  The impact on our car probably wouldn’t have been deadly.  Neither car was going fast enough. But still, as I pulled away from the scene, I could not help thinking about  my daughter’s question earlier in the day.  “Just like that,” I said aloud to myself in the car. 

I pulled off at the next exit to fix her electronic device.  No way I was fiddling with it on the highway after that.  We stayed parked for three or four minutes, say, 200 seconds, before reentering the parkway and driving south toward New York City. Twenty miles later, while coming around a curb, we saw the flashing lights of the ambulance arriving at a very bad scene. A three car pile up — a terrible one — that had just happened. How long before? There is no way to know. But those 200 seconds come to mind. 

When is your time? When God and His guardian angels say it is. No doubt about that. None at all. 

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  1. Daniel Suib says:

    I wasn’t your time…and I thank God for that. Things happen for a reason Bill. God needs you here. You have more to do…lessons to teach to your children and to others. He will take us…when he needs us. No sooner…no later. I thank God for every day I am on this fantastic blue planet. I thank God for every day I can share with my Dad. He…is on borrowed time. So, God needs him here, for whatever reasons…I don’t know. But it’s nice to know that I still have him.

  2. Your Friend says:

    Hi, Billy, long time. I came strolling through this old neighborhood wondering if you’d put anything up yet about Breitbart. Apparently, his time was today. I liked this piece, except for the God part, of course. God didn’t take Breitbart, she didn’t take my sister, he didn’t take my brother’s friend who died in an avalanche on New Year’s Day, no God who could justifiably call herself such would spend time deciding when we die. Rather than filling us with despair for the empty meaninglessness of the universe, this thought should be liberating and comforting to us. We have more control over our lives than we would if God was in charge and we will not be judged by the undefinable standards of someone we can’t possibly know. Take heart, rejoice, LIVE!

  3. Mike says:

    Great post Bill. “When is your time? When God and His guardian angels say it is. No doubt about that. None at all.” – very true.

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