Life’s a precious thing, you know?

I never used to give it much thought when killing deer, rabbits, or a squirrel here and there.  And I never gave it a second thought when I landed a fish and it flopped about on the bank gulping for a breath.  Although I don’t hold anything against hunters or fishermen, my interest in such things has waned.

When I wrote War of the Heart, my second novel, I interviewed several veterans.  I was quite taken by some of their reactions to my questions.  Oftentimes they would just sit and stare into space, or glare at the floor, when a question dug a little too deep.  One of those brave souls told me: “Although you’re in a situation that’s hell on earth and you’re at war and killing the enemy is justified, you never forget, never, looking into the enemy’s eyes then taking their life.  I’ve watched men die … by my hand.”  Veterans never lose the horror.  They may try to play it down, but the horror of death never leaves them.

My wife and I have three beautiful girls, all grown, but through no fault of Cindy’s she had two miscarriages.  I remember visiting her in the hospital after she lost one of those babies and I brought flowers.  I remember she took them from me and threw them in the bedpan.  She then stared out the window.  I pulled up a chair, next to the bed, and stared out the window, too.  We both stared out the window without saying a word.  For the longest time we contemplated the loss.

When a woman decides to abort a baby, I’m sure they don’t give it much thought at first, but it will haunt them their remaining days.  I’ve spoken to women who have given credence to the claim.

My Mom had many opportunities to abort me, but she shunned them all.

Someone I know well decided to drink and drive sometime back.  It almost cost him his life.  He was seriously injured, and I’m sure he had plenty to think about during his lengthy rehabilitation.

When drunk drivers kill someone the reality of it doesn’t immediately set in until after they sober up.  Then the consequences of their actions will be something they have to live with the rest of their lives.

I remember a day several years ago in Crawfordsville, Indiana.  I was at work and a bad snowstorm hit.  My supervisor gave me the choice of sleeping on a cot in the office or taking my chances on the road.  After I called home, I decided to leave.

I can’t recall ever seeing anything since, like that day.  On the way home State Road 136 was like a graveyard.  Vehicles were abandoned in the middle of the road, and others had been shoved into the ditch by snowplows.

I made it to the small town of New Ross and thought, “Almost there!”  Only a couple more miles and I’d be home free, but the worst was yet to come.

There’s a sweeping curve before the railroad tracks that dissect the town.  The southbound lane had drifted shut.  I remember the drifts were higher than my truck.  I was traveling southbound in the northbound lane, and it too was beginning to drift.  When I looked down at the speedometer it said 60 and when I hit a drift I’d slow to 40.

As I approached the tracks my headlights caught a glimpse of my worst fear.  There was an abandoned car sitting on the tracks in the northbound lane.  I tapped my brakes and felt nothing – I was riding on a sheet of ice.

I determined I had just enough room to pass that car on the right side and decided to go for it.  When I got within a few yards of the car I noticed someone standing beside the driver’s side door, dressed in black.  As I swept by, I missed hitting a man by fractions of an inch.  The momentum of trying to avoid a collision with the car and the person threw the truck into a drift in the southbound lane.  With only the thought of that person’s well-being in mind I jumped from my vehicle and ran over to where the car was.  Standing outside of the car was a young man and woman, quite drunk.  I asked if they were okay.  The man said, “Weeee!” took his jacket off and threw it in the air – it never hit the ground.

As I was ushering the couple over to my truck two State Highway snowplows arrived, both were headed north.  One was plowing the north lane, the other plowing the south lane.  I stood in the way of the lead plow and the driver stopped.  He then rolled down his window to shout, “Get out of the way!  We’re authorized to plow vehicles into the ditch if they’re in the way.”  I told him I was desperate and had an emergency at home.  He then nudged me with the plow.  I told him, “You’re gonna have to kill me.”  When he radioed in to ask permission to pull me loose I could hear headquarters repeatedly say, “Denied!”

The other driver eventually convinced his coworker to pull my truck from the drift and they were nice enough to take the couple home to neighboring New Ross.  And I made it home that night to save my wife and kids who were literally freezing in a house where the furnace was out.

But, of late, I’ve been having nightmares.  In those dreams I see that young man’s face, in slow motion still frames, passing by my side mirror within fractions of an inch.  I can see the horror in his face, and the fear in his eyes.

I came oh so close to killing someone and a wise friend said I should write about it.  They say letting it out helps lessen the trauma, but I’m not so sure it always does.

Greg Allen’s column, Thinkin’ Out Loud, was published bi-monthly from 2009 to 2017.  He’s an author, a former nationally syndicated columnist and the founder of Builder of the Spirit Ministries in Jamestown, Indiana.  He can be reached at www.builderofthespirit.org.

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