Life, sans explosion

It would be so easy to die.

To stumble into something you shouldn’t have, cross the street in front of a driver who either doesn’t respect pedestrians in a crosswalk or just didn’t see you, firmly grip the wheel yourself and slowly inch into the other lane…

That’s what I thought on Tuesday while driving. Turn the steering wheel a bit, Emily, and everything you’re looking forward to, all your plans… they’re gone.

Let me be clear: I am by no means suicidal. I may have been back during early teenage years, but I never would have had the nerve to actually do something really harmful to myself. These thoughts merely cross my mind from time to time.

While filling up at the pump on the same day, I spilled a little gasoline on my hands and onto my car keys. I had the brief thought of, What if my car blows up when I put the key into the ignition? 

Silly, I know. But it made me pause and reflect as I hit a perfect $36 on the meter. What if?

Would that be okay?

How would the people around me react, namely the creepy old guy checking me out right now?

What would my family do?

What would my friends do? 

I squirted hand sanitizer onto my key and my hands and scrubbed a little bit. I closed my eyes when I turned the key, but Bubbles merely sprang to life, sans explosion. I sighed, opened my eyes, pressed the brake with my right foot and shifted into “Drive.”

Seeing lights in my rearview mirror scares me more than death does. I’d have to deal with the consequences of getting a speeding ticket; if I were to die, that’d be it. Only those I leave behind have to deal with the grief and suffering.

I’m not ready to swerve into the other lane, I’m not ready for this to end… but would it be okay if, by chance, it did? Yeah. I mean, I guess I wouldn’t have a choice; it would have to be okay.

I’ve been on a lot of adventures, I’ve seen a lot of things, I’ve learned more lessons than I can count. I’ve stumbled into love, been forced out of it by my own ambition and life plans and then obsessed over people and ideas I thought were real. I’ve been struck down, tossed around, taken advantage of and then, through careful character rebuilding, been able to bounce back.

The girl who once tried to control everything and fought everything has become a woman who knows her limits, knows when there is no use, knows when to let it be.

A lot can happen in a day. So let it –– whatever it is –– happen. The end could happen at any second.

JuneBug and the cardinal

A cardinal follows my aunt during her morning walks on the sand-covered trail near her home in Illinois. The brilliant, red bird flies from branch-to-branch, eavesdropping on my aunt and her friend’s morning gossip sessions. It is my belief that, when we die, we come back as a different being to be a guardian for the loved ones we leave behind. Cardinals that fly by me are my Papa. Pictures of cardinals and references to cardinals –– even the baseball team –– are signs from my Papa. He’s watching over me.

JuneBug, my mama's puppy
JuneBug, my mama’s puppy

It just makes sense. Grandma’s favorite bird is a cardinal, thus her husband came back as one. When I need guidance, something cardinal-esque usually pops up and reminds me of him. A lot of the time, it’s when I least expect it. As I sat at the kitchen table doing a word find during our last break, a cardinal landed on a post outside on the deck. He flew away, but not until after he had gotten a good look at me. The next day, out the bay window at my Grandma’s house, I saw red streak past. I’m so happy he watches over her, too.

And though my mom whines and says, “I wish I had my own cardinal like you guys do!”, we remind her of JuneBug, the warm ball of fur we adopted for her as a family to comfort her after her dad died.

I believe I’m not alone in seeing signs like these. Every family probably has a version of my Papa’s cardinal. I believe in reincarnation. My Papa still hangs around, looking over the family he made and the country he fought to preserve. He just looks a little different now with those bright red wings at his sides.