waypoints 7

Late August I’m always reminded of the mountains of West Virginia and a spot of two lane blacktop that turned my life upside down. In August of 1979 we were heading north on a rain slick U.S. 250 in Larry’s 1973 Mercury Comet. Larry was driving, I was slouched in the passenger seat, trying to nap. A touch of the brakes made me open my eyes. The grill of a van was all I could see. We smashed head on and then tumbled over the side of the mountain, finally stopping far below the road with our wheels in the air. My chin had caved in the dash, and I was dangling by the lap belt, unconscious, blood running down my face. Larry recalls jumping out of the car without even registering we were upside down. Both his arm and the steering wheel were broken in half. Our friend Rich was supposed to be on that trip, but he backed out at the last minute. Said he had a feeling.

I didn’t open my eyes again until three days later, in the pale light of a hospital room in Elkins. Larry was there, and I said to him “This is the best place you could find?” which made his lip scabs crack open…

Just a few curves before our impact I remember thinking to myself how good I was feeling, what a wonderful trip it had been— ocean and mountain, breakers and waterfalls. I actually said out loud to Larry that if we were to die I was ready and well accounted for, because my life could not be any fuller. Then I closed my eyes.

Death is easy. None of us is ever closer or farther from it than I was right then. Forty three years later it’s still just a tap on the shoulder away. My challenge has been to try and make every moment like that one, descending Cheat Mountain in the rain, full to the brim.

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