I Saw Death Speed By

I saw death speed by, doing 80 in a 65.

He passed me heading north on I-71, just south of Columbus, Ohio. I was on my way to New York from Kentucky to help my parents close one chapter and begin another when he approached. Glancing in my rearview mirror, as good drivers do from time to time, I noticed him gaining on me from some distance away. The shape of his vehicle immediately stood out from the others sharing the road. Black as a panther, his nose had the shape of a typical Caddy, but he carried a whole lot junk in his trunk. From the windshield back, his body shape rose like an elegant turtle shell the color of midnight, high and commanding, yet awkwardly bulky, over the rooftops of the other cars. Passing the other drivers steadily in the left lane, he would soon be upon me. 

Not wanting to stand in the way of the man on his mission, I flipped my turn signal up, checked my blind spot, and slid into the right lane. “There are always cops out on the highways in Ohio,” I thought, glancing in my rearview mirror once again. “This guy just must not care about getting a speeding ticket."

For a brief moment he was beside me. I risked a quick look to my port side, hoping for glimpse of the driver. The windows were tinted enough that I could only make out a vague silhouette of a man with a cap sitting in the driver’s seat. No hooded cape or sickle or long bony fingers gripping the steering wheel. Figures. My eyes darted down to my speedometer: a conservative 71mph. I tried to gauge how much faster the hearse was moving as he passed. In no time he was a full car length in front of me, then two, then five. “He has got to be doing at least 80. Maybe even closer to 90, ” I mused. “I wonder what his hurry is?”

It occurred to me that I had never seen a hearse drive with such intensity before. There was no police escort leading his way, no funeral procession behind him, no solemn mourners in his wake. A lone carrier of the dead, flying by in such haste as to cause all others to part lanes on the highway like the waters of the Red Sea.

Death waits for no man, I suppose, and to some it may seem as if he strives hard after us. I smiled. The vigor with which that hearse chased his agenda up the highway gave me cause to think upon my own purposes. Tomorrow is not promised to me. The number of days and hours I have in this life are as fleeting as my encounter with that death-driver on the road. We don’t often like to think on or talk about death; nevertheless, the question always on the horizon whenever the thought comes to mind is, “What will I do with the time I have been given?”

What will I do with my days, my months, my years? Moments matter. I smiled again, remembering the reason for my road trip. I was heading to Ithaca to help my parents pack up and move. They were leaving a steady living and comfortable community for something quite out of the ordinary. After thirty-five years as an engineering professor at Cornell, my father was moving to Singapore to become a Head of Pillar at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. Instead of retiring and fading into the sunset, he was going to reinvent himself. Carpe diem.

Every breath is a miracle, a new opportunity to seize the day.

What will I do with my days, my moments? Three things matter to me above all: faith, hope, and love. Watching that hearse fade to a black spot in the distance, I was filled with an newly invigorated fire to live, love, and extend hope as passionately as I can with whatever time I have been given. Many days, many moments I fall short; yet every breath is a miracle, a new opportunity to seize the day.

What are you doing with your moments, your breaths? Submit that job application, make that phone call, mend that relationship, take that trip, ask that girl out, share your faith, write that book.

What dream or discontent is burning on your heart? What is stopping you from chasing after it?

DAN JACKSON

Dan is a pastor, writer, and speaker. He is the host of the Ordinary Faith Podcast and currently serves as a Campus Pastor for Southland Christian Church in Georgetown, KY.