A Life Changing Experience on an Icy Highway

life changing experience

There has been black ice all over the roads in Connecticut this week. Even as I type these words onto my laptop, I’m looking out the window and seeing another fresh coat of snow. I know it’s going to turn to ice before the sun goes down.

It started with coming back last Sunday from Ken MacArthur’s jvAlert in Philadelphia. Two hours to get out of the city limits with all the accidents and construction. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t fear it either. Traffic was moving slowly enough so that it was an inconvenience, but not a danger.

It was when I hit the highway, and traffic moved to faster speeds that I started “white knuckling” it. All the way to that service area on the New Jersey Turnpike.

It reminded me of something I saw six or seven years ago as I headed over the border from Connecticut into Massachusetts on Interstate 84. The driving conditions were similar, except there weren’t a lot of cars on the road. It was beautiful to look at: white and pristine.

There was a car ahead of me. It was traveling too fast for the road conditions. Maybe it was a new driver. Or maybe the driver was paying for attention to the radio or the scenery than the road. Or any number of other things.

But I watched the skid. The car was all over the road. I’m talking a major slide on the black ice.

I watched the car turn backwards, then forward again, then sideways, then diagonal. It veered from the left side to the right and back again. Totally random, except it kept heading forward.

I watched with a mini version of the dread the driver must have had. A total lack of control. Waiting to see how it would end. In a ditch? Rollover? A crash into another car in front of it? Explosion?

For about thirty seconds and half a mile that driver had absolutely no say in how his or her life was going to turn out.

And then somehow…the car regained its traction. It proceeded forward.

Having slowed way down…to about 25 miles an hour, I watched it happened from more of a distance. I never passed that car. I didn’t see it stopped in the road. I don’t know if the driver got off at the next exit.

What goes through someone’s head when they are staring at their own death? What happens when they realize they survived?

Depends on the circumstances, I guess. I don’t know if he or she broke down sobbing. Or screamed. Or called a loved one. Or got down on his or her knees in prayer. Or bought a lottery ticket. I never will know.

But a bit of me stayed with the driver that day. The awareness of what was coming. From that day, I have never skidded on an icy road at more than ten miles an hour.

When I drive on an icy road – when I finish publishing this article and drive across town – I keep an awareness of how much unfinished business I have. Family and friends who love me and rely on me.

Influence I’ve built up with clients and students.

People who are ready to plant their knowledge, skills and wisdom into me. I know…there’s an awful lot I don’t know. And someone will be blessed by what I am ready to receive…and give in exchange for it.

And me. My life.

It’s been a good time, on the whole. If today were my last day on Earth, I’d be disappointed. This life, this body, this personality these circumstances have been pretty good to me.

But there’s the larger part that knows I am connected to source. The journey is infinite, even as circumstances change.

It’s been a good time, on the whole. And though I’d rather not check out yet, I’m glad I’ve been playing fairly big up to this point.

And of course it’s a reminder to be smart, and careful. Do not take for granted the resources you’ve been given. Because in a balanced, self-correcting world, they get taken away pretty quickly.

But don’t crawl in a hole either. As has been said many times, the riskiest thing you can do is not take any risks.

Be smart. Be careful. But be bold.

Right your vehicle and keep on moving!

Got a game changing experience you’d like to share? Let’s here about it!

Photo by Jonathan Kos-Read

30 thoughts on “A Life Changing Experience on an Icy Highway”

  1. Being someone who has experienced something similar although in a much more brief period of time (not a half mile). I can attest to how time sort of stops as you find yourself in that spin and the adrenaline that hits when you finally hit something and it stops or in this case, right it and move forward. You are right, we have no control of the way it could end and it’s so incredibly important to live your life every day as though it could be the last.

    I’m trying very hard to take this advice and do something in my life that means biting he bullet, taking a blame that isn’t mine to shoulder. I need to do this because it’s my mother. If I let the silence continue, one of us could leave this world and I know it would be a regret. I don’t want to live like that. It’s so hard to do sometimes what we know we should.

    Thanks for simplifying the concept in this article … it was thought provoking!

  2. I read about Larry’s experience on an icy highway and wanted to share my experience of the last year with everyone. My hope is that by sharing, I might keep another from having to go through the pain I went through before receiving hope.

    It all started oddly enough with weight loss. My husband and I had decided to try to lose weight so we went on a plan that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone else. About 12 weeks into the plan, he got very sick and almost died. He had gotten c-diff, a very serious and sometimes deadly spore bacteria that is very difficult to recover from. He was off work for 4 solid weeks while recuperating. I also hadn’t felt well for a few weeks (presumably due to the weight loss), and his illness concerned me greatly, as well as not feeling well myself.

    On top of that, my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy and my brother-in-law had an amputation. My husband’s illness, my sister’s mastectomy, and my brother-in-law’s amputation all happened within an 8-week period.

    My health continued to spiral downward and I was suffering from extreme nausea and acid reflux problems that had worsened considerably. The doctors couldn’t seem to get the physical problems stabilized and I consequently had to quit my job in June of 2013. During this entire time, a wonderful nurse practitioner had put me on a new antidepressant and it was very difficult to take it while feeling so poorly.

    I saw a psychiatrist in August of 2013 and he recommended ECT. I thought he was off his rocker, to put it mildly. I talked to my husband and children, my parents and my brothers and sisters. One of my children was totally against my having the ECT and my aunt and uncle had watched my grandfather have it 35 years earlier and couldn’t recommend it. I continued to spiral downward.

    In September of 2013, my father was hospitalized and had a slight stroke. I went to see him and was worried about him. However, he and my mother were very concerned about me. I had lost an additional 20 pounds on top of the 50 I had lost the previous 10 months (on purpose). My father died unexpectedly in the middle of September.

    While planning for his funeral, my sisters intervened and told me they thought I needed professional help. I was hospitalized for severe depression and I had to miss my father’s funeral. In fact, on the day of his funeral, I had the first of 9 ECT treatments for my depression.

    The ECT treatments and hospitalization saved my life. I don’t have any regrets at having them done. Truthfully, I wish I had listened to the doctor earlier. If I had proceeded with the treatments when first suggested, I wouldn’t have missed my own father’s funeral.

    Sometimes things happen for reasons we don’t know. The more we fight those things, the more they become what I like to call “a sticking point” in our lives. There but for the grace of God go I. I had said that phrase so many times and I was living each day knowing that God had a reason for me to go through all of that experience.

    Life is so tenuous. Love those people in your life who mean so much to you, because you never know when you might lose them. And the final take home message is to listen to those who try to help you. Be open to all possibilities, because the possibility you might least consider may be the one that ultimately saves your life.

  3. Far too often it seems as though we need some sort of crisis, to “hit bottom” to wake us from our trance state and start truly living… but it doesn’t need to be this way. A little awareness, an alignment with our Source, a desire to see things differently and a whole lot of persistence can “right our vehicle” and keep us moving forward.

    Thanks for an inspiring article Larry!

  4. An article like this does jar the senses that time on this earth can be taken away in a second and how precious it really is. The old saying: we never realize what we have until it is gone. I think times like this gives us the impetus to exam our own lives and see what we need to do to make things better for everyone around us as well as ourselves. I have to say I enjoy your writing and the way you deliver the message, you have a way of describing a scene with an ability to allow your reader to see it clearly.

  5. Nice reality story. I have faced two similar, faces of uncontrolled fear. They have both made my life today better and more significant. I was a pramedic in ney tork, called for a shortness of breath calk. When arrived it was a drug deal gone bad. Two people were stabbed and i was attempting to save one when i bexame a victum too. I was stabbed 3 times in my attempt to keave the apartment, but as i was leaving, a police officier shot the person stabbing me, abd one of the bullets went theough him and hit me. Wgeb it all ended, about 40 seconds, i was bleeding from my arm, blood over my face, a feactured jaw, and no hearing from myright ear, which was sliced by the bullet. I later was told that part of the bullet went through the front of my head and left by my right ear. I recovered after two operations. I continued to be a paramedic for anither 15 years. My second encounter was when i on a plane returning from my farher’s death. I was tried and being allergic to peanuts qas concerned about my airway tightening on the flight from nebraska to vegas. Well, i attempted to rell the flight attendent i needwd my epi pen, which wmas in the back of the plane, whwre many were drinking and eating peanuts, but she did nit understand cuz my voice was deep, low and raspy, i remeber walking to first class area, and the rest was in the report. I apparently went into the bathroim, in first class, and when i came out i had ripped off my shirt and tried to open the door! I was tackled and had my shoulder dislocated, and was turning blue. Some certified nurse understood i was hypoxic abs need epi thus she found some in an emergency bag? And administered it to my left thigh area. The plane nase an emergency landing in Denver. I awoke with a tube in my trachea , on a ventilator, handcuffed to the bed, in the ICU with the FBI, federal police and TSA personnel around me. I was scared and confused. I proved to all about my true allergy to peanuts si nothing criminal came my way, except i was on the no fly list for a year, if i would anyway! These two situations had changed my life. I look at myself as a person who was spared an early death. God has great plans for me. I am blessed to be able to help others as a nurse and educator. Life has weird turns and paths for most. I am appreciate of my turn if events because ut brought out my true calling, helping ease iain and suffering of others.

  6. Thanks for the note, Bj. You’ve got a significant finger position issue on your keyboard, but I got what you were saying. Glad you made it through those experiences and came out stronger. :)

  7. A car careening across the ice is terrifying, yes, because you don’t know what’s going to happen. But on the other hand, we never know what’s going to happen, even when things are seemingly calm and under control. It’s just that in these moments of tires on ice, the true extent of our out-of-controlness becomes evident.

    Sometimes fate does us the solid of sending a heads-up that it’s time to start packing it in but, quite often there is no warning. We don’t know when we leave the house in the morning whether or not we’ll make it back in the evening.

    And on that note, I say if you’ve got something to do, better get crackin’.

    Great article, Larry!

  8. Hi Larry,

    Great post and a greater lesson you’ve got in there. Thank you for sharing it!

    I am with you on this. If it were my last day today, I won’t be too happy about it either. There’s so much left to explore! There’s so much adventure, learning, experiencing left to do. And then, there’s my WIP bucket list. I haven’t crossed it off yet.

    I think this feeling must be reciprocated even by someone not too crazy about his life, you know? Every one wants to hold on to as much as they can. At least, most people I know.

    It has always made me wonder — why do people commit suicide? What must be going on in their heads to kill themselves? How come they don’t have any curiosity left? No disrespect toward anyone, but those are my genuine thoughts.

    Thank you for sharing your story.


  9. Great post, Larry, and a wonderful reminder of how precious life is. Too often we move through our days as if tomorrow is a promise. All we really have is now. And when we spin and slide and turn side-ways, trusting that we can right ourselves, that we are never alone, is solace and inspiration to keep moving forward.

  10. HI Pooja,

    I don’t think it’s disrespectful at all. Most attempts at suicide are cries for attention and help, which is why most aren’t successful. Anyone who is all business about suicide will use a foolproof method.

    That said, the people I know and have worked with who have actually committed suicide had such a skewed perception of self and the world around them. They were in so much pain and felt so hopeless, they saw that as the only way out. That’s why it’s so important when we’re in pain to interrupt the pattern of our thoughts…any way we can that isn’t destructive.

    Thanks for a great response.

  11. Tanya, I agree with Larry about those who attempt (or actually commit) suicide. They absolutely see no way out. I have known a few friends whose family members have committed suicide and family members/friends who are left behind see it as a very selfish act. It leaves those who are left behind with myriads of questions, some of which are never answered.

    It is so true that no man/woman is an island–no man/woman stands alone. They may think that nobody understands them but there are always those who are more than willing to listen and help. Depression is something horrible to have to endure at times but it is not unmanageable. We sometimes forget that helplessness is NOT hopelessness.

    There is a group out there called Recovery. It was started by a man named Abraham Low. They teach cognitive behavior and give great thoughts. Many cities have groups–in fact, there are over 600 in the U.S., I believe. That and therapy have helped me enormously.

    I would never want to end my life. There is so much to live for! I wish I could help every single individual out there struggling for a reason to live. There are hundreds of reasons to seek help when you are feeling down. You are so right–we are never alone. If any of you out there are feeling like life is hopeless, know that it is not. I am glad to have found this site and I appreciate reading Larry’s great comments. I have felt the scariness of sliding on black ice and the scariness of depression. So glad that I am still living and breathing. I have so much to still accomplish, as do we all!

  12. Great post Larry. The detail in it was very well dictated. Growing up in Colorado I know exactly what it’s like to be swerving all over the road due to that “black ice” thingy.
    A point you made struck me hard.
    I’ve actually looked myself in the mirror and I was playing small, very small for the better part of 2013. There were a couple events that made that happen.
    But looking back now I sometimes can’t help but beat myself up for allowing it to happen. Then I study more personal development to make sure the cycle doesn’t repeat itself.
    I am ready to play BIG now & realize that we all have something to share.
    Playing small does not do anyone any good, so there is no reason for it.
    There is soooo much more to accomplish & so many more to inspire…
    Can’t wait..!

  13. Denyce, without knowing anything else that’s going on…

    Is it possible to make peace with your mother…to express love for her without accepting any blame for whatever happened? Or maybe accept your responsibility for your role in the conflict, and no more than that?

    Whatever it is, sending you love and healing,

  14. Wow, Christie! That’s a lot for one person to handle! All I can say is, you came out on the other side in one piece, and I presume stronger for the experience. At least strong enough to write a compelling comment.

    Psychiatry is nowhere near perfect, but it has made some great strides in the past 30 years…not just in medicating illness, but in integrating new thought and new ways of seeing our relationship to the world around us…and spirit.

    Visioning you healthy, happy and laughing at something silly and fun,

  15. John,

    Thanks for the compliments on the writing. I think I left out the part where I temporarily lost bladder control in sympathy with the driver (kidding). Yes…every moment is set up by the previous ones, but they do have their own life, and can spin any which way.


  16. We ARE never alone, Tanya, although that’s a tough case to make when you’re careening on the ice. There’s a little comfort in knowing we contributed to our being there…because there’s also comfort in knowing we can get ourselves out of it too. :)

  17. mahavir nautiyal

    There is not much difference between a person driving fast and recklessly and the person committing suicide. Both go through a period of heightened emotional upheaval, the one of thrill and the other of acute depression. Only if there were some sane and sober person to counsel them at their low point.

  18. Larry, Thanks for the article. All to often we feel like that car. Sliding and slipping out of control, but we do have the ability to change that. Just like when we drive, we try to force the change in the direction that we want. When sometimes sitting back, moving with the direction of the slid will actually get us back on track.

  19. Enjoyed the article Larry. I think like some of the ones who commented, we are never truly in control, but… we can control as much as we can. I feel it’s very important to remember this, be thankful, and not go through life haphazardly or in fear of it it, but rather doing the best we can to make the most of it.

    Little and big instances as you spoke of is sometimes needed to JAR our senses… in my experiences

  20. I live in Southern California. The only time that I encountered black ice was when I was about to leave a small strip mall in Burlington, WA. OK, that wasn’t very deadly but I still felt queasy losing control of my car.

    There was the time that I was hit by taxi when walking along the Principal Highway in Negril, Jamaica…

    My real point is that you are absolutely correct, Larry. Life is a precious and finite gift. We can show our gratitude for the gift of life by being aware of the gift, enjoying it and sharing it generously.

    Thank you for reminding us of the value of our lives by writing this post.

  21. Great post Larry.
    I have been is a car sliding out of control, the worst was sliding backwards down an icy hill while speedometer says 40 mph.
    But what is scarier a car out of control or a life?

    So many people have taken their hands of the wheel and their life is just sliding along.
    And that my friend is as frightening as watching a car sliding.

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