March is a strange month in Minnesota. It can be any season in March, and is often two of them in one day. The snow melts during the day and freezes at night, forming a thin ice glaze. March is Minnesota's snowiest month, but also it meltiest month. It's temptamental, unpredictable, and often times vicious. You just can't depend on March.
It was a rare calm morning in March. Dad took the dark, early morning trip to load up the Scout II with bundles of newspapers and it was off to the McStop. His trip down Cedar Avenue into Lakeville was uncluttered with traffic or weather. He was the only one on the road. The green and red traffic lights reflected off the glazed street as he travel south toward the rural farmland where his newspaper clients live. The new construction of another convenience store/gas station must have got him to thinking how long rural would continue to be rural. It's the kind of thoughts a person has when he has hours to himself.
Then there were headlights in the rear view mirror. Crash. Fire. Ambulance. Hospital. Intensive care.
When a vehicle traveling 45 miles per hour is struck from behind by a vehicle travling 120 miles per hour, the crash is an unmentionable violence. The Scout II, full of gas and newspapers, served as a powder keg for the oncoming lit match that was the drunk driver who struck my father.
The Scout II burst into flames and skidded off the road into the ditch. The fire burned my father's skin mercilessly. Then, in some miraculous feat, the nearly 400 pounds of flesh that my father wore, escaped the fiery and badly mangled truck, rolled to the ground to extinguish the flames, and went immediately into shock. How he got out of the truck can only be explained by some sort of divine intevention. The way that the truck was crushed left no way out.
The drunk driver was passed out and sore with a couple bruises.
No one knows exactly how long he lay in the ditch, half dead and severly burned, but the ambulance did come and take him to the hospital with the best burn center in the state. They knew he was going to need it.
He should have died that morning in March 1995. With a quarter of his body covered in 3rd degree burns including his face and hands, with the certainty of brain damage, with his large size and unknown internal trauma, he had little to no chance of living. He did, in fact, die twice on the hopsital bed, but was revived both times. Death was at war with Life, but Life would not relent. Though the assualt was meant to be fatal, somehow he refused.
How did he know to live? Was he trying to live or was Life insistant not to release his body? Could he think? Have memories? Was he talking with God about timing? What happens in the mind and spirit of a person who resides in the borderlands of death?
My father was not a religious man. The son of an overbearing and abusive vitamin supplement sith lord, my father knew hypocrisy when he saw it and could smell it a mile away. His short stint with organized religion proved his radar was working. That short time when he allowed his vulnerability to surface, he was quickly singed by the heat of hypocrisy.
But he was a believer. He believed in God and knew that there was a day when they would meet. I wonder if they met that day in the ICU at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. I wonder if God told him there were going to be more grandchildren. I wonder if God told him that Life was sticking with him, so he had better cooperate. I don't know. Maybe he just lay there and his cells and neurons and chemicals did what nature designed them to do and he just got lucky. Maybe anyone with the exact same circumstances would have lived. I don't know.
What I choose to believe is that God had something to do with intervening in certain death. Death asserted itself and was denied, told to go home for another 11 years. What a beautiful gift of 11 years.