Image credit: Eleña Horvitz
The screeching tires, crunching metal, tearing earth, sprays of dirt, rubber and blood had come to rest, and the quiet afternoon calm of a warm Arizona early winters day closed back in around the scene.
Emerging from the wreckage of the torn vehicle, a young woman, tossed and disoriented began to make sense and appraisal of the tragedy surrounding her. Stumbling about, she began to call out to her companions, a kind of roll call to see who might be there to answer.
Sadly, two of her compatriots lie dead or dying, unable to respond. As she called the name of the third, “Kabir!” A voice echoed back from somewhere inside the twisted wreck… “Kabir here…”
The brief call and response echoes in my mind, a memory reconstructed only a handful of times in the 17 years since that fateful day. My friend, the young woman, walked away from that accident that day. Our two other friends passed that day from this life. I came away alive, but no longer walking.
Such an acute tragedy, it’s unsurprising to me to have lost contact with the young woman who did the calling. Perhaps she only called out once and I only replied once, in my mind there was more back-and-forth, but never mind that…
Today, it’s still true, “Kabir here.”
At the time of the accident I was driving. People say I must’ve heard the sound of the tire blowing out. All I have ever recalled is the vehicle beginning to swerve out of control. I found myself quite calm, responding with a corrective steering, back and forth. I couldn’t understand why the vehicle wouldn’t come back under control. I just kept making corrections and it just kept looming further from true.
I do remember the calm quite clearly. Even as the truck eventually careened off of the pavement coming into the roadside where the tires dug in and I could feel things begin to roll, I remember a sense of ease and peacefulness. As the wheels began to leave the ground, I thought to myself – “best now just to relax and try not to get hurt too badly.”
My next memory is otherworldly, not dramatically, but distinctly so. I was in darkness, but there was light present, as if from above and out of sight. There was no surface on which the light was falling, but there was a sense of a living presence manifest in a question for me. “Do you want to be alive or dead?”
There was no sense of surprise at the inquiry, and all I did was “look” – as if behind me – for the answer. The answer was simple and clear enough, “Alive.”
With that the brief and peaceful scene faded and I could hear my friend calling out my name. “Kabir here.” I replied.
From that moment on I have experienced my life very differently. As a quadriplegic, things seem very obviously distinct in a physical sense, but when I refer to that difference of experience, I mean more to highlight some sense of choicefullness in the matter.
I do not to this date imagine that I could make a meaningful distinction regarding whether I made a choice, or was made aware of a choice, but either way the choicefullness brings with it a quality of clarity and intent. For me, from that date, my life is not so much an accident of chance, but rather something more intentional.
“Kabir here.” But why?
God gets to know things, we just get to ask questions…