In my last post, I told you about Adam, the friend who saved my life by answering my phone call during one of my darkest times.
In this post, I’ll tell you about a gift I gave him that might have saved his life.
Here’s the story, as told to me by Adam:
You know how some people say that your life flashes before your eyes when you’re about to die? I don’t believe that.
But I do believe in karma.
I don’t totally understand it, but I can’t deny that in some real way, what goes around comes around.
I might have saved Brilliant’s life by picking up when he called during one of the lowest moments of his life, but he probably saved mine by giving me a leather jacket.
Let me explain.
I met Brilliant when we worked together at the pizza stand in Jordan Commons, his family’s first movie theater.
Life was pretty simple then—we didn’t have mortgages or kids or exes, and we turned almost everything into a game: who could make pizza the fastest or fold the most boxes in the shortest time.
If Brilliant ever tells you differently, don’t believe him—I won every time.
One holiday season after I’d quit working at the theaters, Brilliant surprised me by giving me a leather jacket. It was a perfect gift because my coat had been stolen out of a friend’s car.
I wore that leather jacket for years.
I later took a job with Verizon Wireless. As a new employee in training to be a manager, I worked the late shift, getting off each night around 11pm.
One night I was driving home during a massive snowstorm. The roads were slick and visibility was almost zero in the snowy, foggy darkness. To make matters worse, I was driving a front-wheel drive Hyundai—not an ideal car for a wintry night like this.
My wife and twins were waiting at home, so I drove carefully.
I was doing about 15 mph on the freeway when I noticed headlights in my lane. A moment later, the headlights rotated away from me as the car they belonged to skidded to a rest on the side of the road.
Before I knew it, I was careening toward the car ahead of me, having hit the same patch of black ice he had. I managed to avoid spinning out, but I lost control nevertheless.
I impacted the car at about five miles an hour—not hard enough to deploy the airbags, and fortunately, not hard enough to injure me or the other driver.
The driver of the other car and I got out to make sure that everyone was alright and to check for damage. It turns out that he also worked at Verizon and he too was on his way home.
Standing on the roadside in the blustery darkness, having determined that there was no damage or injury, we decided not to call the police, but to simply exchange insurance info and phone numbers and to talk the next day.
I had rolled down my passenger window, and I leaned in through it to get my insurance card out of the glovebox.
The next thing I know, my feet are cold. Then, I’m aware that for some reason I’m walking along the side of the freeway in my socks.
It’s remarkable that I was walking at all, because my pelvis had been broken in nine places.
But I wouldn’t realize this until I came to in the hospital the next day.
I would later learn that a pickup truck had been traveling down this same snowy freeway at 60 mph, had hit that same patch of black ice, and had gone way off the road.
Visibility was so poor that when the driver of the pickup came back to the freeway, he didn’t see me or the car ahead of me until after he’d impacted me.
The pickup hit me as I was leaning into my car to get my insurance card. The force rotated me, and the truck’s driver side mirror smashed me in the face, knocking out five teeth.
A police officer who investigated the accident later told me that if I hadn’t been leaning in through that window—if I had been standing upright—the pickup would have squashed my neck against my car’s A-pillar and the impact would have probably decapitated me.
I would have been standing up straight if I could have—after I’d retrieved my insurance card, as I went to stand up, I felt the collar of my jacket catch on the handle above the passenger door.
I couldn’t easily get free. That jacket was probably only caught for two or three seconds, but it was long enough to keep me leaning in through my passenger window while the truck hit me.
I spent a few painful weeks in the hospital, and more in rehab, but I eventually recovered.
I’m a different person because of that accident, and not just because I live with aches and pains.
I see the world differently.
I’m sure that Brilliant had no idea when he gave me that leather jacket that it would one day save my life, just as I had no idea that picking up a phone call from him on an ordinary night would save his.
Last year I had that jacket framed and gave it to Brilliant for his birthday. It’s a symbol of our friendship, and the difference we’ve made in each other’s lives.
I’ve come to learn that we never know the full impact of our actions, that the things we do matter more than we know, and that it’s true: what goes around comes around.
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