Haunted by things undone

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 16, 2013

What we have left undone.

Those five words from the Book of Common Prayer have haunted me ever since Honey and I decided years ago to compromise between his Catholicism and my Methodism and attend the Episcopal church.

The words, used almost every Sunday, are from the communion service, and are part of a penitential prayer confessing that we have sinned both “by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.”

Inevitably, I have to pull my racing brain back from the things not accomplished on my do lists to consider the broader picture I believe the prayer means.

Did I miss an opportunity to help someone?

Did I miss an opportunity to be kind?

Did I spend my time focused on the right things?

I’ve spent more time than usual thinking about undone things in the past month. You see, on Valentine’s Day, I walked away from an accident that could have proven fatal.

Driving north on I-65, I was merging into the left lane when I realized a vehicle in my blind spot was about to hit me. I reacted – overreacted, really – and lost control. In a matter of what had to have been seconds, my vehicle left the highway, crossed the exit ramp, striking the bumper of a vehicle being towed, and slid to the bottom of the highway embankment.

All I could think was, “Be ready, you’re going to roll.” I was astounded when my Chrysler Pacifica came to an upright stop badly damaged, but leaving me without a scratch. I would have purchased another one immediately if they still made them.

It took my husband two weeks to work up the nerve to say, gingerly, he wanted to ask me a question.

“You want to know if I was texting,” I said. You learn how to read people. The answer was no.

It took my father about that long to echo, “It wasn’t when you were talking to me, was it?”

No, sir. It wasn’t.

It was a freak, frightening and humbling thing that has given me pause to consider why I walked away unscathed when I’ve seen countless others have life-changing injuries – or lose their lives – in accidents.

I even asked the priest about it at lunch one day.

In her typically calm manner, she said something like, “It just means you’re still here.”

And there it was again. My brain filled in “to finish what you’ve left undone,” or “because you have work yet left to do.”

I’ve tried to address some of the things left undone that flashed through my head that afternoon, like the state of my desk and a closet or two, and I’m still working on the broader list.

But mostly, the day underscored for me that we live in moments, not minutes, and we should make the most of each one.