I was raised in a pretty strict Catholic family. But as I grew older, I lost touch with the spiritual dimension of my life. In fact, I became a rock musician and began to drink beer and liquor on a regular basis, although I managed to stay clear of pot and hard drugs. For some reason, I recoiled from them as I recoiled from fire. I believe I avoided drugs because I had witnessed the total destruction they had brought on so many of the musicians I knew and admired.
A strong voice inside my head told me that drugs would do the same to me if I took them up. At the same time, other voices in my mind told me that I would never be able to compete as a truly inspired musician unless I ingested the hallucinogenic LSD or injected heroin into my veins. Luckily for me, the voices of the angels combined with the cautionary tales of reality were more convincing.
Rebellion of the 60s
Still, my drinking, playing in bars, carousing with those who frequented these dens of forgetfulness and the general rebellion of the 1960s brought me to a place of spiritual numbness. Meanwhile, I met a girl, whose good qualities attracted me, won me and convinced me to become a husband and father at the tender age of 18.
So, I got a day job with a major record distributor and played music at night and on weekends to support my family. It was during this time of my life that I was forcefully reacquainted with the reality of the unseen world I had almost forgotten. On a Friday morning, a blizzard hit Baltimore and the surrounding areas. Many of the delivery drivers at the record distributor where I worked got caught in the storm.
But a large record-and-tape order had to be delivered to an important customer. My boss decided to lend me to the shipping department to deliver the order to the account, which was in rural Frederick, Maryland – about 40 miles west of our warehouse’s location. This decision immediately put me in a bad spot. I was scheduled to play music at 9 p.m. that evening and it was already 4 p.m. (In those days events, bars and deliveries continued no matter how bad a snow storm, now called a snow event)
Driving In A Blizzard
But, I needed my day job more than my musical gig, so I climbed into the large, white International truck, which I had never driven before, and took off for Frederick in a hurry. I was able to maintain a decent rate of speed while still in the Baltimore Metro area, but when I entered the outlining counties using Route 40, the interstate was increasingly treacherous because it was totally covered with snow and ice.
Being pressed for time, I decided to maintain 50 mph or 60 mph no matter what, because being young and foolish I thought that missing my music gig would be a great and unforgivable tragedy. Then it happened. I hit a patch of solid ice and I felt the wheels of the International slide sideways, which caused the truck to careen uncontrollably into the small median strip at a high speed headed for oncoming traffic!
All this transpired in less than a couple of seconds. Within that time frame a thought entered my mind that this was the end for me and I was unexpectedly going to die. Within the next millisecond, I relived my entire life. Now, I am sure you have heard of such experiences before and so had I, but the reality of this moment cannot fully be described in words.
Relived My Entire Life
Let me try to explain it. When I say I relived my entire life in less than a blinking of an eye, I mean that I relived every moment and experience as they happened exactly. I smelled the chlorine in the water when I almost drown when I was 13 years old. I felt the kiss of my first girlfriend and smelled her perfume. I relived the bloody nose I got when I was in first grade and tasted the blood in my mouth. I saw my first child being born. I relived my first drunken party, including the false euphoria and following sickness.
Again, all of the good and the bad I had done came rushing into my mind, including the emotions, smells and all of the minute details. The process seemed to accelerate as I came within inches of plowing into oncoming traffic. Then it stopped as abruptly as the International’s rear wheel got caught up in small bush in the snow-covered median. To my utter amazement, my truck was only a few inches from oncoming vehicles, which were speeding by so closely they caused the International to shake violently.
Discovered That Everything Mattered
As my heart beat out of my chest, I instinctively put the truck in reverse and carefully and slowly maneuvered it back onto the treacherous road. For the rest of the day, I drove like a great grandmother. The moment-of-judgment I experience played heavily on my mind for months to come. What troubled me about it was the fact that it was grim reminder that my carefree and partying lifestyle was only a smoke screen or chemically-induced denial of the unseen reality. It existed always– underscoring, observing consequences on me and others.
The judgment-day experience also put a real damper on any notions that drug use, drinking or sexual promiscuity were unimportant because they were based not on any universal laws but merely on society and its institutions to control the masses After my experience, I knew this was simply not the case. Everything mattered.
© 2018 Chet Dembeck