All of us come into this world with a virtual time bank account allotted to our lives. The quantity of time in each of our accounts varies, but each day we spend 24 hours of the balance we have left. None of us knows exactly the balance of time that remains in our bank. Only if we come face to face with a life-ending situation that miraculously we survive do some of us realize we’ve been lucky enough to borrow some extra time.

Ten years ago, a friend and I enjoyed a midwinter getaway at a lodge in the tiny village of Ludlow, Vermont. During our last day, intense sun rays had noticeably shrunk the height of the snowdrifts around the inn. Frigid temperatures were forecast for that evening. As the sun dipped below the horizon, we drove 15 miles north on Route 100 for a dinner of German specialties in a quaint restaurant recommended by the innkeepers. The height of the snowbanks on each side of the two-lane highway towered 5 feet high, leaving the asphalt surface exposed between. We encountered only three other cars en route to dinner.

On our return, we drove in total darkness, with only our headlights casting beams to illuminate the route. I worried the plummeting Arctic temperatures would freeze patches of meltwater on the road. But with no traffic in sight, I easily avoided driving over slick spots.

About halfway back to the lodge, as I crested a long uphill incline, we saw the headlights of a vehicle far below heading up the hill toward us. The gap between our vehicles grew less, until unexpectedly, the other vehicle swerved into our lane, crashing into the snowbank ahead. Instinctively, I steered into the left lane to avoid hitting it. We watched in horror as the pickup truck neither stopped nor became embedded in the snowbank.

Like a pinball, it ricocheted off the snowbank, skidding back across the highway, sliding sideways uphill directly in our path. I braked hard while yanking my steering wheel to the right. A sheet of black ice grabbed and swung my car sideways as I continued downhill in the left lane. In just a few seconds, the driver’s sides of our vehicles would smash together. The horrified look in the other driver’s eyes reflected the look in my own. Instantly, we would all be dead.

I screamed “Nooooo!” In the same split second, my front tires gripped dry asphalt and rocketed my car forward. My front bumper caught the truck’s back side panel, miraculously spinning it 180 degrees as my car perilously tangoed around it to continue downhill. Behind us, the truck skated back across the highway, finally lodging in the snowbank further up the hill.

The other driver admitted he’d fallen asleep, waking only after hitting the first snowbank. We survived, though our vehicles didn’t. With only a millisecond left in my time bank, the gift of borrowed time will be forever priceless.

filed under: