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A Missed Train, A Third Chance June 23, 2009

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.

I could have been on that train. I could have been on that train. I could have been on…that train

I haven’t been able to dislodge those words from my mind since last night. I could have been on that train.

It’s the sort of mental refrain that could drive a man to momentary madness. I could have been on that train.

The Capitals Select a Seat event was last night, and I had been slated to arrive at 6:30. I’m not quite senior enough to warrant first crack at better seats, and that’s fine–I know my place. I thought about heading downtown right after work, and grabbing a bite near the Phone Booth. But the bus heading home was sitting right there when I got to the bus stop, and I got this very, very strong idea–it was almost a need–to get on that bus right now and stay off the Metro at all costs. If the bus hadn’t been there, I would have walked straight to the Metro and boarded what might well have been my last train ride. As it was, I rode the other way, went home, got changed, and headed back to the Red Line to go downtown.

I eventually got to the Red Line at 6…only to find out there was a bus bridge in effect. I was slightly disgusted that I wasn’t going to be getting a better spot for next season, but hey, it’s Metro, and isn’t something always going wrong on there?

Oh, did I ever have no idea…

I headed over to the Tastee Diner to console myself with some comfort food. But then I noticed that they were showing something about the Metro on CNN. Evidently, this was not just your ordinary Metro malfunction–this was national news. My disgust turned instantly into a mixture of concern and horror–concern for the injured, and horror that I could have been on that train.

Dinner disappeared in no time flat, and I spent the rest of the night following the news online. Meanwhile, I kept the Caps-Rangers encore going in the background to keep my spirits up. It didn’t do much good, because the refrain had already begun: I could have been on that train.

I was a basket case at the office today. One of my co-workers actually was on the train, but wasn’t, so far as I know, seriously hurt, so that was another stressor. I doubt I was the only worrywart at the office today, quite frankly. I just haven’t been able to get away from it: I could have been on that train.

Worse, I would have been in the last car. The exit to Verizon Center is all the way aft on the Shady Grove platform. I usually ride in the last car, so that I can get right to the escalator and upstairs before being mobbed on the platform at Gallery Place. I could have been on that train. Worse, I could have been in the last car–possibly of the train that was rear-ended. I might not even be alive today. I could have been on that train…

Nor is that the end of the matter.

Almost a quarter-century ago, my family was stationed in Germany. My Boy Scout troop did a cross-country skiing trip along the inter-German border. I got separated from the rest of the troop, but was rescued by a mysterious stranger–one who spoke perfect English and who knew exactly where I was going…which I myself didn’t even know. It took a full decade to accept that my rescuer had been an angel. And even though my heart has known–and accepted–the identity of my rescuer, my head has been fighting it the whole time.

The short version is that I believe my rescuer was Archangel Raphael, and have been trying to disprove that for a decade and change. Getting a second chance is humbling enough. Getting a second chance straight from an archangel is something you spend the rest of your life trying your best to live up to. Might just be me, but I don’t want to disappoint the angel that saved my life, you know?

But that wasn’t the end of it. I just got a third chance last night. There are people who’ve never even gotten a second chance at life. I didn’t get on the wrong Metro train because of a fortunate (divinely sent?) bus, and that may very well have saved my life. Let’s see, bus and subway…transit…transportation…travel…and guess who the patron angel of travelers is?

I desperately want to be wrong here. I really do. I’ve had enough trouble coming to terms with the idea that I even got a second chance because of angelic intervention. The idea that the very same angel has intervened again to give me a third chance is something I just flat-out can’t process right now. It can’t have been. It was just one of those things, right? Right?

Once again, I can’t accept in my head what I know in my heart is true.

I could have been on that train. I could have been on that train. I could have–

But I wasn’t. It’s not my time yet. God still wants me here, for reasons I have yet to understand.

Does it mean anything? I know some would say it doesn’t–coincidences happen, and I shouldn’t spend one more minute on this than it took to breathe a sigh of relief and move on. That’s not what I believe, for better or worse. With a second chance comes responsibility; with a third chance comes responsibility greater still. For now, I’ll get the basics down pat: accepting each day as a gift, and not taking tomorrow for granted. It sounds absolutely Mickey Mouse, and I guess it is, in a way. I guess I just needed to be reminded of that. Sometimes a close call is the best remedy for a life that’s not being well-lived. And if that’s what the message is, well, I think I get it, this time.

The tricky part is living that knowledge for the rest of my days.

I could have been on that train…but I wasn’t. I’ve been given another shot at life. It’s up to me now to make the most of it.




1. jf1 - June 28, 2009

I am glad you had a bus ride. Figure all the people who coulda woulda shoulda been on that train BUT something happened. A good something happened and they were not on the train. Angels, good luck, devine intervention. Enjoy the gifts life gives. Happy Summer, see you in October

2. CapitalSpirit - June 28, 2009

Thanks for the kind words.

My minor grumble at that is that looking at a close call as a happy coincidence is somewhat of a cop-out. You don’t have to think about it, you don’t have to remember it, and–key–you don’t have to learn anything from it. I would actually love it if I could, in good conscience, think of this as just a happy accident. Because then, I could just forget the whole thing and keep doing what I’ve been doing.

But if I was kept off that train by much higher hands, then I have a lot more responsibility in how I respond. I have to take a long, hard look at where I am, where I want to be, and how I’m going about it, and then ask myself again if that’s really what God wants me to do. I’d love to be able to just breathe a sigh of relief and then not look in the mirror. But I’d like to think I know better than that.

It’s going to be a long, contemplative summer for me, I guess.

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