Have you ever seen those movies where the woman riding a bike gets hit by a bus in the end? You suffer through some angsty two-hour love affair between two people who are so wrong for each other that they’re so right, and then at the moment of sweet union, the girl steps out for a loaf of bread only to get creamed by a fast-moving Chevy?
Think “City of Angels” with Meg Ryan, “One Day” with Anne Hathaway or “An Affair to Remember” with Katharine Hepburn. I know, Hepburn’s character isn’t on a bike and she doesn’t die, but she’s wheelchair bound and miserable until Spencer Tracy puts two and two together — close enough.
In the movie of my life, I’m afraid I may be the unfortunate waif who gets hit by oncoming traffic the exact minute I arrive at inner peace. Here’s why.
Recently, while running along my country road on a 12-degree morning, I was nearing the end of a four-mile run — the temperature alone should’ve killed me. Just as I began to cross the blueberry field in front of my house, I heard the rumble of a school bus coming around the bend.
When the pavement began to tremble, I veered onto the shoulder and thought, “This is probably my dramatic death scene.” The sky had lightened to the first baby blue of the morning. The sun greeted me with the promise of a new day. The sight of my house, nestled in the woods, had just come into view.
This would be the most cinematic moment to die.
The newspaper headline would read, “Beloved school teacher, tragically killed by school bus 500 feet from her home in East Jesus.”
Wouldn’t that be so Hollywood? Woman spends her whole life teaching children and focusing on her fitness only to be killed by the bus that picks them up while out for her morning run?
Of course, I survived, but my mind couldn’t let it go. Perhaps because I’ve been ruminating on unforeseen calamities like this my whole life: airplane failure, incurable illness, natural disaster, mosquito bite. You name it, and it’s already killed me.
Honestly, I’m terrified that when my life is at its zenith, death, that old, draggy school bus, will round the corner and mow me down.
What then? I’ll tell you what then. I’ve already planned it.
My husband and children will be devastated. They’ll cling to my writings, maybe even publish that book I wrote, all in their devoted affection for my memory. There will be mourning, celebrating and sadness and then they’ll move on.
They’ll have to — that’s life.
Red will remarry some nurturing, ethereal beauty who will love him back to happiness while simultaneously raising my three besought children, and I hate her already. I’m thankful for her, of course, but who wants to be replaced by some healthy-meal making, blanket-knitting, sports enthusiast?
Not this dead chick.
Lily, I envision her as a Lily, has already published a book or two, and she’s amazing in all the ways I wasn’t. She has an effortless grace, a button nose and no visible signs of aging. She never storms off in a huff, always kisses the kids goodnight and asks about my husband’s day like she’s really, truly listening.
Naturally, I hate Lily with the white hot fury of a thousand desert suns, and I hope she gets run over by the same bus.
But that’s not what this foray into death is all about. I’m attempting to come to terms with my mortality. Why does this matter so much to me?
The simple answer is “Because.” Because it does. I’m not ready for death. I don’t want a quick calamity or a long illness to befall me. When that old deathtrap rattles around the bend, I hope I stayed home that morning.
I hope I was cuddling with Red and making the children breakfast instead of slogging out those miles on the road, worrying about my waistline. I hope the kids were eating waffles and feeding Benny bacon under the table. While the bus rounded the corner, I’d be pouring myself a second cup of coffee and firing up the pellet stove to warm my babies cherubic cheeks.
The movie of my life always ends with me living. Every time, I’d get to be the woman who lives.