Yesterday my wife and I took our two boys to the river so we could have a picnic with my parents but maintain our social distancing. Because you know, Covid-19.
Here we are wading through the shallow end, skipping rocks, stacking rocks, looking for critters under rocks. It’s pretty windy outside, even among these trees by the river.
My dad sits in a chair in the shade wearing gloves and a surgical mask. He’s 65 and is a kidney disease patient with diabetes. His immune system is vulnerable to Coronavirus.
I take my younger son, Levi, by the hand. He’s only three. We walk side-by-side downstream, shivering in the chilly water until our bodies adjust. He’s thrilled to walk with Daddy in this big river.
We turn around and head back to everyone else. Less than a minute later I hear a cracking sound.
We look behind us. A dry tree cracks in half and and half of it collapses on the bank. A huge log splashing up against the water and the rocks. Right where we were standing.
Levi is mesmerized. But he doesn’t grasp it the way I do. I watch it play out three times in a row in my head. Less than a minute ago. We were standing there. Right there. The log was big enough to have taken his life. Or at least injured me greatly.
“Good day,” says my dad.
I thought about it all day. It was strange that this happened while we ventured out in the midst of this sublimely casual crisis. For the past three weeks we’ve been living in this odd state where it’s an emergency, but kind of not. Every decision or speculation feels like it could be an overstep or an under step. Or somehow both.
We’re always measuring our days by the breath. We’re just more away of it sometimes. Going outside at all puts my dad in danger right now. We’re always negotiating safety and utility. Seatbelts, expired food, jumping off of cliffs into lakes.
So it was illuminating to watch us cheat death by a minute in the midst of a pandemic. It reminded me that we should always be living wisely in a “pandemic” mode. Not with fear. Not with distrust and paranoia. Not with a sense of doom. But with a sense that every decision we make could affect others, a sense of personal discipline, a sense of the bigger picture of mortality and purpose. About what’s important.
Like, I would have shoved my son out of the way of that branch and dived under that tree if I could. But if I let that moment tell me never to take my children out to a river again, I would miss the point. And if the day had been three times as windy, it would have been unwise to take them at all.
We live and die by the choices we make. But we will all go one day. Live every moment for something. Even if sometimes it’s as simple as a family day at the river.