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Some of my stories are published in:
A Cup of Comfort Devotional for Mothers and Daughters (Adams Media, 2009)
Chicken Soup: What I Learned from the Dog (2009)
Love is a Flame (Bethany House, 2010)
Extraordinary answers to Prayer (Guideposts, 2010)
Love is a Verb (Bethany House, 2011)
Big Dreams from Small Spaces (Group Publishing, 2012)

Monday, January 31, 2011

Three Seconds to Death

It's starting to snow up here in Estes Park. They say we'll get a good amount and that the next few days are going to freeeeeeeeezing.
I used to love the cold. I felt invigorated by those bracing winds. Safely coccooned within my fleece inner lining and nylon shell, with gloves, thick socks and boots, hat and scarf swathed about my face, what had I to fear? Hah, hah, hah, wind!
Two years ago, with this bravura and my usual bundling-up, I headed for a brisk (that's an understatement since the temperature hovered around zero degrees) walk around Lake Estes.
It's one of my favorite walks: a four mile jaunt on paved trail with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, rock formations, ponderosa trees, icy lake, golf course and animals.
Only a thin slice of my face actually encountered the deadly cold, and that was mostly shielded by my sunglasses.
Large patches of ice covered the sidewalk and I took care to avoid them as best I could.
I passed a woman and her dog --- perhaps the only other brave souls to venture out that morning ---and continued on my way.
When I marched under the shade of a stand of bare cottonwood trees, my sunglasses failed to distinguish the slight difference in hue between dry sidewalk and ice-covered sidewalk. And that's when my feet came into contact with "the spot."
Most accidents happen very quickly. That's why they can be so deadly; there's very little time to react.
Paradoxically, real-time seems to disappear and time seems to slow to a tortoise's crawl so that every excruciating detail of the fall can be observed, analyzed, even prayed about.
As my feet zipped forward and my body flew backward, here are some of the amazing number of thoughts and prayers the neural connections in my brain fired out:
Oh, my gosh, I can't believe this is happening!
Both my feet! At the same time!
Ooo, this is going to hurt.
I didn't even see that patch of ice
I'm all alone out here.
I even forgot my whistle. Dummy!
What if I knock myself out?
I might freeze before someone finds me.
Poor Bruce, poor family.
What if I break my back or my neck?
Oh Lord, help!

As soon as my back connected with the pavement, real-time resumed.
I landed with a thump, but not a hard thump, unbelievably. It felt almost as if I'd fallen on a pile of leaves. I sat up, realized that I was completely unhurt, then jump back to my feet.
I dusted the ice off my back and fanny and kept walking.
The entire incident took perhaps three seconds.

Three seconds. What normally happens in our brains in three seconds? Three seconds in the grocery store? Three seconds in the classroom? But three seconds of flying through the air, feeling death imminent?

The Lord has placed in our amazing brains the ability to "slow down" time in order to analyze and make some quick adjustments for survival. I've experienced other "near misses" and each time, this phenomenon of the perception of time being slowed has kicked in and given me opportunity to adjust, mentally and physically.

What's your "three-second" crisis? Have you experienced the same slow motion phenomenon?

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well." (Psalm 139: 14)


  1. Hi Dena -

    I'm glad your experience had a happier ending than mine.

    Three years ago, I fell on a concrete sidewalk, hitting my head and breaking my elbow and cheekbone. What went through my thoughts?

    1) You've really done it this time, Susan!
    2) I hurt!
    3) Got to get up, get help.
    4) The pain will go away if I can just relax. (It didn't.)

    Some folks helped me and brought me into their office. After ten minutes, I walked out to my car. Only when I tried to put on my seatbelt and couldn't did I realize my arm was broken. It never dawned on me to go to the hospital or get an ambulance. I drove home, and called my mother...all the while feeling like I was in a surreal dream.

    It happened in seconds, but took many months to recover.


  2. Aw, Susan, that is terrible. The scary thing is no one realized the potential complications and urged you to go to the hospital. Thank God you're alright now. I've heard many stories similar to yours. Thanks for your comment. Glad you're still writing and ministering.

  3. I've have two such experiences that come to mind. The first was a car accident when a steer crossed the highway in front of me when I was 21. The second was an earthquake in 1987. (Both incidents took place in California, where I lived at the time.) Yes, everything seemed to happen in slow motion, just as you wrote, and I came through both mishaps unscathed. Surreal. I'm glad you escaped your fall sans injury.

  4. Hi Dena

    Have I experienced the same slow motion phenomenon? Yes! Many times!

    I drove a semi truck for over 35 years and experienced several slow motion "close calls" while driving the freeways in the Los Angeles area. By the grace of God I never had an accident in all those years :-)

    Take care and have a great week :-)

    BTW, I'm glad you weren't seriously injured during your "three-second" crisis

  5. Wow, Nancy and Ron,
    Everywhere I go I meet folks who've also experienced the "slow motion" thing. I'd love to talk to a neuro-psychologist and get their take on this phenom.