Thirty Seconds

It was a regular peaceful night when, a couple of weeks ago, things changed unexpectedly. A rumbling began that sounded like a truck driving very close to the house. Mirrors shook and birds screeched in the night.

After about fifteen seconds it stopped, only to be followed very soon after by another rumbling. This time there was no mistaking it as a truck. It was our living planet, Mother Earth, reminding us that like everyone and everything, she is forever changing. It was the tremor of the earth, quaking seventeen kilometres below the surface: its centre under a lake, about an hour’s drive away.

Thirty seconds of rumbling. No warning. No time to make changes in one’s life. Thirty seconds that could have, effectively, been the last thirty seconds of many of our lives. We then waited for another rumble, but all was still and remained that way.

We were spared any injury or damage, and thankfully, there were no injuries reported throughout the region. But it was a great reminder of how quickly life can change and does.

Had the quake been any bigger, we may have been running for our lives, with roofs collapsing or walls falling in. It sounds dramatic and though the evening was only a smaller quake, for those who know larger quakes, it is dramatic. Plenty of people have lost their lives in earthquakes and other unexpected events without even thirty seconds notice.

But with thirty seconds, there is space for thought and even a small slice of reflection. Of course, in that time frame, had the quake been large enough to cause immediate structural damage, there would have been no time to grab anything but my daughter, and get outside. It brings home how irrelevant belongings are when it truly comes to the crunch. With no time to spare, the only thing that matters are loved ones.

I’ve had friends who have died suddenly, in collisions with trains or cars. Thirty seconds would have been a long time to them, but they were not even given that time. Obviously, many people are given longer time for reflection, like the beautiful people I used to care for and wrote about in my book. Others are given no time, at all. And some are given thirty seconds.

I was thinking about this short gift of time, in the brief moments between the two quakes. We don’t live in an area known at all for earthquakes. The last slight tremor was recorded forty-three years ago. This one, like the last, came out of nowhere, a clear reminder that we are never completely in control.

We never know when it is our last thirty seconds. We truly don’t. But if we were given that brief bit of time, what thoughts would pass through our minds? For me, and for most I am sure, it was loved ones and little else.

It is so easy to focus on the details of day-to-day living. We live in a world full of details. But when all else falls away, the importance of the things trying to rob most of our attention disappears and we are reminded of what is truly important in life. Love.

Sometimes reminders come out of the blue, like the rumbling of the earth beneath us. I give thanks for an unexpected reminder of who and what is truly important. I am also very grateful that Mother Earth spared us more than a rumbling, so we live to enjoy yet another day of beautiful, warm, winter sunshine.

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