“Be safe. Be so, so safe,” my 10 year old Claire says every time I walk out the door. Her postcards from summer camp ended with that same mantra, scribbled in large emphatic letters. During the school year, it’s what she yells over her shoulder every morning as she bikes down our lane, headed toward roads and school hallways filled with more danger than I’ll face, back inside with my coffee and chores, but she admonishes me nonetheless. “You be safe,” is both her wish and her command, as if she’s the parent guarding her vulnerable brood.

As I left my mother’s house this week, after five days spent helping her recover from pneumonia, I channeled Claire. “Mom, if you eat, be safe,” I said in my best stern-but-loving tone. Aspirating food or saliva landed her in the hospital, gasping for breath. Her swallowing is unruly, she chokes easily; eating is no longer safe. And yet she is fiesty, and loves Breyers Heath Bar Crunch, and who am I to say You May Never Taste That Goodness Again.

I arrived home to news that a friend had been in a horrible bike accident. A long day and a half later he died from his  injuries. Disbelief, heavy sorrow, anger and fear swirl in my heart and head. Edwin was a gem. Passionate, purposeful, funny, brilliant. Like Edwin, I am a cyclist. A careful one, as he was– both in terms of safety, and in terms of why we ride–full of care.  We ride out of care for the earth, our bodies, the sense of community that traveling on 2 wheels, at eye level with fellow passers by, can nurture. But when drivers — isolated in their own domain, their own speedy world — are careless, there’s no way to be safe. One can only be lucky, or not.

I went out this morning for a two hour bike ride, clinching the slim white line on the road’s shoulder like it was an endless strand of prayer beads.  Safety is elusive; risk ever present. I swallow hard, pedal hard, pray harder. And yes, sweet Claire, I’ll do my best to be safe.

~ by Stephanie on 07/25/2010.

2 Responses to “Approaching.Limits(of).Safety”

  1. Stephanie, this post is heartrending and expresses so well what I and many others have been feeling this past week about the loss of Edwin. Life is dangerous and its joys so sweet. I wish for your mother many more delicious, and safe, ice cream spoonfuls on her ALS journey.

  2. Stephanie, I am so sorry to hear of your friend’s terrible death. This post is, indeed, heart-breaking, and Claire’s mantra remarkable. Much love to you —

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