Burkhart

Burkhart

What beautiful young couples they must have been; one couple in the front seat, the other in the back. And, how beautiful the car! It was a new “Hard-Top Super Sport” Chevy, black with red trim – about as “hot” as autos came in that day. The radio was blaring with Rock and Roll.

It was August, 1960 and I was driving on the “National Highway”, U.S. Route 40 (the first highway to cross the country coast to coast), and east of Columbus, Ohio. I had just been ordained in May and was coming back from a brief visit down on the farm with my parents. I was driving the very popular car of that day, the VW “Beetle”.

Coming upon a terrible auto accident that had just happened, I pulled over as many other cars were doing.

It was and remains the worst auto accident I have ever seen. Trying to pass on a two-lane highway with a double-yellow-line, told the entire story. This formula for death was sparked by the driver - young, foolish, daring and now dead; along with his three young companions.

It is the first and only time I have ever seen huge lacerations (all over those beautiful young faces) that were not bleeding since their hearts were not beating.

Such an eerie and haunting sight. The car still seemed to be alive – bright and shining with the radio at high volume. Its four young occupants had been horribly crushed and tumbled and yet returned to their seats as statues; eyes still open.

What remains so disturbing to me is my ignoring that same double-yellow line on that same highway exactly 10 years earlier to the month. August, 1950.

I had just turned 16 at the time and was driving with three of my high school classmates to the Ohio State Fair. I took the same chance! Yes, I was young, foolish, daring and yet now miraculously alive to tell about it. The fact is, I have never told ANYONE about it! I have always felt so guilty and ashamed. Further, even after all these years, I have never been able to thank the Lord God enough for his sparing me and my three dear friends. I have always wondered if my classmates even realized my stupidity and foolishness behind the wheel — exposing the loss of their lives to gain a few seconds.

The two young couples in 1960 had a most tragic and instant death; as it would have been with me and my classmates in 1950. Such a surprise death — appears to be the worst kind!

Many of us are blessed with time to anticipate and prepare for death. For the young especially, death can come “out of the blue”, “Like a thief in the night” [Rev. 16:15], without that first thought. Hopefully for us oldsters the proximity of death is a daily focus; and most especially a well-prepared, joyful one. At any age would that the Divine directive, “Watch and pray for you know not the day nor hour” [Matthew 26:41] be given our daily serious attention.

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