In 1984, my Mother was looking forward to closing a 2000-mile gap between Arizona and Tennessee. The relocation was for the world’s best reason. She had some serious rocking to do. It was a grandma thing.
She had already missed the first year of her older son’s baby. Now, miraculously, her only daughter was pushing for a December special delivery.
My younger brother offered to drive the moving truck . He was a strong, capable, young man who was convinced that in order to make good time on the road, he could function without sleep. He saw no reason to stop for rest, so it was easy to out distance his parent by several hundred miles.
By the 3rd day, Mother was happily wending her way eastward to her home state and to an exciting new chapter of life. Visions of darling grandbabies were dancing in her head.
We know it rains on the just and the unjust. Nonetheless, a proverbial kick to the solar plexus of our happiest moments seems a little unfair. She had no time to batten down her hatches or prepare for the sudden assault to her eyes and heart: the remains of a wrecked moving van. Its roof was caved in, obviously having been righted from an upside-down position. Eerily, there was no one around.
Quickly edging toward maternal hysteria, she pulled along side the elephant of a vehicle her son had been driving. Trembling with dread, she retrieved a note from the truck’s steering wheel. It was in my brother Billy’s handwriting. Thankfully, the police had taken him to a motel; not a hospital or a morgue.
Predictably, Mother had been praying all day for his safety. Not hurt, but badly shaken, he admitted that drowsy driving probably was not his best idea. He bewildered her the more by saying, “As I was heading for the exit ramp to look for a place to nap, I felt an insistent urge to put on my seat belt. The last sound I heard was its click.”
A few seconds after repairing that breech in safety, catastrophe struck. With no warning whatsoever, “BAM!” he simply was not awake anymore.
That’s how sleep deprivation works. We can refuse to take care of business just so long. Eventually, an exhausted body forces a shutdown. There is no argument. No permission is needed. The deal is done. Billy realized he almost closed his deal forever.
A television special chronicled a controlled test of drunk drivers versus drowsy ones. Amazingly, sleep deprivation is just as dangerous as inebriation. The story implied it is actually worse in some ways.
At the start, intoxicated volunteers seemed to be winning the muddled- maneuvering award. In a while, the sleepy bunch passed the drunken bunch in their soaring inability to process information. Alcohol, as awful as it is, eventually wears off. Sleepiness worsens.
When we turn down the volume on the still small voice, we can cause our rebellious selves extreme and sometimes unredeemable consequences. Blessedly, in this case, I believe a parent’s prayers covered a multitude of youthful inexperience.
The inner insistent directive for Billy to put on the seat belt (((NOW))) may well have been angelic. Almost immediately he was zonked, asleep against his will with his feet pointing toward Heaven. The impact of metal on pavement tore out the top of the truck and the downpour very nicely obliged Mother’s fondest wish for new furniture. Only the piano could be restored. Everything else was a soggy, broken mess - everything but my baby brother.
In the past two years, I have attended way too many funerals of folks who had been bumping into red flags left and right. There was no immediate obedience to investigate symptoms.
If we ignored a car’s warnings the way we do a body’s, we would all be taking the bus. Rest facilitates function the way the manufacturer intended. Compliance is compulsory.
Like vehicles, maintenance of humans must be a priority for continued efficiency. It is most excellent to stop and smell the flowers, or better yet, lie down in them and slumber.
This is the end of the sermon. Your eyelids are getting heavy. You are sleepy. It’s time to recline.
But first, would someone please help me down off this soapbox? I think I strained something important. Where’s the ice pack? Ouch, my foot hurts. It seems to be asleep. Uh, oh!
I rest my case.
Love, Big Sister.