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Rickter Scale: Goodbye in the blink of an eye

The Rickter Scale is a weekly column

Rick Stiebel/Columnist

This email from my niece in response to a recent Rickter Scale really touched a nerve and got me thinking.

She wrote:

Thanks for sharing the column honouring Tom, firefighters and first response teams. Your article prompted me to share this with you.

Strange how we’re so solid and fragile at the same time … Strange that this is the theme, as I was the victim of a car accident last week where I thought that was it for me.

Didn’t see anything coming, driving home on Autoroute 15 on the most perfect night of the winter – no snow, no ice, no wind or cold. A sudden smash on my driver’s front side sent me and my car flying to the right to what I thought was heaven. All was white and my face was burning. Just when I thought that I would smash into something at 100 km/h or go barrelling down a Laurentian hill, phase two of the ride kicked in and I was propelled to the left of the three lanes, totally out of control driving with an airbag in my face.

F**k! I never took airbag driving lessons!

Somehow my reflexes got the better of me and I managed to avoid smashing into obstacles and eventually regained straightforwardness in the right lane and slowed down. I managed to pull over and got out of my smoking car without getting hit by oncoming vehicles.

I was in one shaking piece, wow! What happened? I still don’t know exactly.

The couple who stopped didn’t see anything except an out of control car. First response team, then the ambulance strapping me down with a collar and the police taking care of the rest … Straight to the hospital’s corridors for a few hours wait. Gave me the opportunity to think about a whole spectrum of thoughts I don’t usually ponder… As I hoped, my spine was fine and I just need a couple of visits to the osteopath.

The guy from the ambulance had stopped to see the person who hit me, the young 17-year-old was alright. He confided in me that he believed she was texting. I’ll know for sure when I get the police report.

My car is dead, but not me! I’m thankful for my luck considering the odds.

Take care uncle and a nice hello to funky Joan!

-Kim Stiebel XXX

I can’t read that email without hearing the slight Gallic lilt of Kim’s accente a Quebecois and remembering the first time I held the littlest version of her days after her birth on July 8, 1966. My brother Max’s daughter will always lease a special place in my heart.

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She was the first to bestow the official title of ‘uncle’ on me, in both official languages. Kim is not just a treasured gift in her own right, but a living document, a timeless testament to my older brother no longer with us.

Max was a guiding light who nurtured my efforts to be creative in ways that become more precious with each year since his passing in 2006. Every moment, every word shared with Kim is a living, breathing document, a testament to the kind of father, brother and accomplished artist Max was.

To think that Kim, my extraordinary, exceptionally sweet and talented niece, was nearly snatched away forever makes me shudder with uncontrollable dread.

Please, please, if there’s anyone in your life that makes you feel that way, I implore you to think about them long enough to leave your fricking phone alone when you’re driving.

Rick Stiebel is a semi-retired local journalist.


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