Last night I could not sleep.
My brain at times gets into racing mode, thoughts move fast, in and out of my mental view, some I grab onto, some I try to quiet and put away to consider in the future, or when I'm not trying to sleep.
So last night instead of counting sheep, I decided to focus on aspects of my life that I am grateful for. My plan, to think of things I wanted to versus hosting the race of random ideas, concerns, memories that were having a "sit-in" my head around 12:45am this morning.
And the list of gratitude and thanks came easy.
I knew I was going to call Ghana early today and I immediately thought of the children in KG1 and KG2 class. They attend school at the Kissemah compound. On Friday they have worship and I know that Peace Akor who is in Teacher Lawrenda's class, always prays for me. I am always thankful for Peace's prayers and for her thinking of me. I always tell her that I do the same for her and all the children. They are always in my heart and I always include them in my prayers.
I was thankful that I was in a comfortable bed, in a house, in a city, in a country where I am relatively safe. All the conveniences I have in my first world, western life, I am thankful for everyday.
This week I finished all of my annual preventive care medical appointments and based on all test and exams, I am healthy. I was very thankful for all the good results.
I was thankful that my focus on gratitude would help me quiet my mind. Some would get up and smoke a cigarette or who knows what or maybe have a spoonful of peanut butter or ice cream. Certainly I've made those late night visits to the kitchen to quiet my mind.
I try as much as I can to acknowledge all the good in my life, but sometimes I go for days and I have to be reminded by someone or some craziness that is going on in the world, or some tragic event that hits close to home. And one of those tragic events happened very close to home this morning.
I was on 285 and Peachtree Industrial heading west about 9:50am.
Peachtree Industrial is an exit I take to get on and off 285, the freeway I've taken thousand of times since I've lived in Dunwoody since 1999. It's an exit I could probably maneuver with my eyes closed. It's familiar, routine, my way of getting to most destinations in Atlanta on a daily basis. It was my route for my commute to work for many years.
At about the same time this morning, 4 people where taking off from Peachtree Dekalb Aiport in a small Piper Saratoga single engine plane. Approximately less than 4 or 5 minutes later, the plane crashed at Peachtree Industrial and 285 on the side of the interstate heading east.
The tragic accident and crash was at 10:00am.
All the details are not available yet, the pilot of the plane did radio that he was having problems in the climb right after take off. His last communication to the tower is being reported as "HEY WE ARE GOING DOWN". By all accounts being shared on the news, the pilot's voice was calm.
Seconds later he and the other three passengers on the aircraft were killed, the plane exploded on impact as it crashed head on into the cement medium that divides the 285 east and west highway.
No one on the ground was hurt, no cars collided to avoid the plane, a semi-truck had a very close call, but no one on the ground was injured in anyway. This is amazing since that is a very busy and congested section of I285.
I turned on the TV and you can see aerial shots of where the plane came down and it is a section of the highway I travel on almost everyday. Maddie and Morgan were watching the news with me and I got big tears in my eyes.
I thought about the ten minutes or so that separated me from the accident. Even though I was heading west and the plane landed on the east side, anything could have happened. Your never know.
Because my mind works in strange ways, I know that the northbound exit of Peachtree Industrial heading east, will from this day forward always be a reminder of grace, gratitude, of how wonderful and yet how fleeting life can be.
I will share that part of the highway with the memory of the 4 people that were tragically killed. That small section of the charred highway will be a visual reminder as Kwame tells the children Ghana, "If you can think, you can thank".
And indeed if I can think, I can be grateful.
My Grandpa Arosemena used to say to us when we were children, "Las gracias son gratis". The translation for me as a child, it does't cost anything to say thank you and be thankful.
If I can think, I can consistently invite gratitude and include the ideas, the sentiment, the particulars in more of my thoughts, texts, posts, emails, phone calls, conversations and prayers.
I've always liked the spanish version of a heartfelt thank-you ……
Wherever you are reading this, be safe and know that I am thankful for your love and friendship.
And for those who from time to time share comments and reactions to the posts, I appreciate your feedback, encouragement and company.