On September 12, 2009, a Saturday, I rode from my house near East High School up Emigration Canyon to the top of Big Mountain. It was a stunning fall day. I called my parents from the top of Little Mountain to share the experience. I called Helen from the top of Big Mountain. The endorphins had fully kicked in and I was feeling sentimental in large part because of the view. On my way down Big Mountain, a car came around the top switchback going much too fast to stay in his lane. We met. The crime scene photos showed a bicycle tire imprint square in the middle of his front licence plate. I broke his windshield with my helmet. The reconstruction revealed, and the driver acknowledged, he hadn't been where he was supposed to be. Doesn't much matter when you are the one on the bicycle. Breaking and collapsing, my equipment worked as designed. The estimated combined impact was 45 mph, my speed at 15. I awoke to an off-duty EMT, who happened to be in the area, as he was wrapping my arm and leg with gauze. I never got his name and never thanked him. I wish I had. I was transported to the U of U Medical Center. They took very good care of me, and I realized you don't have to wait long in the ER when they call ahead and you come in mangled. From time to time, and especially on the anniversary, I am puzzled about how I survived the impact at all, and without paralysis and more brain damage.
Of course I would never have wanted to be involved in such an accident. From this side, however, I'm not disappointed it occurred. The response from family and friends, colleagues and strangers, was extraordinary. Helen had to keep my admission in the hospital under a different name so I could get some rest. She then nursed a very difficult patient back to health for the next two months. For better or worse. She is a gift. Equally compelling was and continues to be my efforts to reprioritize what matters and ought to matter. I owe a debt of gratitude to Helen, Angie, David, Camille, Amy and Jake, Brooklyn and Owen, my friends and colleagues, and strangers. I don't believe things happen for a reason. I'm just glad it happened this way.
*My brother the fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to lastamendment.com
**My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed nearly 500 pieces of my father's work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father's art reproduced in lastamendment.com are hers.