My turn: Tragedy turned into life lesson

Ten seconds…

If it had taken Jo Laney’s husband of eight years, Tom, that much longer to buy coffee at a West Texas convenience store, he would be alive and Jo would not be in Portales.

Under drizzly, darkening skies around 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 21, 2004, Tom, 57, was headed home to Roanoke, Texas, from Las Cruces on almost-deserted Highway 180 between Anson and Albany. In his 1964 VW Bug Baja, he thought it would be safer than I-20.

A 17-year-old, driving a hard-topped Jeep, turned to spit tobacco and swerved into him.

Tom died instantly. The young man was not badly hurt.

Jo insisted that the teenager not be charged. His father called to thank her, and said that his son was in counseling.

On their first date, Tom picked Jo up on his motorcycle.

“Tom found adventure everywhere,” Jo says. “He introduced me to concerts, antiquing, NASCAR, storm-chasing, trout-fishing, art galleries.

“He taught me to embrace life, to leave the dishes and let’s go.”

Tom hung a sign in their house of Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin captioned: “A Grand Adventure is Bound to Happen.”

Says Jo, “I now have a quietness of spirit, a stronger sense of forgiveness, a deeper sadness and compassion for the hurt and pain of others.”

Ten seconds…