Death, as it sometimes does, struck like a hammer, sudden and callous.
"Out of nowhere, a vehicle turned left in front of us," Kourosh B. Sosani remembers as if it were yesterday.
It was a year and a half ago.
On the right, just ahead of Sosani's van on Rand Road in Palatine, in a vision that doesn't dim, Corey Hindes sped northwest on his custom motorcycle that summery September afternoon.
It is doubtful Hindes ever noticed eternity approach.
The evidence suggests he didn't see the Mercedes that pulled in front of him -- or at least recognize that it would still be in his lane -- until the last moment.
What he saw, what he comprehended, what fear he may have felt is left to conjecture and perhaps to hope and faith.
In a life crisis, scientists theorize, time may seem to slow down as the brain feverishly accelerates the number of snapshots the memory records. Presumably, the more impressions the brain files through, the longer it seems to take.
THE LAST KISS SERIES
■ Patty & Corey: The Heartbreak.
■ Diana & Joe: A widow's advice: Embrace bereavement, don't avoid it A Straight From the Source story.
■ Janice & Joe A story of someday A Straight From the Source story
■ Janice & Joe Five lessons I've learned so far A Straight From the Source story
■ Patty & Corey: The Love Story.
■ Patricia & Tim: A widow cherishes the memories of her warrior A Straight From the Source story
■ Last Kiss: Bill & Marian: A love that lives in dreams A Straight From the Source story
■ Embracing a widower's grief: I reread her letters, I played her favorite songs A Straight From the Source story
■ A Buffalo Grove widower's cry: Just Let Me Talk A Straight From the Source story
■ Patty & Corey: A widow wishes she had asked for one more kiss
For more on the series, please click here.
It is possible Hindes felt this illusion as the force of the crash sent him flying off the chopper and over the trunk of the car, slamming up ahead onto the asphalt and into instant unconsciousness. But in real time, it all happened in the unplanned blink of what until then had been a wide-eyed day.
While Corey Hindes clung to life for another six hours of ambulance rides, emergency room care and technological marvels, his story in essence ended that warm, blue-sky afternoon, with him battered and sprawled on the pavement near a parkway tree behind the Walmart store that backs up to Rand Road in Palatine.
But if you head out there today, 19 months later, you'll find a well-tended cross of white opus underneath that tree.
For Patty Hindes, 52, its constant gardener, the story doesn't end.
Her story is the story of legions of widows and widowers.
It is a story of inevitability that beckons all committed couples, a story of the last kiss that virtually one out of every two mates will by laws of mathematics and nature be forced to endure -- the irrevocable loss of life's most intimate, most endearing, most intuitive companion; the loss of the other protagonist in our lifetime play; the loss of the partner who holds the metaphysical mirror that helps us see who we are.
For some, it arrives without warning. For some, it comes well-advertised by debilitating disease and long decline.
It can happen to the relatively young. Or to the remarkably old.
However it is presented, most of us are caught unprepared.
"Although in my head I knew that day would come," says Patricia Eitz of Arlington Heights, who had been married 47 years when her husband died, "in my heart, I never expected it would be so soon."
"I always thought it would be me to go first," says Rick Kirby of Lisle, whose wife was 52 when she died. "I was five years older than Nancy, and my health habits weren't nearly as good."
"The life you know is shattered," says Emily Monroe of Arlington Heights, who has been a widow for a quarter-century. "All hopes, dreams, wishes and fantasies you had are gone."
Corey M. Hindes, the genealogical register would summarize, February 11, 1962 -- September 18, 2016.
Obituaries tend to be succinct, less life stories than scrapbook summaries. The one for Corey Hindes was typically so, documenting his existence but failing to do justice to it.
So what at the sudden end is to be remembered of him?
We're inclined to describe ourselves in labels, and if we were going to describe Corey that way, we would use many. Among them: 54-year-old, barber, husband, father, son, brother, friend, biker, free spirit, businessman, raconteur, listener, rascal, Blackhawks fan, Cubs fan too, wearer of tattoos, sharer of aphorisms, possessor of great smiles, warmhearted liker of people.
His wife, Patty, would use at least one more: love of her life.
After 19 months, Patty Hindes' grief remains a steadfast companion, sometimes invisible but always at her side.
February is a particularly hard month. There is his birthday to confront. And Valentine's Day. Their wedding day. The vast majority of vacation days they enjoyed. Such a short month to hold so many long days of poignance.
There may be a time when these days will prompt smiles and kind nostalgia. But heading toward two years in, they still prompt pain.
The anticipation of them may be more dreadful than the days themselves.
Time heals, they say, but it doesn't heal fast enough. Or fully enough. It's been 19 months and she functions better. But she is not healed. She wonders if she ever will be.
She routinely posts pictures of Corey on Facebook. A conversation about him still risks tears. She appears regularly at the Arlington Heights barbershop that bears his name and she now owns, taking comfort in the customers who recall him with affection.
Her forearm displays the tattooed facsimile of his handwriting from a note she came across last summer, Love Forever, Corey, with the Y curling into a heart struck by an arrow.
That tattoo is both a badge of honor and a sign of her allegiance.
He remains a big part of her definition of who she is.
"He was everything," Patty says. "He was a mountain in my life."
The morning of his death, Corey was up early to work out. Then, he drove to Palatine to pick up a bed set he bought from a friend, Larry Schwartz.
Corey's stepson, Brad Boyer, then 28, was moving from an apartment in Palatine to a townhouse in Elgin, and the bed set was a gift for the move.
Patty too had been up early, out to the hospital to visit her mother who had been seriously ill in intensive care for a week.
Patty's twin sisters were visiting from Houston to provide Patty with some relief from her caretaking. Patty's daughter Jenessa Donnellan, then 22, was recovering upstairs in the house from a cold and an unusually sleepless night.
With the combination of those illnesses and Brad's move, it promised to be a frenetic Sunday. Everyone was preoccupied with something.
For Corey, the preoccupation was the promise of an afternoon ride on his motorcycle.
He helped Brad put the bed set together, then made it back home by late morning. Patty made it back home, too.
Lunch ended up as a scurry that was served on the fly. Pink potato soup and Patty's "famous" submarine sandwiches. Nobody's sure who ate and who didn't, whether Corey grabbed a bite or skipped. He came downstairs dressed in a bandanna, T-shirt, boots -- his biker's apparel. He didn't wear helmets.
It was a pleasant day for mid-September with wisps of cloud floating like spun sugar across an azure sky. Sunny. Dry. The temperature stretching to 75 degrees.
It was an almost perfect day for a motorcycle ride. With autumn around the corner, Corey was afraid there wouldn't be many others.
"This may be the last day I'll be able to ride," he told Patty.
He drove off on his chopper shortly before 1 p.m.
"He looked so happy," Patty remembers. "It was one of his happiest moments. Such a beautiful day."
Brad along with his brother Connor -- Corey and Patty's son, then 18 -- drove off in Brad's flatbed truck around the same time, headed to the apartment in Palatine to continue the move.
The spot where the crash occurred is less than three miles from the house Corey and Patty shared in Arlington Heights. Google estimates the drive took seven minutes.
To get there, Corey would have passed the North Arlington Barber Shop he owned at 130 E. Rand Road in the Arlington Plaza.
He had driven his motorcycles across this patch of Rand Road from Arlington Heights through Palatine hundreds of times, maybe even thousands, with passing scenery so familiar as to be almost unnoticeable.
Headed northwest in the curbside lane of the five-lane highway as he came upon the Park Place Shopping Center in Palatine, Corey accelerated at a traffic light at Winslowe Drive, moving ahead of the van Sosani was driving on his left.
From there, Corey's panoramic view would have allowed him to see the red-bricked wall of the Walmart store to the right, and to the left, Velasquez Auto Care, the La Presa restaurant, a billboard, and just beyond that, McDonald's familiar Golden Arches; on the easement just off his curbside, a still-green bank of trees reached toward him.
How much of this backdrop Corey noticed in his last glimpse of the world is impossible to say.
Using video from a security camera at a nearby business, police calculated Corey was moving at 48 mph at the time of the crash, but Sosani sharply disputes that. He says it's impossible that Corey's speed even reached the posted 35.
"There's no way he was going that fast," he says.
From a full stop in the southeast-bound lane, the Mercedes turned left to cross Rand Road into an unmarked drive that leads to the Walmart parking lot. Turns are permissible, but not necessarily expected there. No left-turn lane exists at that spot. It is at a point where the roadway begins to open up to a left-turn lane farther south at Winslowe.
"He shouldn't have turned. He shouldn't have turned. There was no clearance," says Sosani, a resident of Arlington Heights. "I saw it all happen, and I wish I could do something to stop it."
Whatever the case, the driver of the Mercedes, age 89 at the time, told police he never saw the motorcycle, was unaware of it until he heard "a bang" that tore off his right rear fender just as he was about to clear the roadway.
Corey never hit the brakes. At least, police could detect no skid marks. The video suggests the motorcycle may have veered slightly to the left in the moment before impact.
The force of the crash tore the seat off the motorcycle along with the right side-view mirror and the rear brake assembly. It threw Corey onto the center stripe of the northwest-bound lanes about even with the first easement tree beyond the Walmart drive.
Sosani pulled his van over and stopped it in the street to block traffic. Trailing close behind in the same northwest direction on the same roadway, on their way to the apartment in Palatine, were Brad and Connor.
To get around the backup, Brad pulled his flatbed off Rand Road and drove through the parking lot of the shopping center on the right. Connor remembers the ambulance arriving amazingly fast as he and Brad made their way through the parking lot.
"Oh, my God! That's a motorcycle!" Brad called out. "Oh, my God! That's Corey's motorcycle!"
"No, it's not. Don't even joke about it," Connor said. "Keep on going."
But Brad was adamant.
"That's Corey's bike!"
Brad doesn't remember parking. But in a blur, the two of them were out on foot and racing toward the scene.
Police had quickly cordoned off the area. They stopped Connor from getting to his dad.
But they couldn't stop Brad.
By the time he reached Corey's side, a nurse who had been passing by was tending to him. Brad leaned over to try to help and took his hand.
He felt Corey squeeze his.
A paramedic tried to disabuse him of the comfort that the squeeze meant his stepfather was aware of his presence. "That's a muscle spasm," the paramedic said.
Heading southeast on the same roadway were Corey's friend Larry Schwartz and his wife, Aon. They were driving to the Randhill Park Cemetery in Arlington Heights to put flowers down on his mother's grave.
At the time of the crash, they were on the other side of the street only a few minutes away.
"I was just there, for some reason, to be there," Schwartz says. "I have no idea why. There are no words to explain."
He got close to Corey, but emergency responders kept him away.
"It's not the way you want to see your best friend," he says.
At the house in Arlington Heights, the phone call came in at 1:04 p.m. The time will never disappear from Patty's memory.
"Patty," Schwartz said, "there's been a really terrible accident, and you need to get here right now."
"Jen! Jen!" Patty yelled upstairs. "Dad's been in an accident! Oh, my God!"
By the time Jenessa got downstairs, Patty was speeding away in Corey's Chevy Tahoe.