Sunday, March 29, 2015

Some Very Morbid Musings for the Last Night of Spring Break

I'll admit it, I'm a bit of an odd person. One of the ways in which I'm odd is a very highly-developed sense of empathy, to the point that I seem to be able to feel what someone else might be feeling in a particular situation or to be able to sense what they might see or hear. (Or maybe it's just a very active imagination instead of empathy.)

Here's an example: I live near a major cross-country interstate highway that is the scene of many an accident. In the past year or so, there have been three fatal accidents on that highway that I mentally latched on to for some reason. One was the accident I wrote about in an earlier post, the accident that killed my son's friend. The most recent one is an accident about three weeks ago that killed a young man who was in one of my classes at the university last semester. And the third is an accident I heard about on the radio, in which a woman lost control of her car during a heavy rainstorm and went over a bridge into a river and died.

Here's the part that makes me odd. I have to drive on that interstate highway pretty frequently, and every time - every single time - I pass the spot where one of those accidents happened, I think about the accident. More accurately, I think about the moments leading up to those accidents, how this was just an ordinary trip that started on an ordinary day. When each of these people got out of bed that morning and ate breakfast and got into the car, they had no idea they were starting the sequence of events that would bring them to the end of their lives. I actually sort of freaked myself out the other day. I was driving toward the spot where the student was killed, and as I got closer and closer to the spot, my heart started racing because I knew I was almost there, almost to the point where everything ended for him. It was almost like I could measure the distance in my mind between where he was living and the point where he wasn't, and I could feel how frightfully fast he was moving through that distance. Weird, I know.

So I felt a little better when the two main characters in John Green's Looking for Alaska did the same thing. (SPOILERS AHEAD!) Pudge and the Colonel had been trying for weeks to put together the sequence of causes and effects that put their friend Alaska on the road that ended in her death. They finally give up on being able to find out exactly what happened to put her on that road, but they decide to do one last thing - try to re-enact it (without the dying part, of course). They are coming up to the spot, they accelerate, and then
And POOF we are through the moment of her death. We are driving through the place she could not drive through, passing onto asphalt she never saw, and we are not dead. We are not dead!
OK, I'm never as dramatic as that when I come to one of the accident sites on the interstate. But I did have an epiphany one day as I passed one of the sites - we are all in the sequence of causes and effects that lead us to the moment of our death. For some of us, that may be years away, passing quietly and painlessly in our sleep; for others, it may be much, much sooner, as we are doing something completely ordinary, like driving home from work (as my son's friend was) or going to watch a child's soccer match (as the student was). We just don't know when each day begins where it might leave us.

Sorry, I don't mean to be morbid. Blame it on the "end of spring break, back to school blues."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My Biker friends have a tradition of a memorial motorcycle run for someone who died on a motorcycle accident or crash. They start a few miles before the accident site, drive as a group to the site, stop and pay respects, then continue the run to his/her final
trip destination. The group then motors to a café, ice cream parlor or bar as appropriate and celebrates the lost friend. This seems to give them closure. Bill Blake