Wednesday, February 20, 2019

What Do You Do?....................... When Death Askes You?


Do you want to dance the Hokey-Pokey with me?

The engine fired up just as my father said, "goodbye", and backed out of the driveway. I was fourteen and I didn't have a clue that this would be the last time we ever spoke. When the call came that afternoon that my dad had been killed in an auto accident, everything changed. Five kids and a mother were witness to just how quickly and unexpected a life can be extinguished. Our being's simply and dramatically turned in multiple directions, all previously, unknown. There are all kinds of inquiries that still slip in and out of my mind. The "what ifs" and "I wonder what's" abound, in the back crevices of this writer's cavity of gray matter. There are so many possibilities that life, as I  lived it, might have never occurred.


                                        "The Art of Death" by Jessy Liz

     Death by murder-death by chance    Death by secret night romance     

    Death by number-paint the lines      Death in color, or black and lie

We shouldn’t really be totally surprised, research has shown that, “One person dies in the US every 13 minutes in a car accident, 115 killed each day.”  A staggering 1.2 million killed worldwide each year. 

Instantaneous, unforeseen, death strikes randomly, knocking on doors in many different ways.  A different example, of a mortality rate, that will literally knock your socks off, is that about 100,000 people in the US drop dead of a heart attack each year. These people had no idea, that within a scant few seconds, they will no longer be of this world. There was no time for thoughts of a last minute redemption, no wondering about deeds done nor those uncompleted. Death just entered life, uninvited and unwanted, only to slip away like a wisp of smoke carried in the breeze.

But this isn’t just a story about those taken so unexpectedly. It’s also story about one of the  “The Lucky Ones,” who, for unknown reasons, escaped that black cape of death. You know the ones you have read about, "I had my ticket on the Pan Am flight that crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland, but I missed the flight." Or, the headline, "Three killed by drunk driver, fourth miracously unharmed."  This part of the missive is about, cheating death, how does your life change, when others died and you should have joined them.... when your own personal dice bounce off that green felt wall, to the call of the croupier, "7....a winner"?

     Accidental, planned, prolonged       Death by always doing wrong

     Death by self- a timeless art            Death by one last broken heart

 For those few that might have missed it, on September 12, 2008, in a suburb of Los Angeles, named Chatsworth, there was a terrible head-on train collision between a Los Angeles commuter train and a freight train. It seems that the engineer of the commuter train was so busy texting some teenage "train buffs" that he missed the red light that should have brought him to a stop and he subsequently entered a section of single track where the opposing freight train had the right away. The result:....25 people dead, 135 injured. The majority of the dead were in the first passenger car, where the Metrolink engine basically impaled the entire coach.

My son-in-law, works in Chatsworth and at the time of the crash, he rode that exact train, in that exact car, every day. Each day he met the train in Simi Valley, and put his bicycle on board for the 11 minute trip to the Chatsworth station. He was due to return on that 4:20 pm trip that ended in death and disaster. He, and, as I will explain, his 3 year old son (my grand-son) should have been killed. They only escaped because..............Well, I can't tell you why. Was it fate, plain old luck or as my son-in-law believes, "God's will, that it wasn't to be my time."

You see, earlier in the day my daughter had called her husband and said she would bring their son down to his work so that he could enjoy the train ride home.  My son-in-law said no, he was in a very bad mood and just wanted to come home after work and relax. A few moments later, He called home again and said. "Go ahead and bring him down."  And then the "kicker." About twenty minutes later my daughter did something she had never done before, She called and said, "Never mind the train, I'll just come down and pick you up." And, then and there, death's door was slammed shut, two to die were not to be, instead, two were returned to family.

So, what do you do, when you realize life has handed you two entry wristbands to the swimming pool of the living. Do you sell all your belongings and gift them to some worthy cause? Or travel to Tibet and explore your spirituality? Or is it, "I wasn't in the wrong place at the wrong time.?" 

I recently asked my son-in-law if there is any memories that still lurk in his mind now, some six months down the road. He explained that he still thinks about the three young design students that were "regulars" on that train. He recalls, that a couple of weeks after the accident, as he boarded the train (same train, back car), that there were only two of the three he had seen in the past, and that they were in obvious mourning. He had a conversation with himself and his higher power, "Asking why did you take her when you could have taken me? I screwed up my early years, I am older, she was young and on her way to a career, why not me?" Apparently this kind of response is not unusual, it is commonly known as "Survivor's Guilt." Kathleen Nader, D.S.W. states, "The idea that one somehow could have prevented what happened may be more desirable than the frightening notion that events were completely random and senseless."

There is one inescapable fact. Anyway you look at it, Life is way too short.

About the Writer

Steven Lane is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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4 comments on What Do You Do?....................... When Death Askes You?

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By Glenn T on April 22, 2009 at 05:54 pm

Great piece, Steven.  A real human side to that tragic story.  Glad your loved ones are o.k.


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By AmyO on April 23, 2009 at 11:29 am

Very good article... Having lost someone very close to me at a young age, you always do wonder why? But you have to believe there is a reason for everything... I am happy for you that your son-in-law was one of the lucky ones.

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By D. E. Carson on April 24, 2009 at 01:00 am

The train wreck portion reminded me of all the people who weren't at work on September 11, 2001 for whatever reason.  The statistics of the numbers of people whose time was not at hand staggers the mind.  I've often contemplated what kinds of accidents (fatal or otherwise) I have avoided just because I couldn't get my act together prior to leaving from home.  The closest I ever came to losing someone like this was a baseball coach of mine from little league who was killed in a boiler explosion at an electric power plant.  If it hadn't been for him, I would have never gotten over my fears playing baseball...but I digress.

If you ever saw the movie Good Morning, Vietnam, you are aware of the character played by Robin Williams.  Many people don't know that Adrian Cronauer was a real AFRS announcer and DJ in Saigon in 1965.  I've met the real Adrian Cronauer and he once spoke about when he was in Vietnam.  He said that when he first arrived, he'd heard about the little Vietnamese women pushing baby carriages that were really loaded bombs.  He said he saw one of them and he crossed the street to get away from her.  When he was "safely" on the other side, he saw another Vietnamese woman pushing another baby carriage.  Then he realized that Vietnamese women pushing baby carriages were everywhere!  He went on to say that he finally realized that when it came to death, if your name is on that bomb (or whatever method Death plans to use against you), there is nothing you can do to avoid it, but if your name's not on that bomb, you're immune to it.

You're very right in one respect, if it isn't your time to go, it isn't your time to go.  But feeling guilty about that can sometimes do more harm than good.

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By M. R. Vincent on April 27, 2009 at 04:07 pm


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