Ten years ago, I wrote a blog post about a car accident that critically injured my baby brother Allen. I wrote about the anger and confusion my six-year-old mind went through on that day.
It’s been fifty years since that horrifying car accident. And in the cold of a February afternoon, it still haunts me.
I was in school that day, attending Clarksville Elementary (school #2 of The Twelve) as part of a first-grade class. It was a Friday. What if I wasn’t in school that day? What if I was in that car accident with everyone else? Why should I feel like I was spared and my brother taken?
He was injured that day, but he passed a few months later – his brain was severely damaged from the car crash, and he spent his last few days at St. Margaret’s Hospital on Hackett Boulevard – it was a hospital for the terminally ill, those who were waiting for God to take them to glory.
I know it’s been 50 years since that crash. But you do not ever forget those who were taken before they had a chance to live.
We do not know the day nor the hour when we are called. And when we are called, our time on Earth is complete.
But it doesn’t make it any less painful or emotional. Especially today.
When Allen was injured, I didn’t understand. What six-year-old is supposed to understand this?
I’m 56 now. Honestly, I still don’t understand.
But I know how Allen’s death has affected me, in ways that are still potent today.
I will not drive a car unless everyone in the car is seat-belted in. I don’t care if you feel that the shoulder strap is uncomfortable. I’d rather there be some discomfort than having to worry about you going headfirst through the windshield in a front-end collision.
With the exception of a tiny sip of ecumenical wine at church services, I will not drink alcohol of any kind. No beer, no wine, no hard liquor. The accident was caused by a drunk driver. And at the risk of sounding like an Afterschool Special, I can’t take the risk of being behind the wheel and under any influence. I just can’t.
But I think the main thing about what happened fifty years ago – the thing that still drives me today – is that life is precious. Every second of it. You need to do whatever your heart desires because you won’t have a chance after you’re gone.
It’s why people make a “bucket list.” I’ve made such a list, but I’ve never referred to it as such. For me, it’s a “Life list.” Do the things that are part of your life.
And over the 50 years since Allen’s passing, I’ve done lots of those things. I’ve seen eclipses, both lunar and solar. I’ve taken chances – sometimes successfully, sometimes not so successfully. I’ve written for magazines and books and I’ve met famous people in doing so. I’ve rescued long-lost objects and returned them to their families. I’ve laughed at moments, I’ve cried at others. I’ve loved and I’ve lost and I’ve loved again and I’ve lost again. But every single moment was achieved. And there’s so many more moments to achieve as my years progress.
Do I wish I could have shared those moments with Allen? I would have shared every one of them.
But I’ll share them with you instead, my wonderful blog readers.
And if you’re able to today … take a second and remember someone in your life, someone who was called away before their time. Remember them as a moment, a breeze, an aroma, a spark, a touch. Remember them and hold them fast in your heart and in your memories.
We don’t get to do this ride a second time.
Let’s do what we can to always enjoy every moment, every second, of the life we currently possess.