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Saturday, May 8, 2010

My Casual Brush With Death

I was looking out the window the other day (you know, when you get caught in a vacant stare for a second) and I had a random thought pass through my mind.

When I was a junior in high school I had a young guy (probably late teens) come to my friend's house collecting donations for something. I think he was selling sub sandwiches. I chatted with him in the living room while we waited for the check to be written. His name was Shawn. I can't remember his last name. And for some reason it was taking a looooong time for that darn check to be written. I apologized that he had to wait so long, and he said...and I will never forget this..."No problem. I got all the time in the world."

Finally, he got his money and went on his way.

Then, about a week later I heard that he had been killed in a car accident. And what he'd said came back to haunt me. He didn't have all the time in the world. In fact, he'd only had about 7 days. He was so young. Did he get to do the things he'd wanted to do in life? Did he get to say goodbye to his family? How does someone in their teens/early twenties possibly prepare to say goodbye to people they've really just only met?

It's stayed with me for over 15 years.

And then, a few years ago, I helped organize a "community day" that involved having the local fire department on hand to give tours of their fire truck. Three firefighters were there that day. Two were seasoned and one was a rookie. He was young (and good looking! Sorry, honey!). I got to talk with all three of them and get to know them a little.

And then a couple of months later I found out the rookie firefighter had died in a fire.

It bothered me. I had just talked to him. Again, just like with Shawn, I had communicated with him and he was so ALIVE. So young. So full of life and possibilities. And it ended in a moment.

Maybe I'm just hitting that age where I fully realize my own mortality. Especially with having kids who I know depend on me. But these stories are haunting to me, for whatever reason. It's not like I didn't know others who died, but they were so young, and the circumstances were so unexpected.

It just makes me realize that time really is fleeting; our lives really are a blip on the radar in the grand scheme of things. I don't write this to be a kill-joy, but to really hold onto every moment that we have. Because we aren't guaranteed another.
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