A man I went to high school with was killed in a horrible car accident yesterday. A 19-year-old in a stolen SUV was racing through town at speeds greater than 80 MPH when he ran a stoplight and t-boned Chad’s car, killing him instantly. I hadn’t kept in touch with Chad since high school, and my memory of him is slightly blurry, as if I’m looking back on him through someone else’s glasses. He went to our youth group, as I recall, and I remember his smile, and that he was a genuinely nice kid. I can’t wrap my mind around the thought that he got up in the morning, showered, dressed for work, and kissed his wife goodbye, only to be gone in an instant. He leaves behind two sons, a wife, and an ex-wife. My thoughts go out to each of them as they come to terms with their world that has been turned upside down.
A good friend of mine recently lost someone who meant the world to her to cancer. He was in the prime of his life: young, attractive, a man who made an impression on everyone who knew him. I didn’t know Casey, but offered to go with my friend to the funeral last week so that she didn’t have to stand there alone as she said her goodbyes to him. It was so difficult watching her suffer through the funeral mass. I fidgeted sadly as I sat watching his family and a church full of friends struggle as they said their goodbyes. The church was full, as it often is for the funeral of a young person, and I spent the time looking around at the crowd, wondering how they knew Casey, and what he had meant to them. He was a good friend to my friend, and they had many things in common. She has some fun memories to cherish of the time she spent with Casey, but why only memories? Why did he have to go and leave so many people behind who are crushed because of his untimely passing?
I had lunch on Tuesday with a former coworker who is dying. Doctors recently stopped treatment for her cancer and she expects that there are only weeks left of her time in this world. As I drove to the restaurant to meet the group of friends who were gathering to see Janet, my stomach was in knots. This lunch was planned to celebrate her life, to share some laughs, and create memories. I wasn’t sure I was up to the task, but in the end, it was a beautiful lunch. There were about 10 or 11 of us, we were loud, boisterous, sometimes crude. Janet joked about putting one of those motion-detected recordable trinkets on her grave that would say, “Help, let me out!” or “Get the hell off of me!” when someone came to visit. Someone had asked about a trip she had previously planned to take to the Badlands. She’d been hoping to go this summer, before things took a turn for the worse. In true Janet style, she quipped, “Is that what we’re calling this? My trip to the badlands???” in complete deadpan. “I was hoping to go to the other place, but I guess we’ll see what happens.” She managed to put us all at ease, and when I said my goodbyes to her, knowing that it was for the last time, she looked me in the eye and grabbed my hand. With a soft squeeze, and a genuine smile, she thanked me for coming.
These thoughts are swirling around in my head today, leaving my mood as gray and cold as the weather outside. Why do things like cancer, accidents, and loss, happen to good people? I’m generally an optimistic person, but today things look glum. Why do good people have to die when they are at the prime of their lives?
I think my boss summed it up quite succinctly this morning as we were talking about Chad’s accident. “You have to live each day like it’s your last, because when your time is up… boom. It’s up.”
This cheery post is brought to you by the sucky month of April. Returning year after year, April can be counted on to conjure up sad memories, crappy weather, and melancholy moods.