Anyone who reads the news is exposed to death, both natural and accidental, every day. Proximity and familiarity, I believe, are directly related to death’s impact on our emotions. When nearly a quarter million people were killed in the Christmas 2004 tidal wave, I confess, I felt absolutely nothing. It might as well have happened on Planet Zutron in the Xerex system. Part of it, too, stems from the old saw that “One death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.”
I was, however, deeply troubled when I saw this on the front page of the morning paper:
Here’s a dad who sold his Internet company, which gave him financial freedom, just like me. He and I are about the same age. He’s married to a pretty woman, just like me. He’s got two beautiful children, just like me. And he was driving what is considered just about the safest car imaginable, a Tesla Model S. Just. Like. Me.
And yet his younger daughter is dead. Here again, he wasn’t even doing anything that could be considered the slightest bit irresponsible. He was driving on a Monday morning, as opposed to, say, Saturday at midnight (not that the day or time excuses anyone from driving drunk……..but let’s face it, not a lot of us expect to be rear-ended on a highway on Monday at 9:20 a.m.).
I absolutely cannot imagine the grief and agony this family feels. Their lives, 36 hours ago, were utterly and completely different than they will ever be again. Besides the large quantity of similarities I share with this poor man, it’s the sheer randomness which is horrifying. One cannot plausibly ask, “What could I have done different?” Because, for the love of God, if you can’t even permit yourself to drive on a road in the middle of the day, are we all supposed to just sit at home with all the doors locked?
It breaks my heart and reminds me that my stupid self should be more grateful.