The Shroud

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Many years ago, a column appeared regularly in our local paper called The Mommy Zone. It was written by a local mother named Tekla Nee, who had three young children. Her column (and, later, blog) covered all the kinds of stories you’d expect regarding the changes that children bring, challenges with education, sibling rivalry, and so forth. She lives a few blocks from me.

Even though having children was still a few years off for me, I would read the columns with interest, hoping perhaps to learn a thing or two. After all, as the youngest kid of my own family (and acting every bit the part), I never had any experience at all with children.

One of her kids, a bright young man named Misha, was accepted into Stanford. That in itself is kind of proof positive that you’ve done everything right, because getting your son into Stanford (not just a child, but a local, white male from an upper-middle class household, which is four strikes against you) pretty much demonstrate you’ve done everything right as a parent. You have, as the saying goes, checked all the boxes.

How horrific it was, after all these years, to see this over the weekend:

When one reads a young person has died, the instant and presumptive questions spring to mind: was it suicide? Was it alcohol?

But, no, it was none of these. He was hiking, and he slipped and fell. It was an accident. No one was with him. It was, for lack of a better term, bad luck.

How does one, in life, defend against such a thing? How does one, as a parent, spare their family the most godawful, heart-wrenching, unspeakable mental pain imaginable? It seems to me that you can’t.

What would one have been told to prevent such a tragedy? Never to leave the house? Never to walk on anything except a flat surface? Never to take a risk?

My own brother, ten years older than me, was scheduled for a meeting in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Due to some kind of last-minute screw-up, they were forced to meet elsewhere, at some drab, no-name location. He came that close to dying a horrible death. That close.

Seth Macfarlane, the famed animator and show producer, was supposed to take the plane from Boston that morning. He got shit-faced the night before and overslept. He rushed to the airport to make his flight, but he missed it. He was probably pissed off at the inconvenience. That is, until he saw where the plane wound up.

As traders, we grapple with uncertain outcomes every day. But some of the randomness in life is so large, that we actually ignore it. At least until it comes crashing in on us, unexpected, unwelcome, and irreversible.

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