When someone high-profile passes away suddenly and tragically way before their time, it should set off an alarm in the head – and heart and soul – of each and every one of us.
No matter if it’s Kobe Bryant, who was lost less than two weeks ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose life and passing we honored back on Jan. 17, John and Bobby Kennedy, Lady Diana, James Dean, Emila Earhart or whomever, it is a reminder that life can end can at any time without warning. As such, we need to treasure each and every moment that has been bequeathed to us, and as part of that, we absolutely, positively can’t sweat the small stuff.
Think about this: How would you like for your last moments on earth to be spent yelling at your kids, making an obscene gesture to someone who cut you off in traffic, becoming irate because the elderly person in front of you in the supermarket checkout line is taking too long, telling a loved one that you’re just too busy with whatever to hear about their big problem, or missing an important family function because you had stay late to catch up on work at the office?
How would you like it if, time after time or simply just too many times, you chose responsibility over joy, selfishness over sharing, doing the wrong thing instead of the right thing, angst over smiles, panic over calm, anger over patience and hollering over hugs?
In all those cases, you would feel terrible, as if you had wasted your life away with things that certainly did not matter, and have never mattered in the history of the world, in the big picture.
None of us is immune from these miscalculations, these traps. I tell others that, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to pick and choose my battles, and I don’t pick many battles. Yeah, right. That’s a lie.
Oh, sure, I’m doing better now – I couldn’t have done much worse in most regards – but I’m not doing nearly well enough. I’ve still got a long way to go.
Last Saturday was the 32nd anniversary of a horrific car accident near the old Richfield Coliseum that claimed the life of two star members of the Cuyahoga Falls High School boys basketball team, including one who was headed to play at Ohio State, and left another standout in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
I covered all that for a paper in that area. I had covered their games, the accident and then the calling hours. I saw what it did to those families, the two survivors and that community. It left scars that could never, ever go away.
Just like that – in the veritable blink of an eye – everything had changed forever, with no chance of any reversal.
The coach of the team said he rarely videotaped practices, but for whatever reason he decided to tape that one on a Monday night before the boys drove to see a Cleveland Cavaliers game.
When he thought he had finally regained enough stomach to do it, he sat down and watched it, shaking his head that those boys, so joyfully playing and interacting with one another as they continued to put together what could have been the best season in Black Tigers history, would never suit up again. The whole thing nearly chased him out of coaching.
It was the first time that I began to realize the frailty of life and the need to squeeze the good out of every day.
And, all these years later, I’m still learning.