Sunday, January 18, 2015

Mortality lesson... in the guise of a car/pedestrian accident outside my window

I stopped at my local Starbucks to do some writing this morning, but found myself distracted by what looked like an accident or crime scene at the intersection where the Starbucks sits. At first, I thought police were wrapping up a collision, but neither car I saw had too much damage and there was way too large a police presence for a mere fender-bender. 

As I set up my laptop, I noticed more police cars pull up, more crime scene tape and a hastily erected canopy/command post. Officers began snapping lots of photos and conferring with each other. I finally asked a Starbucks worker whether she knew what had happened, and she told me a pedestrian was hit while crossing in the crosswalk by a car making a left turn. She heard the pedestrian was seriously hurt and might not survive. I asked whether she knew how fast the car had been going and she didn't. She did say it was very dark, wet and windy out when the accident happened (around 5;30am. It's now 8:35am).

I tried to refocus on my writing, but my mind kept going back to the accident. Who was the pedestrian? Man? Woman? Teen? What were they doing out at 5:30 in the morning? Heading to work? Heading home from work? Will he/she survive? Does he/she have a family? Children? What about the driver? Did he/she see the pedestrian in the crosswalk? Was he/she speeding? Preoccupied? Switching stations on the radio? Drinking coffee? Racing to make the turn before the light turned red? How random is an accident like this?

(Update: a ladder fire truck has just arrived at the scene. I have no idea why.)

The thing that really struck me was the apparent randomness of this type of accident. How many times do we step into a crosswalk? Do we ever expect to be struck down while crossing the street? And how many times do we make left and right turns? How much do we pay attention to people standing on the corner, waiting to cross? Do you gun it to make the turn before the light turns red?

Why am I obsessed with this scene? Is it because I've been obsessing over my own mortality lately? 

I will turn 51 years old in 15 days. That's the same age my mother was when she passed away. Logically, I know that I won't drop dead as soon as I turn 51, but I can't help wondering, how prepared am I to die? Are all my affairs in order? (No) Have I achieved everything I've ever wanted to do? (Not even close). Am I ready to go? (Sometimes, I feel as though I am). 

Morbid, yes. Unusual, no. 

Several friends have shared similar fears with me (they've all survived past the age of their parent's death). I don't think about it constantly, but it has been on my mind a lot lately. You just never know if or when you'll stare your own mortality in the face, and I guess no one is ever "ready" to go. 

(Update: the reason for the ladder truck has become clear. Investigators are using the ladder extension to snap photos of the accident scene from above).

Well, I've been sitting here for 90 minutes. My coffee cup is empty. So is the Starbucks, but I'm not a seat hog and I've been here long enough. I won't get any writing done with this accident on my mind. 

Time to pack up and go make the best of this day I've been given.

How are you spending the day you've been given?

1 comment:

  1. I learned last year that my maternal grandmother died of a heart attack when she was 47, the same age I will be next year. Watching my mother struggle with heart issues now, I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about this EVERY DAY. And it scares me EVERY DAY.

    But I also know that I am blessed with a life that, even if it ended today, has been well lived, at least on my own terms. And that is enough. So I take every day as it comes, try to make a difference, be better where I can and find some joy where I can. It's really all we can do.