My old boss always used to bring us obituaries of people he knew, especially hard working lawyers that died young. I didn’t fully understand why at the time and probably still don’t. There was an element of ‘life is short’, he also used to turn it into a joke about how hard we, his apprentices, were working him, and also that there’s more to life than the office. But we all used to work six days a week elbow to elbow too.
In any event reviewing obituaries has become a habit. At first glance it appears morbid, but as much as you could be dwelling on death really you see life, the lives of all sorts of people you’ve never met and some you have, and the love that their families have for them. It’s very humbling and touching. When you read enough of them, you understand how precious life is. Sometimes it is taken away from mere infants, inexplicably, sometimes from young parents, from the very old, doctors, teachers, carpenters, devoutly religious, people with substance abuse issues, people with and without families, there are statistics that can describe this but the tapestry that emerges is textured and touching.
The past several years have changed the way I think about a lot of things. I became a regular churchgoer, and will be baptized next month. I fell in love with and married the most incredible woman, who has brightened my life and made me feel that anything is possible. This was at the same time as covid19, where our social lives and much of the economy were stamped out, for reasons that were understandable at the time, but are currently arbitrary and punitive government action. It shows that even a benign western democracy will trample you without a thought, perhaps more subtly than once was done, but they will take your job, make it practically impossible for you to travel, and the like.
In March my wife and I were in a car crash on the highway. Everybody walked away from the accident with what could be best described as whiplash injuries, which was itself a blessing. When the accident first happened, the cab of our car was full of smoke from the airbags. I tried to move the car forward but it wouldn’t turn on much less move. My Wife couldn’t open her door. I was about to step out of my door when a huge semi blew past at breakneck speed. What he was doing I have no idea. But if I had set foot out of the car I surely would have been killed in an instant. I got out when it was safe and cranked open my wife’s door. You can’t imagine how good it felt to know that she was ok, certainly shook up but nothing obviously critical.
In July there was a serious medical emergency in our family, out of the blue and seemingly without root cause. As I round the corner on 40, it brings the point home, you can’t take anything for granted. But we always always do. I’ve asked the question here before, where are we going? Where are we rushing off to? Stuck in a traffic jam, overheating. A bad car crash and a family emergency… what should I be taking from this? Still, just plunge back into work.
I can’t help but feel that these events were signs, warnings. But I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do different. I have changed but nothing I do has changed. I haven’t taken the time, or don’t have the wisdom or the courage to drill into it. And maybe there is no meaning. Maybe this is just statistics, dice rolling. I don’t know.