Sometimes when horrible, totally unfair things happen, they happen to people we love. Those things force us to sit up and take notice. They shake our foundations and test our beliefs. There’s probably nothing that does so more or is more awful than a life still in the process of blossoming, cut short. Our hearts bleed for the surviving loved ones. And we are reminded that all lives are like pebbles that make ripples in still water, extending out to all the other lives around us.
A kindred spirit of mine recently experienced such an awful thing and described being in the thick of it so vividly it nearly put me there too: http://workingmomfence.com/2010/09/when-the-shit-hits-the-fan/
This is what happened: http://ghostbikes.org/new-york-city/stefanos-tsigrimanis
These are some of the ripples: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=stefanos-tsigrimanis&pid=145231432
People ask me how I can talk and think about disability, incapacity, death, and dying all the time. (They used to ask me how I could talk about violence against women and children.) My answer is essentially the same to those questions as the Shel Silverstein poem I quoted under my mug shot in our Senior High School yearbook: “Somebody has to go polish the stars. They’re looking a little bit dull.”
I asked Kami’s permission to share her post here as a reminder that stuff does happen, in the hope that it will inspire other young, healthy people to take about the same amount of time as dinner and a movie to get their affairs in order as a selfless gift to their loved ones. If you have ever been in the wretched position of having to make decisions about organ donation and termination of artificial life-sustaining / death-prolonging measures, you would likely never wish that on anyone you love.
While it is difficult and unpleasant to think about these things, it is always better to do so in times of health from a calm and collected place. You can spare the people you love from possibly turning against one another in their grief over fundamental differences of opinion or out of different religious convictions and allow them to come together for mutual support and comfort instead. You can spare your loved ones a lifetime of guilt and agony second-guessing their difficult decisions by making those decisions yourself and taking the burden off of them. You can make sure your sentimental stuff goes to people who will appreciate and understand it. You can acknowledge relationships that are otherwise not formally recognized.
Terrible things happen and we can’t always prevent them, but we can do things to prevent compounding of our loved ones’ grief. That is a gift we can give them now and for which they will be forever grateful.