“A female tourist that was struck and killed by a ’Ride the Ducks’ boat vehicle in Philadelphia’s Chinatown section has been identified.” Her name was Liz. At age 68, she was the youngest of my mother’s circle of friends. She was zany and full of life. I was privileged to know her and she was my friend too.
The web story of what happened wouldn’t have been seen by me if I hadn’t searched for it. People get hit and killed by cars every day and we don’t hear about it. The most unique thing about this story was that it was one of those land and water vehicles. And, of course, because it involved someone that spanned the generations of being friends with not only my mother, but also me, my brother and my sister.
A witness reported she was distracted by her iPad and was clipped by the Duck boat. Instead of stepping back, she held out her hand, as if to say “stop.” Sadly, the driver never saw her. Another witness said they heard a scream and then a thump. She died of massive head injuries.
It’s distressing to read news like this in general. Even more so when it is someone we know and love. Although we hear tragic stories in the news all the time, it’s quite different when it’s personal.
For me, I am made aware again of the fragility of life. It is a reminder of our assumptions that we will have a tomorrow.
It is another wake up call to let go of worry and more fully enjoy the moment.
It is support for my decision to follow and live a life that brings me joy, instead of doing what might be considered sane, secure or logical.
It is also a stark reminder to pay attention to life and what is around me.
Almost all of us have been guilty of walking around in an unfamiliar city looking at our iPad or smart phone. Check out any city webcam and you’ll see many folks distracted trying to navigate their way around. Most of us have referenced our phone or iPad while walking down the sidewalk or crossing a street, even when in a familiar setting.
I know I’ve also been guilty of using “talk to text” while driving. I tell myself I’m not really texting and driving, but we all know there’s not really that much difference.
We’ve all seen the news reports and heard the stories about horrific and sudden deaths due to texting while driving. And perhaps because those stories weren’t directly connected to someone we know, we often don’t quite take them as seriously as we should.
After Liz’s celebration of life, my mother sent a group email out and wrote: “[The] Message is ‘tell people you love them.’ I love you all.”
One of my mother’s friends responded “Liz lived every day to its fullest … and reminds us to live each day as if it were your last … because some day it will be. Her sad, sudden death shows us that life changes in an instant.”
What is fascinating is we all know this message. There is nothing new about the missive to live each day as if it were our last. “Yes, Yes” we all proclaim, wholeheartedly agreeing how life can serve up some mighty unexpected curve balls.
For a time we remember to tell our friends and family how much we love them. Perhaps we call our mom or dad a few times more often. We let go of the grudge we were holding against our neighbor and make up with an old friend.
Life is precious and we never know when our time to leave this earth is going to come. Our biggest assumption is that we will have a tomorrow. Or that those we love and hold dear will be here when we awake. We eventually forget to live each day to the fullest as we get caught back up in the drama of our lives.
Wake up calls are rarely a pleasant thing. The best ones are like the applications on our cell phones that play soft music gradually increasing in volume. The worst are those that startle us from a deep sleep. For me, hearing of Liz’s death was one of the most jarring calls I’ve received in a long, long time.
It’s unfortunate that sometimes this is what it takes to remind us to fully appreciate those around us and chose to focus on how wonderful life can be. Most of us will have a wake up call like this at least once or twice in our life. We will all probably then become busy again and forget to stop and smell the flowers.
Yet, for these brief times we are reminded – whether it’s by a personal experience or by hearing of someone elses’ – we can embrace our loved ones, give thanks for our life, and treat every interaction with every person as if it might be our last. Because, you never know when it just might be.