Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Life Interrupted

When my wife and I were at Hubbard Lake two weekends ago visiting with my brother's family at my parents' cottage (Party on the Beach), my nephew witnessed a bike-riding accident on the paved road that descends to the beachfront. A middle-aged man and his wife were riding down the hill towards a curve when the woman lost control.

My nephew saw it coming, comparing it to watching a YouTube video where you know a fall is going to occur, but in this age of "Funniest Home Videos" where you’re supposed to laugh when someone takes a sudden spill, this one wasn’t funny. The woman went over the handlebars and landed face first on the road.

Wendy and I were returning from a deer-watching expedition when we passed the ambulance, warning lights running, coming out of our subdivision. Later that night, I was sleeping in the tent when I heard a helicopter flying low overhead, which we speculated could be a med-evac copter transporting the woman to a better equipped trauma center in downstate Michigan.

Still, I would never have expected the outcome that occurred. Bike accidents often result in trips to the emergency room, sometimes even broken bones. In this case, it was worse. The woman died. Right away, I tried to Google the news for more information. What happened? I’d ridden my own bike down that same hill dozens of times over the years, never overly concerned for my safety.

But I found nothing. We didn’t know the woman. She wasn’t from our subdivision but we heard she was in her 40s and from Clarkston, Michigan, northwest of Detroit.

Eventually, I located her death notice among the on-line obituaries of the major area newspaper. It was a tersely written notice of less than 150 words. She was 48, a registered nurse in labor and delivery, and the mother of four daughters. "She enjoyed traveling, sailing, boating and mostly being a mother" was how her life was simply described there.

I tried to find out a little more, a bit haunted by the death of a woman which occurred only a block from our cabin, a spot I’ve always associated with fun and relaxation ever since childhood.

Again, I couldn’t find out much. Checking the blogosphere, I did find a journal written by one girl, a friend of the daughters, who described going to the funeral. She wrote: "The funeral today was really rough . . . listening to the words Mr. K. wrote for his late wife at the funeral today was so moving. He really loved her. (about the daughters) I can't really imagine what losing your mom when you're 21 or less feels like. C. was supposed to go to college for the first time in a few weeks. Now she has to go without her mother to help her move, wish her luck. A. will be the only one to graduate high school without her mother being there. It's all too bad."

The funeral home offered an on-line condolence book and I browsed the 50 or so messages there from family, work colleagues, classmates . . . They offered expressions of grief, sadness and comfort to the family. Not much of a glimpse though into who the woman was. All I could glean from my internet research were bits and fragments of a life interrupted.

Reading through the messages, I did sympathize for the surviving daughters. It is a terrible loss to not have someone there to nurture them as they pursue relationships, marriage, child-bearing and motherhood themselves. Like life itself, having a mother there is something we take for granted. But sisterhood is an especially strong bond. They'll survive and eventually move on.

It certainly makes you re-think the journey of life. What's important. What really matters. How you would like to be remembered yourself. And that it can be over with just that quickly.


Blogger Peter said...

Too true Dave, life can be snuffed out like the proverbial Candle in the wind.

5:33 PM  
Blogger Lee said...

How very, very sad. One never knows what's around the corner...what the next minute, hour or day has in store.

I can understand how you were haunted by the terrible accident.

5:53 PM  
Blogger Lucy Stern said...

I feel so sad for the husband and her daughters. I can't imagine that falling off a biycle and kill you. Did she break her neck? What actually caused the death? This I am curious about. Keep researching Dave, I am looking to you to answer these questions.

1:38 PM  
Anonymous jan said...

Confronting our own mortality is quite disturbing. I read recently that people don't mind dying so much as being forgotten.

5:24 PM  
Anonymous cassie-b said...

What a sad story. My heart goes out to the family.

My husband's first wife died very suddenly and left 4 nearly grown children to manage without their mother. And he just sat and did very little for a couple of years.
It's so hard to lose someone you love.

4:51 AM  
Blogger Carine said...

when someone dies,it always makes you think about your own life and where you "are"-beginning, middle, etc...
it's so hard to think in those terms.

7:58 AM  
Anonymous squirrel said...

What a heartbreaking story. That family will be in my prayers.

12:43 PM  
Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

Aw, hell. I wish I hadn't read this. Too sad...

6:35 PM  
Anonymous vicki said...

This is a sad story, Dave. A part of me is thinking "head injury! helmets!"- not critically- just noting that we don't wear them always when biking but it makes my next door neighbor cringe. She is a specialist at NW rehab and says the number of permanent head injuries that come in as a result of no helmets is large.

This woman was way too young to die in such a terrible and sudden way. You've written an eloquent post here.

10:01 PM  
Blogger simply me said...

Gosh Dave that was terrible, but I do understand your need to know this person who was a human being with a life and family.
Shows how unpredictable life is and just how quickly it can just end, on a beautiful day riding her bike. Gosh......You are a good person.

6:19 AM  
Anonymous Kristy said...

Wow, that's quite a story. It's also the sort of thing that I spend a lot of time thinking about. Usually when I'm in a cemetery I'll run across some marker that hits a chord in my imagination. I've even researched some of their lives (relatively easy to do in these days of on-line genealogy). It really does make you ponder on the value of your own life and how you choose to live doesn't it.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Babette said...

Sorry to hear about the tragic loss of your cottage neighbor, Dave. The obituaries tell just a fraction of the story.

I know I don't need to remind you to call your mother.

9:07 PM  
Anonymous DEB said...

I know all too well what it feels like to lose a parent suddenly--there's no last chance to say "I love you," no warning.

My heart goes out to those poor girls.

Very well-written post.

6:35 AM  
Blogger Matty said...

That's truly sad Dave. I can't imagine how her husband must feel to know that this is the last memory he has of his wife...going for a bike ride? It goes to show. we never know when we will be called.
I feel for her family. What a tragedy!
A good reminder to love our family..today! We don't know what tomorrow brings.
Have a great week, Dave.

7:57 AM  
Blogger Kacey said...

I'm sorry for the unfortunate woman's family, but am really getting spooked. I found out Tuesday that I have to have a rather complicated carotid artery surgery on Monday. Ever since then, I have been reading blogs about the death of aunts, tombstone epitaphs, this sad death, my brother is terminal and I am reading a book called "Under the Knife"--about a killer laser tech. I'm really wondering what is going on--- and I'm gettting morbid! I'd like to be remembered by being extremely old when I decide to head for "Glory".

8:55 AM  
Anonymous schnoodlepooh said...

I know what you mean. I had an experience like that. When we were driving over to Idaho last month, we came upon a car rollover accident that had just happened. The car was upside down and the lady was halfway out the window. Upon later research, I discovered that she did not die. Thank goodness for that.

12:35 PM  
Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

I've thought of this and have written my obit. It's supposed to be funny, because that's how I'd like to be remembered. (And even if it's not, the survivors can always say, "Well, the sucker tried.")

4:18 PM  
Blogger Nankin said...

It is really sad. It also reminds you just how fragile life is.

5:33 PM  
Blogger Peggy said...

I'm a newcomer here to your blog. This was an interesting, and very sad, story. It says something good about you, though, that you cared enough to investigate this.

You just never know, do you?

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Terri said...

What a terribly tragic accident and a life wiped out way too soon. My cousin was killed on a motorcycle at age 18. As liberating as they may be, I've always felt they're so dangerous.
Good blog entry, Dave.

2:33 PM  

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