One week ago today, an unthinkable chain of events occurred.
I left for work, as usual, out of our subdivision and onto I-40 West. Before leaving, I ran back into the house looking for my gym clothes and the XM Radio that arrived the Friday before. As a result, I was running about 5 minutes later than I had wanted to.
Anyway, I eventually proceeded onto the I-40 West ramp. Strangely, I noticed that other cars were reversing up the ramp. I was upset that because I was a few minutes late, I now had to deal with a traffic backup. I almost hit the cars who were in reverse. Bizarre.
Of course, traffic was at a standstill at the bottom of the ramp – unusual for this early in the morning. It was 7:17 AM and emergency vehicles were rushing by me on the right shoulder.
Inching my way along, at 7:37 I had traveled 3/4 of a mile in 20 minutes and had reached the accident site. It looked *very* bad and I tried to snap a picture of the scene (while still stopped) on my Treo 700p. I also looked at the site closely as I finally passed it to the left. I saw a silver car with serious front end damage and remember thinking that someone was seriously hurt – I felt really bad for those involved.
Of course, once I got beyond the scene, I managed to get to work about 20 minutes later (though it took about an hour in total). Stacey called me when I arrived at work to see if I was OK, since she had heard about the accident.
When I got to my office, I immediately began to scour online news sources to find out what had happened. Little did I know what would ultimately end up being revealed.
Details slowly emerged…and a couple of hours later a vehicle and age description of my friend and coworker down the hall, George Smith, were published. My heart sank. I felt sick. I could not believe what was happening. If I had not taken the extra few minutes to go back into the house, it could have been me. The tragic accident had happened at 7:15 AM, only 2 minutes before I entered I-40.
More than anything, though, the realization hit me that Goerge was gone. I cannot describe it as anything other than surreal.
As I drove past the scene today (I went around it the rest of last week), I imagined being George and trying to anticipate the moves of the driver in the opposing lanes across the median. Bottom line? It’s impossible. With the traffic volume and speed combination at that hour (very busy but still moving fast), you really can’t focus on a specific car that far away without risking hitting the car in front of you. Poor George…he never would have seen the car coming at him.
Over the course of the past week, I served in George’s funeral and have had a first-hand experience of the void left behind from his death. Lesson? Life is short, (too short) and I think that most people (myself included) tend to forget that reality. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.
Story (Raleigh News & Observer)
Irish Funeral Blessing – Dedicated to George
Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away into the next room
I am I, and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other
That we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name
Speak to me in the easy way which you always used
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes
We enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me,
Let my name be ever the household word that
It always was.
Let it be spoken without effort,
Without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant
It is the same as it ever was
There is absolutely unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am
Out of sight? I am but waiting for you
For an interval
Somewhere very near
Just around the corner.
All is well.
Canon Henry Scott Holland (1847-1918)