On Nov. 1, 1955, a young boy was riding his bike home in Denver, Colorado. He blew through a stop sign and crossed the street in front of a bus that was stopped at the bus stop. He was struck by a car passing the bus in the next lane and both of his legs were badly broken. The ER doctor called the boy’s home to tell his parents to come to the hospital immediately because it might be necessary to amputate.
The boy’s father was leaving on a business trip and he had already boarded the plane at Stapleton when a gate agent came running across the tarmac, climbed the stairs, and told him he had an urgent call from his wife. The father deplaned and took the call, then headed straight for the hospital to see his son. That flight exploded over the farm fields of Longmont and everyone onboard died.
Another son had wrapped a bomb as a gift and put it in his mother’s suitcase for her flight on United Airlines #629. Life insurance was purchased from a vending machine at the airport, listing her son as the sole beneficiary. He was tried, convicted, and executed for her murder.
If the young boy had not run the stop sign and been hit by a car, his father would have likely stayed in his seat for take-off and died in that plane crash. Instead, the boy suffered with pain and mobility issues for the rest of his life but was still grateful for the accident that pulled his father off that plane.
Speaking of unbelievable true stories, did I ever tell you about our dog, Shiloh? She was the best kind of mutt—a crazy mix like one of those children’s books where the head/shoulders, mid-section, and legs are all interchangeable. The only breed we know for sure was Labrador (she would put her entire face into the creek to look for goodies). Our vet guessed Shiloh was probably two or three when we adopted her, but then, a few years later, admitted that maybe she had been a little older with good teeth. So, at approximately twelve years old, Shiloh was still going on adventures and smelling the smells (with a ramp to get in and out of the truck) but mostly we found her napping in the basement where it was nice and cool. One day we came home, and she came joyfully trudging up the stairs as usual, but then she collapsed at the top and died; no breath, no pulse, just lying there where she had fallen. I started crying and my husband crouched down over her body.
“Should I give her CPR?” he asked, ever the EMT.
“No,” I said through my tears. “She has a DNR.” I turned to go inside and as I stood in the kitchen, crying, I heard him say, “Okay. Come on out. She’s back!”
“What?!” I asked incredulously. I went back outside to find Shiloh alive and happy, wagging her tail against the deck. She had been gone for about 90 seconds, but then we watched in amazement as she got up and went into the yard like it was any old day. Shiloh lived another month and a half before she had a grand mal seizure on the bedroom floor one morning. That was when we knew it was time to say goodbye.
Most of us don’t know when our time will come. There are events in our lives that we cannot control (all we have control over is our reaction) and death is the ultimate in letting go. Nobody knows what’s waiting for us, but that is the beautiful thing we all have in common. The choices we make create our story and in hindsight, it’s easy to see what the best path forward was at the time. But while we’re living it, it feels more like swinging a broom handle wildly in the air, blindfolded, trying to hit the dangling donkey. I like to think of death as a piñata, and hopefully I’ll still be swinging wildly while laughing and enjoying myself when—SMACK! The candy rains down and the game is over.