What I saw;
My wife wanted to head-up to the mountains to buy her Dad a Christmas gift, something that we saw in a shop this summer. There wasn’t any guarantee that it would still be there but given the choice of staying home and blowing leaves or eating at my favorite restaurant after she was done shopping was an easy decision for me.
We left the house about 11 am and headed north. Typically I would cut through Travelers Rest, and go up Hwy. 276 over Caesars Head but the T.R. police department had the road to downtown closed for the Christmas parade so I stayed on Hwy. 25.
Traffic was bad everywhere and I noticed immediately that everyone seemed to be in an extra holiday hurry. There was no urgency for me so I tuned SiriusXM to the Grateful Dead channel and settled in for the hour drive up the mountain.
We reached the outskirts of Travelers Rest around 11:40 am. I remembered looking at my clock and thinking I would be eating around 2 or 2:30 and hoped the restaurant wouldn’t run out of pulled-pork before I got there. Two miles or so further traffic stopped. My wife could see a blue light up the road and she told me to get in the left lane. It was 11:45 am and I could see a small truck that had slammed into an embankment and a kid pacing around the truck with his hands on top of his head obviously distressed. There was a small trailer that was flipped upside down and the Highway Patrol car but there was no officer directing traffic.
As we slowly passed the accident my wife commented how upset the kid seemed. I reasoned that he was probably worried about how his Dad would react when he saw how torn-up the truck was. Beyond the embankment was a steep drop-off and I noticed the kid walking over and looking down and then quickly turning away and walking back to his truck.
At that moment I felt bad for the young man. I know what it feels like to disappoint your parents. I know what it feels like to have your Dad pissed at you too.
We continued our journey up the mountain and I didn’t think anything else about the accident or the young man. The gift my wife wanted for her Dad was still available and the restaurant had plenty of pulled-pork with the added plus of an ice cold stout from one of my favorite breweries on draft. It was a successful trip.
We got back to house around 5:30 pm and I let the dog in. Once I got him settled, I sat down to watch the local news. The opening story was about an accident that happened on Hwy. 25 just outside of Travelers Rest around 11:40 am. The accident we had passed that morning. Apparently the distressed young man, 15 years old, we saw had changed lanes hitting another truck being driven by a 24 year old man pulling a trailer. The impact forced the 24 year olds truck off the road, overturning and ejecting him from the vehicle. He died at the scene.
“In the blink of an eye, something happens by chance – when you least expect it – sets you on a course that you never planned, into a future you never imagined.” – Nicholas Sparks
Saturday, December 14, 2019 at 11:40 am on Hwy. 25 just outside of Travelers Rest lives were changed in the blink of an eye. The image of the young man standing on top of the hill raced through my mind. At the time I had no idea what he was looking at. Now I know.
I can’t imagine what was going through his mind as he stood on that embankment looking down. Shock, grief, fear, certainly sadness. My initial reasoning that he was concerned that his Dad was going to be mad at him now seemed so inconsequential. I can’t picture what he saw below him but I am sure it is a visual that will stay with him for the rest of his life.
And the young man that lost his life, he was just 24 years old. I thought about his family, his friends and the hole his departure from this planet will leave in their hearts. 24 years old, younger than my own two children. He had dreams, he had plans. Other people in his life had dreams for him as well. Who knows what the future held. Who knows what contributions he would have made to his community, his church, his work, his family or his friends.
I thought about this accident all day Sunday. Two lives that simply intersected by chance. So many things could have happened to have prevented it. A few extra seconds ticking away at a red light. Stopping to buy a coke at the convenience store or maybe going 5 mph faster, or even 5 mph slower. But sadly none of those occurred.
Here is a fact none of us can escape, everything that lives will eventually die. The key to living, I have learned, is not to waste any of the short time we have on this planet and it is short and for me getting shorter. You may live to the ripe old age of 94 like my grandmother, or have you life cut short one Saturday morning at 24.
I realize that everyone’s life is not easy. We all have our challenges. Plans we made didn’t work-out like we hoped. People disappoint us, we disappoint ourselves sometimes. But living is a journey. A journey of ups and downs. A journey we share with others. A journey would should complete to the best of our abilities. Enjoy what you can of it because it won’t last forever and when it ends you will wish you had more.