Last night, Mike Heavey, 23, died in a motor vehicle crash. He was the only person in the only car.
I laid awake after I got the phone call - with my arm around my husband - and cried. I cried for the family I know he left behind. I cried for his mom - who didn't know that the last time she saw him was the last time she would ever see him. I cried for my brother-in-law, Gary - who is Mike's older brother. Gary was 12 years older than Mikey, and always felt more paternal and responsible for him. I cried for my two nephews, Mason and Brandon, who are old enough to miss him, and too young to understand why. I cried for Mikayla - his 2-year old daughter who will not ever remember her father.
I have been obsessed today with how fragile life is. I think that most people, when they lose someone, will think about it for a few days, weeks or months. Most people will hug their friends or family before they leave the funeral home - with the image of life's delicate fragility fresh in their minds. But, after a week, two weeks, a lot of people get back to taking life for granted.
Four years ago, my father-in-law died in a motor vehicle crash. He left for work one morning, and never made it to his job. He was driving his motorcycle – which he had wanted for years and had only owned for a week – and he evidently braked hard enough to lose control of the bike, and his injuries were fatal. The accounts of this accident are fairly sketchy, because the ambulance arrived at and left the scene before the police arrived. When the ambulance took my father-in-law away, all of the witnesses got in their cars and left for work. Weeks after the accident, a witness contacted the family and explained that, from her point of view, it looked as though someone cut him off. Some person in front of him slammed on his brakes without regard for how his actions would affect other people, and because of that single, thoughtless action – my father-in-law died.
When Mikey died last night, his actions affected his siblings, nephews, daughter, mother, friends. How many times do people act without thinking about their effect on others? How many times have you been driving down the road, and for whatever selfish reason, you drive erratically - maybe you're late for work, on your way to a wedding, have a lot on your mind, are anxious to get out of town for vacation - without thinking about the danger you put others in?
This is something that I have been thinking about pretty consistently since Abby was born. I have had people cut me off, tailgate me, slam on their brakes in front of me, and drive 50-mph in sleet on the same highway I am on. Every time something like that happens, I yell out "what right do you have to endanger my life?" If Abby is in the car with me, I don't yell, normally, but I really do question when God gave them the right to endanger my baby's life? Or my baby's mommy's or daddy's life? I get really pissed off about it. I think that a lot of people don't drive considerately - and sadly, if something would happen to you or your loved ones, you don't get a second chance. If you're the driver who kills or maims someone, you don't get a second chance to do it right.
I am an extremely passionate and emotional person. The old adage about wearing one's heart on one's sleeve - that was written about me. I am far too emotional to be able to think about this all the time - I guess, getting back to normalcy at some point is a coping mechanism - at least it is for me. It’s scary to realize that you can close your eyes forever without any warning. I can't leave for work in the morning while I am mad at my husband - because I am afraid one of us won't come home that night. I can, and have, laid in bed and worried about that stuff. I am afraid that the friend I have been meaning to call will die before I make that call.
I know, everything I am typing is pretty cliché - and it is something that makes rounds in emails every day. I know that life is too short – and try very hard to enjoy it. My dad, who also died four years ago, was very good at this. He was happy to be alive, every day of his life. When he was driving to work, he was happy to be going to work. He enjoyed his job – and I believe he would’ve enjoyed whatever job he had, because that was the kind of person he was. He embraced life. I hope that Abby thinks that about me someday.