Didn't think such a post would have a sequel, huh?
Well neither did I, but here we are. For the second time in under two weeks, it seems the topic of death - sudden death - has caused a lot of shakeup in my mind. I'd be lying if I didn't say my experience from Looking Death In The Face wasn't one that put me on edge over the pass few days. It rattled me. It forced me to do a lot of soul searching on how I prioritize my life. It put a lot of floating pieces in perspective.
As I slowly make adjustments and attempt to add habits in my life that are beneficial and most importantly, maximizes my time here on earth, I suddenly ran into a story and an experience today that once again caused a mental hurricane, whipping all of these thoughts on the delicacy of life from an understanding into a mess.
As part of my job, I not only permit recreational fields, athletic competitions, film and photo shoots, but smaller permits such as picnics, gatherings, school celebrations, and any other type of small, simple, lower-end event you can imagine would take place in a city park.
Unlike any of the smaller permits I issue, today I had to actually attend and monitor a rare small permit request for a family looking to hold a vigil/remembrance in the park. The family planned on throwing the ashes of their son into the Hudson River, and I would have to be on-site not only to open the locked gate so they can have access to one of our community docks, but also to ensure that we offer life preservers (a legal issue, of course).
Upon my arrival to the location, I met the father who I have spoken to many times on the phone. On this day, as per the norm with all of our conversations, he was very nice, and very upbeat. He was smiling, friendly, and even joked around with how large of a person I am. Of course, I always enjoy conversing with others who are friendly, but almost felt reserved and a bit odd that a mourning father was so upbeat. I made him aware of the life vest, meeting my legal commitment (he rejected as he would be going aboard an NYPD boat out into the river, and they would provide him with one), and told him to let me know when he needed me to open the fence.
I sat in my golf court about 100 feet away watching a memorial of teachers, former classmates, friends and family. An NYPD community affairs detective walked up and asked if I would be able to hold on to her belongings during the ceremony. I obliged. And so we began small talk that led into what this post is about.
She informed me that she never attends personal functions of the families she deals with, but somehow, this one became personal. The boy who died, was a seventeen year-old senior at the top High School (and one of the best in the nation) here in New York City, Stuyvesant High School. He had a full ride to college as a bio-chemist and was an All-American athlete in fencing. An elite young man with a bright future.
He was killed by a drunk driver.
Even worse, he was simply waiting at a crosswalk waiting for the light to change, to make make his way across.
Boom. Just like that. A promising life taken, without even making a mistake. Just simply crossing the street.
The detective informed me that the suspect was convicted on manslaughter and sentenced to ten years.
However, as she put it, "big deal. There is no justice for this. Even if he died himself. A family that invested so much into a child who would've done great things ain't coming back."
Watching the scene of this now deceased boy's father throwing his ashes into the Hudson River and returning with a smile on his face was awe-inspiring in such an indescribable way. The way he, his wife, and their ten year old daughter stood and shook everyone's hand as they finished the ceremony was the epitome of class, you sort of simply had an idea they type of pedigree this promising boy had. They took in the moment. Smiling. Joyful. Peaceful.
Of course, I'm sure they are torn on the inside, but still...
So many questions, too indescribable, no answers.
Just a whole lot of searching.
And as I returned home from work, I finally made it to the gym after my experience last week (See: Looking Death In The Face). I stared down the treadmill and area where it all happened almost as if were replaying in front of me.
He was right here where his body laid lifeless and it seemed we locked on each other for a moment.
No one used that treadmill the entire time I was there. Not sure if it was out of remembrance, fear, or shear coincidence.
And no, I have no idea what became of him.
Yet still, in the past two weeks, I've seen a health nut with that lived a clean life physically collapse and was dead before my eyes (for a few moments), and now I witnessed the tossing of ashes, and the story of a young man academically and athletically gifted, who had his life ended all in a moment's notice.
Just like that.
I know exactly where I am going after I leave this earth. But I'd be a tremendous liar if I told you I have a grasp on how precious and delicate life really is.
I don't think anyone does.