Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A note on their passing

We owe God a death, writes the poet, but sometimes the debt is collected too soon.

Two young people died this weekend. One I knew slightly, one not at all.

The first was a young woman who was a graduate student in my department.  I knew her by name,  as I had taught her in a class, but otherwise, not at all.  She was 6 months pregnant, and she and the baby died due to complications associated with pregnancy.

As BP said when I told her, "we don't expect that to be possible."  No, we don't--not here, with our high tech medical care, our machinery of science. No, death due to pregnancy happens in the third world.  Not here, where it takes a beautiful young woman, a wife, and a child herself.....  a stark reminder that pregnancy is a dangerous undertaking.  The other graduate students were shocked, of course, but still show the resilience of youth.  It's the older ones, the faculty, many of whom have children the same age, who are reeling.

The second death was more remote--and entirely avoidable.  There's a stretch of Interstate 5  that runs through the wide open space of Marine Corps Camp Pendleton  where everyone "opens up".  If you stick the needle of your speedometer at 80mph, you will probably be going with traffic.  Sunday night at 9pm, a young man was weaving in and out of that traffic very fast, which means he must have been going over 90 or even 100mph.

He swerved off the freeway, bumped down an embankment and came to rest, upright, on the railway tracks.....where he was hit within seconds by a southbound Amtrak train.  The force of a train hitting a car is akin to the force of your foot squashing a soda can.  It took the train a mile to stop.  The young man, just 24 (according to the news) was instantly killed.  The railway shut down for the sad, familiar business of a "trespassing incident", 285 unwilling accessories trapped in horror on the train.

When I passed the site, less than 12  hours later, I saw no sign of the accident.  It had been erased.  But a man died here, and I wanted to mark his passing.  Then I went into work, and discovered the loss there.

Two young lives, full of hope and promise, cut short.  My heart goes out to their families.

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