Roughly 37,000 people die each year in automobile accidents. That's roughly 20 per 100,000 licensed drivers. Unless it touches you personally, it's hard to understand how many people are anguished by that number. My dad died in a car accident in 1966, so it hits home. So why then does something like Nick Adenhart's death in an accident feel so much worse?
Two others died in that accident and another was seriously injured. Apparently, it was a drunk driver. The other two fatalities were mentioned in all the stories, but to a far lesser degree than Adenhart's. One of the fatalities was a 20 year old female. It all hurts. The families must be devastated.
It's big news when it happens to a celebrity or an athlete. They function in the realm of make believe. They are like the Santa Clauses we still believe in. And so it seems much more jarring when we learn of one of their demises among the thousands of others we hear about all the time. They are supposed to be super human. They are supposed to be immortal. It's supposed to be a game or a movie. It's not real life.
But it is real life. These players we watch and place somewhere above where our own lives are become our escape, our vicarious thrill. They are supposed to take us beyond our own misery and lift us to a place where our own pain is numbed for a little while. They aren't supposed to die. Not when they are 22 and gifted with a whole career and life in front of them. But they do and it reminds us all that life is a gift and can be taken at any moment and these players are flesh and blood and mere mortals that bleed and can be broken.
And it always seems worse when the victim seems innocent and fresh and so young. We can somehow stomach players who self-destruct and die before their time because of their own self destruction, whether it be drugs, alcohol or living too far in the fast lane for far too long. But when the pictures show a bright young kid with a home town smile, that isn't supposed to happen.
But the good book tells us that our days are numbered and known from the beginning of time. The cycle is longer for some than for others and it's a mystery we may never know until it becomes our time.
At least Adenhart was living his dream and was reaching his goals. How many of us can say that about our lives? His last game was masterful and won't be forgotten because of its timing. His father got to see it happen and can cherish that memory forever. That won't lessen the pain, but it should bring a smile between the tears now and then.
The truth is, my friend, that each one of those 37,000 is a tragedy. And tragedy is happening around us all the time. With television so gritty and so in your face, we get desensitised and numb to the pain all around us. Perhaps it's time to not only mourn Nick Adenhart, but all those who lost loved ones this past week or month or year. Maybe it's time to shake off the Novocaine and start reaching out to those who hurt.
Real life intruded on our fantasies again, just as spring felt so new and refreshing after such a long hard winter. But reality is what it is. We may numb ourselves with television, with the Internet or with booze and drugs, but reality is always there. Some times it can be breathtakingly beautiful and other times, it can be a real ugly pit.
Nick Adenhart had a wonderful smile. Maybe we can honor him and all those 37,000 by showing someone a real kindness today and tomorrow. Maybe we can take a moment to stop fearing and hating people we don't understand or know. Maybe we can mourn and rejoice. Either life condition is far better than being numb.