Thursday, November 20, 2008


Two pics herein--both from tonight's finished-after-sunset ride.

Last week I received news that a high school sweetheart had passed away at the way too young age of 38. There isn't much of an upshot to the story--she'd fought cancer for the better part of a decade, and left behind 4 young kids and a grieving husband and extended family.

Although I hadn't seen her in ~18 years, the news hit hard. Harder than it used to. As I age and my friends and family do the same, the frequency of receiving 'news' like this increases. But instead of becoming accustomed or adapted to it I seem to be going the opposite direction. Each time it hits a little harder and a little closer.

Perhaps that's the way it's s'posed to be for the lucky among us--a little at a time so as not to be completely devastating?

Then, just a few days later, some combination of factors led to B, E, and I descending a local (very exposed) section of tech trail on our bikes. We rounded a corner near the bottom and there in the trail was a hysterical woman trying to find her dog. With a little coercion we were able to learn that her dog had gone over the edge. If you've been on this trail you don't even need to look over the edge to know what the eventual outcome of falling there would be. We all scrambled searching down the talus slope and B was first to spot the dog. She was alive and conscious when he got to her, though barely, and after a few tense minutes we all agreed that getting her to a vet ASAP beat the heck out of any other alternative. We took turns carrying her back up the steep, techy trail, her owner frantically and hysterically apologizing to anyone that'd listen. The pitch of the trail and the weight of the dog meant that we had to spell each other on the way up. I took first shift, then E, then B. Almost to the top B handed her off to me one last time, and as I came within sight of the owner's car I felt the dog tense up momentarily and then go limp. Tears welling in my eyes and hyperventilating as I rushed her up the hill, I couldn't bear to linger long enough to find out if what I was sure had just happened actually had. We bade the woman (and her family) good luck and they sped off to find an ER vet.

The mood at the start of today's ride was light but quickly dropped to melancholy. A very young and very good friend of the Doc was just told that his cancer is terminal. 2 toddlers and a wife shortly to be left behind.

What's it all mean? What's it all for? Why are we born to die? Why do some go so soon, especially those that seem to merit a longer existence? Am I next? If not, why not?

I don't even know the right questions yet, much less where to start groping for answers. Far more educated and articulate scholars have failed miserably in their quest to answer the above.

I do know this: Death cannot be related to a certain number or order of demerits in life--if it was then Heather should have been among the last to go.

In the absence of appropriate questions or answers I only know to go on. I don't see much point in living poorly or regretfully, which leaves the option of living fully and enjoying what I have as long as I have it.

Going upstairs to hug the family now. Not that I don't do that several times a day anyway, but if they were given to introspection they might notice being held a little tighter and a little longer tonight.



  1. I unfortunately understand your feelings too well. Especially this year. I like your ending, though. Enjoy the heck out of the family and friends around!

  2. I like your thoughts here, another good post. "May you live all the days of your life."
    -Jonathan Swift

  3. Sad stories, true words, important advice.

    Signing out to go hug the family too.

  4. As a father of leukemia warrior, I can tell you that events as these will change your life's priorities.

    You will savor the the littlest of victories and scoff at what used to be "tragic". Things that used to get under you skin will roll off with little, or no, effect.

    The family hugs, "I love you" and spiritual connection move to the top of the list.

  5. Death visits us, and our own is always out there somewhere. Being reminded by seeing others times come hurts and helps. Enjoy the days and appreciate the important things like being good to our families, friends, and animals.

    A small comfort I would take in the experience with the dog: she was spared a solitary death. She got to go knowing that somebody cared enough to come to her aid.

  6. "But instead of becoming accustomed or adapted to it I seem to be going the opposite direction. Each time it hits a little harder and a little closer."

    As we get older, hopefully we become less self-centered, more empathetic and our hearts open up a bit. So these situations hurt more but that's a good and mature thing.

    Lovely pictures, very appropriate.


  7. Some of those questions have answers...some do not. But there can be peace even in the face of un-answered questions.

    Even with that, I understand your feelings. It can be overwhelming at times.

  8. Another thought...

    Profound book.

  9. Hey Mike,

    I am sending my WB fork back for the second time today. If it comes back and doesn't work (again) I will be putting my Lunchbox frame up for sale. Unfortunately I let it sit in the garage for the last ~6 months, now that the 6" bike is out I don't know if I will be able to unload it. Major bummer all around...

  10. Death is a grossly painful reminder of our frailty. The piercing twinge of loss and despair is inescapable at the times like you describe.
    When we are able to escape it, we're usually simply purposefully naive or just have that ignorant amnesia that allows us temporary comfort.

    My worldview is shaped by a Creator who I believe is personal and involved with his creation, foremost of whom are humans. I believe this Creator identifies with our pain, no matter its cause.

    I will pray for your friends family and the family of that lovely canine who met a dark fate. I will pray for you and yours also.

  11. Powerful post, MC. You have given my thoughts a voice once again. Live each day as if it were your last!

  12. "Be glad of life because it gives us the chance to live, love, work, play, and look at the stars." -Henry Van Dyke

  13. Wow. Gulp. Hard stuff.

    Thanks for the honesty and vulnerability.

    We are frail creatures no doubt. Unfortunately, I feel like way more than a sophisticated animal.

    Forgive me an extended quotation, but I thought it appropriate to the situation, and I personally lack the appropriate eloquence:

    "There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under heaven:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,

    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,

    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,

    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,

    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,

    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

    What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.

  14. i got the news today that one of my friends and teammates from my racing days had passed...he was 30 years old. what the hell? He was riding his bike on Wednesday through Richmond Park in London and witnesses said he simply wobbled and collapsed to the floor, he died later that day in hospital. I hadn't seen him in 3 years since he drove me to the airport when i moved to the US. I simply don't know what to think, he was one of the nicest, friendliest, funnest, most modest people I've had the privilege to know and feel honoured to call him a friend. I hadn't spoke to him for 3 weeks and that was on MSN messenger, I wish I had kept in touch more. He died doing what he loved and without pain but I wish some of the old crew were there with him so he wasn't alone, we'd have probably been suckin his wheel. RIP Dobbo, you'll be missed.

  15. I just finished The Shack after waiting years to get around to it, and have to second Grannygears recommendation. Great book.