You’re going to run out of days
I usually turn my phone off on the weekends because I like peace and quiet. I’ve always loved being in charge of my technology, and if people need me, they can leave a message.
On Monday morning I listened to a cryptic voicemail message when I turned the phone back on. It was from a woman whose name I recognized from passing conversation with my wife. She did not leave her number but did say she was a friend of my brother and sister in law.
My heart stopped, and my stomach turned over.
We immediately called Jeff, my wife’s brother. When he answered, he could barely talk because he was crying so much.
Coming home from celebrating their 28th anniversary, Sunday evening, Rebecca, his wife, had been using her phone to tweet pictures of their dinner. She clicked the post button, gasped, and died right in the front seat of their car.
The phone fell to the floor, and her head rolled forward. Jeff started screaming and pounding on her shoulder to wake her up while he was driving. He screeched into the parking lot of the garage where the county ambulances are kept, ran over and hammered on the door until someone answered.
They did CPR, used the paddles, and drove her to the hospital. But she was gone.
In less time than it takes to send a tweet, Rebecca’s life was over.
Just like that.
Susan and I were married when we were 50. We each had lifetimes before that but had known each other in high school. I had known her brother tangentially back then when he was a gangly 12- year old. But almost 30 years later he was a giant of man, a builder for very high-end custom homes.
Rebecca was the love of his life. They had met, fallen in love, and gotten married over the course of a year. Four months after their wedding she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She survived the cancer and the treatments, but her chances of surviving a pregnancy were very slim. Even though they both wanted kids, they elected to have none.
Their worlds were intertwined to the point where you could barely separate them. On the phone, through his tears, Jeff said over and over that in the blink of an eye, his world was gone. “People keep asking me what they can do, and I just say bring my wife back.” It was heartbreaking.
In my first marriage, I had two sisters-in-law. Both married to men, both angry to the core. Their dad had left their mom when they were young, and every man they met afterward was punished in their father’s place. They did not like me.
Rebecca was different
Rebecca was a breath of fresh air. She was smart, she was one helluva a cook, and she liked wine. I don’t mean she was a drunk, just that when she had a drink, she had red wine. She liked me and I liked her.
Over the years, she and I exchanged bottles of wine and wine paraphernalia at Christmas. It was fun; it was light; it was the kind of relationship you wanted with your in-laws.
Jeff and Rebecca created their own life together. They had many friends, but none of those friends took the place they held sacred for their relationship. They not only loved each other but liked each other, and now that life they built is gone.
We live in an instant age. We expect instant answers to any electronic communications we send. I wonder what Rebecca’s Twitter followers would think if they knew she died the instant after she pushed the send button.
If they responded or re-tweeted, who would know? Notifications of their electronic replies would pile up in Rebecca’s inbox, never to be seen. It’s strange to think that in the space of time it takes to tweet, I could die, and nobody looking at my post would ever know.
We are connected digitally, but at the same time, we are separated from each other.
Jeff was no more than two feet away from his wife when she died. He’ll remember that moment every day for the rest of his life.
Each of our days is filled with countless moments that could count if we paid attention. Perhaps each moment is not so dramatic as life and death, but each is packed with meaning just the same.
I’m not interested in passing by any more moments lost in thoughts of something that is not happening in the present. The amount of time it takes for life to change is measured in nanoseconds, and however they are, I want to experience each of mine from now on.