Wednesday, May 27, 2015

An Unfortunate End

Sorry in advance: This is going to be one of those blog posts where I get all introspective and stuff. 

Seriously. Real Debbie Downer material. 

This weekend, John Nash, the genius mathematician who was the subject of the film A Beautiful Mind, died in a car crash along with his wife. He was 86 years old. 

His death made the news media outlets across the internet including where the posting of Nash's death shared the page with some other stories. 

Yeah, not good. (Eventually NBC moved things around a bit.)

I'm not going to pontificate on John Nash or the film about his life. If I may, I'm going to be a bit selfish (it is my blog after all) to ponder something that really bothers me. 

John Nash died in a car accident at age 86.  

A few months ago, 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon died as a result of a car accident at the age of 73.

No one gets to pick and choose when and how we die. (Well, maybe you can but that's a hot topic for another time.) But there's a certain tragic twist when someone has lived a long life, makes it to old age but they don't get to die in their bed of old age or any related illnesses or conditions. No, they get taken out by a car crash. Or a gunshot. Or a fire. Or some other form of catastrophic tragedy. 

Fate is funny like that, I guess. I'm not sure what I expect out of life or death. Certainly not fairness. Maybe I think life is like the game of Sorry. You move your pieces around the board; at any moment, any of your opponents can zap you and send you back to Start. But eventually you make your way to a Safety Zone where no one can get you. Then you go to the final position where you stay safe and sound. 

Until the game is over. 

There is no safety zone in real life. You don't cross a magic line and get a pass on being killed by a tragic accident.  "Congratulations! You've made it to 70! From here on out, you will live your life until it is over. No stabbings or gunshots, no fires or auto accidents."

So at what age is it OK to die in an auto accident? Or in a fire? Or from being shot? Of course it's a stupid question because it's never OK for anyone to die as a victim of any of these calamities. It will always be a tragedy at any age. 

But there is something that pokes at the corners of my brain when I hear of an older person dying in such a way. I think that we come to accept that for someone older, in the twilight of their life, the clock is ticking and it seems such an affront to make it so far only for the clock to be broken before it can wind down. 

But that applies to everyone, young and old, doesn't it? The clock is ticking for all of us and sometimes the clock is shattered before the time is through. 

Death is fair only in that it comes for everyone. But when and how, well, that's where Death is a cheating bastard. John Nash at 86 years old, he probably figured he would die in a bed somewhere, not in the mangled wreckage of a car. 

For all of us, there is always an end. And none of us has any say on whether or not it is an unfortunate end. 

Remember to be good to one another.   

Whoa. Hey, I tried to warn you. Maybe for the next post I will come up with something more fun...ish. 

Carl Kasell

I was saddened to hear of the death of Carl Kasell, a distinctive voice on NPR’s "Morning Edition" and "Wait, Wait ... Don...