What is Death? What is it to die? Death is perhaps Mankind’s greatest fear, mystery, and for all of us the final chapter in our lives. Many people fear Death, many embrace it, but do we truly understand it? “Death is the end of our existence” we say. The final chapter in our lives…Then what is it to exist? Is living the same as existing? To live, is all that is required of us to simply exist day in and day out? I am still young, at the age of twenty, but in my even younger days before all this happened it was always in the back of my mind that the words “You existed, but I have LIVED” would be on my headstone. It used to be a goal of mine to always live my life in a way that would fulfill that promise. Every day I held my life to that standard. Then again, goals as difficult as that one are never so easy to achieve. Standards like that cannot be applied with ease, but I did a damn good job at keeping that ONE promise to myself.
Then…Death walked into my life, but not in the way you’re probably thinking, and then again perhaps partially so…But in more than one way each more complex than you could ever begin to comprehend.
The story begins in 2009, the best year of my life…and the worst time in my life as well. I was a student in high school like most teens, living out a normal kid’s life. There were small problems, ups and downs, but we all have those to deal with and that is not the point of this. Those are just details that I will spare you the time of reading. Near the end of my Junior year I decided to graduate early and go to a technical school in Nashville, Tennessee to work on cars. Not just any cars, I wanted to work on race cars, I wanted to BUILD race cars. I had always had a fascination with speed. I knew the risks, and had always thought…”What’s the worst that could happen? I die?” That question makes me laugh now, every time I think it or say it, hear it, whatever. It makes me laugh because of the irony. I was, still am, and always will be unafraid to die. The irony, you are probably wondering about right now, is that there are much worse things than Death. Things you cannot even begin to comprehend, and I hope you never have to, because of that fact that comprehending them would mean you have probably experienced them. These are experiences that I would not wish upon anyone, no matter how evil or deserving you may consider them to be.
Towards the end of my last year in high school, on Sunday, April 12, 2009 I was at the same time on top of the world and as sad as I had ever been. You have no idea how it feels to be on a highway going a hundred miles an hour. It is the best feeling in the world. The speed, excitement, blissfulness and the small amount of fear in the back of your head keeping you alive are such an awesome, powerful, and intoxicating mix of emotions…But what happens when you lose that bit of fear and say “What’s the worst that could happen?”
Well, the answer is that you will find out, and the worst is far worse than Death.
As I came upon a turn in the road, I lost control of my car and spun off road over a creek and hit a tree. All I remember before that point is slamming the breaks, the car catching air, and my body floating upwards towards the roof of the car unrestrained by a seat belt. That part is what I remember most, like the calm before the storm. Just a blissful moment where everything is in slow motion and my body is literally floating in the air with my arms dangling outstretched peacefully. Then, as my head hit the roof, everything goes black and I wake up to the sound of sirens I don’t know how much later. My neck is completely broken, muscles, ligaments, everything just torn to pieces. Later I find out that quite literally the only thing attaching my head to my shoulders besides skin, was my spinal cord. Lucky to be alive, many would say. Even luckier that I’m not a quadriplegic, and for that I am truly thankful and will always be…But there are things far worse than Death, than pain, than having titanium screws drilled inside your spine, worse than having someone you love dearly die in a car crash months after you walk away from one only wishing there was something you could give to take their place. Yes, when it rains it pours.