Death. The first time I encountered the phenomenon was with my Father. We were living in Northglenn at the time, and I was only 14 years old. He had come home the day before from a sales trip, and had taken on repainting the trim around the house.
I was "helping" him when the weather turned nasty, and I started taking stuff back into the house. It couldn't have been more than a couple of minutes when my sister screamed. I ran outside to find my Father on the ground, collapsed next to his car. He was gone, the victim of a heart attack.
Death became personal in 1982, when my world was turned upside-down with the diagnosis of a broken neck and consequent surgery. Wearing a halo brace, I was feeling really low one day, and I sat myself down at the dining room table with a loaded pistol and a note pad in front of me. I wanted to write down how I felt, about not being able to get around like I used to, not being able to work, my wife being pregnant with our first child, etc. Because of everything, I felt like less of a man. I started writing, and soon found myself writing a poem about Death. Incidentally, it took me 20 years to realize, as of last November, that The Lord was with me that day, but that's another story, if not a book.
I have talked to many people who have considered suicide. One common denominator amongst them is they regularly think about it. Why? Because ‘It is the only constant in their lives. Look around your life and see the way things change, every day, even by the minute. It can be overwhelming.
From my perspective, a person who contemplates suicide has done so over a period of time, so there are indications of the impending event. It's not like a person wakes up one morning with the Klingon philosophy on their mind: “Today is a good day to die”. 20/20 hindsight is Man's greatest attribute, and those that are left in the wake of a suicide say things like “I didn't think he'd do it”, or “I should have seen it coming”.
But people die every day from occurrences that are not of their doing. Because of the unexpected suddenness, people should be prepared. Sounds rather contradictory, but it makes sense.
First, and I'm sure you've all heard it before, you should have a will and life insurance. I want to take this a step further. If you can afford it, have a small life insurance policy entrusted to a friend, or somebody who can front the monies. That way, in the event of your death, people who cannot otherwise afford to travel to your funeral can do so with the proceeds from the policy. Disclaimer: Always check with your financial and legal consultants before doing anything.
In a letter to Dear Abby the writer was bemoaning the fact that an old friend had died. Because she hadn't heard from her friend in a while, she set out to find out if there was a problem, and consequently was informed by the family about the death. Similarly, I had a Great Aunt that had died, and one day when I inquired about her health, was told she had died six months before! Obviously non-notification is a common problem.
So, make a list of the people you want informed upon your demise. This can be incorporated into the will, left with a friend or the executor of the estate. See disclaimer.
Finally, have the last word. Literally. Make up tapes or CD's for the people you LOVE, telling them about the way you feel towards them. Tell your kids how proud you are, your spouse about the wonderful life you had, etc. Use your imagination and be nice; This may be your lasting legacy.
And remember, someday it may be too late to tell them you LOVE them, so do it today.
Scott Murray is a professional driver who lives in Carr with his wife and two sons, whom he LOVES.
(Originally published in the Greely Tribune 9-07-2001. Scott will soon have a book published about his exploits and insights while driving coast to coast)