Recently I went to a funeral which nobody present is ever likely to forget. It had been a dramatic, tragic death. But it did not hit the headlines. It was much too common. The wooden box contained a boy, just 17, son of a work colleague. He was a healthy, happy, active youth, member of a local motorbike club - a leader of the pack. A very safe, careful rider, everyone said.
One Sunday he set out on an errand in his quiet suburban neighbourhood and never came back. A week later, the police were still trying to work out what happened. Two cars and a concrete lamppost were involved. An ambulance came in record time. The doctors who spent several hours trying to put together the bits were weeping at the finish.
So were mourners at the cemetery. He must have been a popular boy. There were as many people standing as sitting in the crematorium, with every age, class, race and hairstyle represented. The occasion was secular and not too sombre. After the orations, his girlfriend played a few of his favourite rap songs. It seemed fitting. We were celebrating a good life: light-hearted, sensible, funny, generous, full of hope and love and promise.
There were many emotions as the blue curtains closed - shock, sympathy, anger at the pointless pity of it, even perhaps a frightful feeling that the fates had been propitiated: at least it wasn’t my child. For the funeral-parlour staff it was however just all part of the day’s work; there’s nothing unusual, after all, about the death of a teenager on two wheels.
Perhaps it is because road killings are so ordinary, when they happen to strangers that we take them for granted. Big, comfortably remote mega-death disasters get the attention. But it is the mundane, domestic motor smash that takes the most lives, causing violent death on a scale only exceeded by the slaughter of war. Drink is the biggest killer. Excessive speed, faulty brakes or steering, a split second’s inattention, a signal not given, can also be deadly. And the victim’s only offence is usually to have been, by bad luck, in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“He will be remembered,” it was said at the funeral. Yet what will never be known, or remembered, are the things which those that are lost might have said, or done, or been. “If only” gives birth to a thousand regrets. Unpredictable and unmotivated, accidents shatter faith in an ordered world and destroy belief in reason and endeavour. Sickness has a cause. An accident is often sheer stupidity.
Yet which of us can say that we have never - behind a wheel - gambled with the lives of others? Accidents provide no explanation, no comfort for the bereaved. If, however, a moment’s reflection on their absurdity may lead a driver to drink one glass less, or check the mirror before turning, a mother or brother or lover maybe luckier than they will ever know - and a commonplace statistic will not have been in vain.
Everything happens for a reason – this happening may be the wake up call for some wayward motorist; or maybe the wake up call for another to the fleetness of life and how unprepared we may be for the hereafter… - God bless ~ SB