Life is surreal sometimes, and we never know what might happen. It’s been six years since I witnessed my friend get run over by a car right in front of her house just a few hours before I left to travel New England in the fall. It was October 2011, and yet it feels like yesterday.
Tonight [or more accurately last night since it is now well past 3a] I saw a friend of mine get hit by a car. She was pronounced dead about an hour after after it happened. To be fair, we weren’t best friends, but we did have a fair amount of classes together at Clemson, and I have studied at her house quite a bit so not only did I know her, I knew her husband and kids too. Tricia was a non-trad student–like me, but she was tons more outgoing that I will ever be. Tricia had one goal for her education–and that was to become a physician. She didn’t waiver. She didn’t have any doubts. She knew that she would go to Clemson, then go to medical school, and then be an Emergency Department physician. I was always impressed by that. I always have doubts of whether I should go to medical school or not, whether I should go to nursing school or not–what exactly my career path should be. I have doubts about whether to get married or not. Tricia married Warren right out of high school, and never thought twice about it. I question constantly whether I ever want to get married, and sometimes whether I even want to be in a relationship.
Is it harder to be here one minute and gone the next? Or is it harder to suffer for awhile and then just pass into the next beyond? Tricia was older than me, but not by that much, and the way she died was a freak accident.. One minute she was here, and then JUST LIKE THAT, she was gone–hit by a car while trying to help a neighbor’s dog who had been hit by a different car. I know the details; I have worked in an ER. This wasn’t the first time I have had brain tissue on my hands, but it was the first time I’ve held brains of a friend. She wasn’t alone when she died; she had the love of her life beside her.
I stopped by her house after work to drop off MCAT books. I was planning to stay only a few minutes; I’m leaving for vacation later today. But Tricia wanted to show me her new kitchen, so I went in and looked around. It was nice. I was there when there was a knock on the door. I was there when Tricia put on her shoes to go look at the injured dog. I was there when Warren went to the neighbor’s house to tell them their dog had been hit by a car. I was standing in their driveway when I heard the car’s engine rev up. I was still standing there when I heard a thud. The rest of what happened was in slow motion.
The car kept going. I ran to Tricia. Warren screamed. She was still alive when I got to her but her head was split open. I tried to stop the bleeding. Eventually an ambulance came. Warren went with her. I went home…blood [and brains] still on my hands and scrubs.
When you see someone you know have their life snuffed out in front of you, it leaves a permanent mark. Because sometimes people have an affect on your life….even if you aren’t particularly aware of it at the time.
So…to Tricia…you are in a better place. I know you wanted to be here to live your dream of becoming a physician, of seeing your daughter go to prom and graduate high school…to see your son graduate from Clemson…to grow old with your husband. Your family will miss you. Your friends will miss you, but you have inspired many people to follow their dreams. I am one of those people. Rest in peace, Tricia, my friend.
http://www.independentmail.com/news/2011/oct/01/woman-killed-car-driver-charged/ from the local Anderson paper
http://www.wyff4.com/news/29359594/detail.html from the local TV station
from her husband’s Facebook page October 1, 2011:
As I look around the house tonight, I see her in everything that surrounds me. The way she painted the walls, the decorations, the smells and my two awesome kids that have her personality. I miss her so very much.
Here is the story, the other night we were just sitting watching tv and catching up with a friend, when we here a knock at the front door. It is a lady that asks if our dog is out because someone just hit one. I get my shoes on and so does Tricia. Sure enough the neighbors’ dog has been hit and is lying in the ditch, dying. I go to check the neighbors’ door, but no one is home. I turn around and head back to the dog, by the time I get half way across the lawn, I hear a motor revving and then a thump. Someone has just hit my darling Tricia. I run to her and cradle her in my arms, all the while screaming for help and for someone to call an ambulance. In my eyes she is still as beautiful as the day I meet her. I tell her I love her and I am here for her. I think she can hear me so I continue to tell her to hang on and I love her. The ambulance takes her to the hospital where she passes away. Life will never be the same.
The 24 year old girl who hit her is arrested for felony DUI and Manslaughter, but is already out on bail of $10,000 tonight.
We’ve all heard the saying “Life is short.” And, sometimes, it is.
But life is also unpredictable.
Even though we all probably have dreams and goals and plans for our lives, there are certain things we have no control over.
Our lives could be going along on right on track, only to be shattered by something we could never have seen coming.
A tornado that rips through a neighborhood. A flood that devastates a city. And these are just the unpredictable things nature can bring about. There are also accidents, health problems, financial woes…
Life is too fleeting and changeable to take for granted.
I know where I would like my life to be headed in the coming months and years. But there are no guarantees that things will go as planned. In fact, more likely than not, nothing will go as planned.
How often do we hear others say, “Oh, I’ll travel when I retire,” “I’ll travel when the kids are grown,” “I’ll travel when the house is paid off”? I hear these excuses all the time. But you know what happens? Age. And stress. And, well, life.
Life happens, and by the time you retire and your kids are grown and your house is paid off, you might have bad knees and weak lungs and you simply can’t visit all those places you dreamed about in your youth.
How sad. I don’t want to end up like that, holding on to youthful travel dreams that will never be reality.
So I travel now, in whatever way and to whatever place I can. I scrimp and I save and I make it happen. I volunteer. I get grants. I grasp at every opportunity and unique adventure.
I travel with reckless abandon — often to the detriment of my wallet, but to the benefit of my soul.
Is this wise? Probably not, especially if you’re a long-term traveler. But, for someone like me who tends to take shorter trips to distant places, I attack travel with a no-holds-barred attitude.
Unique experiences–If I think they are worth it, then I will not hesitate to shell out for them . Sure, I’d like to think I’ll be back to Ireland or Italy or Argentina someday. But what if I never make it back?
I don’t want to have any regrets in my life, and this includes travel regrets.
I know not everyone shares this philosophy, though. Many travelers stick to a strict budget so they can travel for as long as possible. Others simply don’t want to pay for anything beyond the necessities.
Why would you come literally halfway around the world to hoard your money? Would you go to China and not visit the Great Wall because it costs money? Would you go to Italy and skip visiting the Vatican because it requires an admission ticket?
There are so many worthwhile experiences to be had in the world — and yes, many of them require money. But it’s my travel philosophy that you shouldn’t deny yourself any of these experiences just because they come with a price-tag.
If you are privileged enough to be able to afford to travel, then you should attack it with curiosity and vigor and a sense of adventure. And to hell with the bank account.
So travel now. Make memories. And enjoy your life. Because you never know if a car will mow you down in front of your house.
At the end of the day, I’d rather die with a million memories than a million dollars.
Money won’t comfort me on my deathbed, but knowing that I lived a full and fulfilling life might.
Whatever your dreams are, follow them… because you never know what might happen…