After the thoroughly chilling events of this afternoon I was treated to a rather nice surprise by finding a brand spanking new Flying J just south of Milwaukee. The fuel pumps aren't even open yet, but they've got the lot open for parking and WiFi! Yippee.
I've been thinking about what happend all afternoon. I went back and re-read my entry about it. I was so shocked and in a hurry to update my journal ealier that I was appalled at my own writing. I guess it's because I was in such a hurry.
But yeah, I've been thinking about it. I had been in the process of working on a totally different journal entry about my trip through Lake Tahoe and what-not last week (which I still plan to post, but later when I have it finished). I had looked up and saw the truck sitting in the lane with the door flung open and a man on the ground pressing up and down. It's that image I've seen a thousand times on television and in film, the motion of a person giving life saving chest compressions to another person.
At that point, I didn't know what had happened. I saw a lady running across the parking lot, obviously frantic, toward another man walking from the direction of the truckstop building. She ran up to him and threw her arms around him. It may be more appropriate to say she collapsed into him. I don't know if he was some friend they had met there while they were in the area or maybe they had met briefly in the truckstop over lunch, I don't know. My hunch at that point was that she was the wife of the gentleman on the ground and that he had probably had a heart attack. I later would find all of this to be the case, but I also wondered if maybe she was the driver and had hit someone walking in the parking lot, but I soon dismissed it because I figured if that was the case, the police surely wouldn't let her be roaming around the parking lot at that moment.
And then the events unfolded pretty much as I so crudely stated them earlier. But the real reason for this addendum to the day's events is to collect my thoughts on the matter. As I said, I've been thinking about it all day. Things of this nature tend to do that to a person. Mostly I thought about how tenuous a proposition life is. I imagined the two of them were probably a truck dirving team. Since he was driving, he was the night time driver, she the day time driver. They probably had a routine where they traded their shifts at mid-day so that they both shared a portion of the daylight and night time driving, and probably took a small break at this time of day to spend some time together while neither of them were sleeping. They probably had just had a meal in the Flying J and browsed around the store. They probably had conversations about kids and grandkids. Perhaps they quarrled over money matters as couples often do, or, about which was the better route to take on their trip, as drivers are wont to do. They were an older couple, in their fifties or sixties and I'm sure the thought that the day would come when one of them would lose the other had occured to both of them, but I'm sure neither of them thought today would be that day. Words and actions passed between them like any other day, possibly at the very moment he had his heart attack.
I imagine it must've been a sudden, massive heart attack. To hop behind the wheel of your truck and pull from the parking space out into the travelling lanes of the lot is no simple task. As with any task, a knack is developed with reptition and familiarity, and a person goes through the motions without thinking about them. But It requires complex movements and thoughts: releasing the air braking systems, clutching and shifting at least a couple of the lower gears, checking anywhere from 4 to 6 mirrors as you slide 70 feet of steel, aluminum, and fiberglass from between two other 70 ft, $100,000 pieces of road equipment I can't imagine that the symptoms associated with a mild heart attack like shortness of breath and numbness in the arms would've allowed him to perform this task. I imagine one moment he was fine and the next he was... gone.
And that's mostly how I've been thinking about it. In terms of how unexpected the end can be. It didn't really ponder my own mortality and why are here. I'm pretty much set in my thoughts on those things. I have no fear of my own death, I've already come to terms with that. In fact, it's somewhat safe that I am fully prepared to die. Sure there are more things in life I would like to experience, but I've been working hard at living a full life. I've had the opportunity to do a lot of things that many people never have and never will experience. This isn't to say I have a death wish either, just that I'm content with the life I have lived to this point. I don't forsee me making some grand accomplishment that I need more time for, so if tomorrow is the day I go, so be it. And quite frankly, when I do go, I hope it's like that gentleman, although maybe not quite so publicly. But I find comfort in the manner of his death. He wasn't lying in a hospital bed somewhere, decrepit and feeble. He was living his life, seeing the world, and doing it with someone he loved. I have no desire to be old. And by old I mean, ancient old; bed ridden old. I want to just wear out one day, and not cling to every last rattling, breath in a nursing home.
Today's events only re-affirmed my philosophy on life. It's short and there's a big world out there and I'll never do it all, but I'll do what I can in the time I have. I will eat, drink and be merry. I will let the people I care about know how I feel about them every chance I have. I will not let relationships stew over petty disagreements. I will never again work some boring, soul-less job just to pay the bills and get by. I will not spend half of my life in gyms and eating tasteless crap so that I can add a few extra years to the END of my life.
Instead I'm going to enjoy the good ones in the middle with as much gusto as I can muster. I may die before you, but I'll be smiling.