Tuesday, May 06, 2008

What If. . .

The community at my community college is currently grieving--in the space of one week, two young students have been killed in auto accidents, for which neither was at fault. One was the daughter, in fact only child, of one of the faculty. The other was a young man who had made quite an impact in terms of his curiosity for learning, and his love of books. I had neither of them as students and did not know them at all. But such news does affect us all--perhaps in a John Donne kind of way--"the bell tolls for thee."


Each of these young people was an example of great promise lost. They had shown abilities that foreshadowed the lives they might have lived. But, of course, now they will not.


The vicissitudes of life is one of those things I ponder. An apt metaphor used during the Middle Ages was the great wheel of fortune. I previously wrote about this concept when I considered why elections turn politicians out of office. The wheel of fortune turns. . .some days we rise with it, some days we fall.


Of course, a life lost is more than just the turn of a wheel. There is only one path to any of our lives (unless you are Shirley MacLaine). I have sometimes wondered what might have happened if just one small detail of my life had been changed.


My daugher introduced me to a movie that explores this concept--Sliding Doors. This movie explores the consequences of a split second of timing in a person's life. In one version of reality, things turn out positively for the main character; in the other version her existence is somewhat more dreary. The movie is somewhat mind-bending as it plays with reality.


It poses the question that the death of the two students poses--what if? What if either of them had been driving down the road at a moment sooner or later? What if. . .so many endless variations.



the photo is not of THE pond I fell in, but one from the Internet that I enhanced a bit.


The closest "what if" moment in my life occurred when I was a very small child. My parents were visiting some people who had a pond. I was a toddler, and wandered off from the adults. Soon after, the young daughter of the family found me face down in the pond. Obviously, I didn't drown. I don't know how precarious my situation was. All I know is that it could have been an incident with a tragic outcome. What if?

12 comments:

JeanMac said...

Great post - sometimes ponder that very thing. Often we will hear of an accident moments before or after we were delayed!

Ruth said...

How tragic that the lives of those young people were cut short. People try so hard to understand and influence "fate". I, like others can recount several near misses involving my family.

RuthieJ said...

This is a very thought-provoking post and a good reminder that we should never take anyone or anything in our lives for granted.

Lynne said...

I came away with the same thought as Ruthie did- things can and do change in an instant. Did you ever see the movie "Run, Lola, Run." It follows a similar theme.

possumlady said...

I'm going to a funeral tomorrow for a co-worker's 20 year old stepson who died of lymphoma. They suspect it was caused by a new crohn's disease drug he was taking that listed it (the rare form of cancer) as a very rare side effect. From diagnosis to death...only five months. "What if" indeed. Agree, very thought-provoking post.

Anonymous said...

I often ponder the same thing. My own “What if” was on the ship in (or on) the South Atlantic in 1921, when I as a babe rolled off the side of the top deck of the passenger liner. At least that was the report of the young single lady watching me then reported. She was known for embellishing the truth. She, so she said, caught me by my dress over the side, suspended over the ocean. (Boy babies wore dresses then, the fashion of the early 1920s.) What if she had not caught me? Where would you be? Or your children? Whom would your mother have married? Or, ad finitum? Now, though at nearly ninety years of age I find myself contemplating the brevity of life, any life. More on that sometime later?
Love,
Father ”C”

Anvilcloud said...

I can recall a few close ones too.

Denise said...

Did I know about the pond? I don't remember that story...or, I have forgotten. My heart goes out to the families of these tragic lives cut short. Especially, for obvious reasons, the parents who lost their only child. Words are not enough to express the feelings that accompany these tragedies.

Pam said...

I've had my share of close calls, and those "what if" moments always give you pause.

It is always sad when life is extinguished long before it should be.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

What if the doctor had come to the house after being called twice when my mother was ill. "I will come in the morning if she is not any better then?" Morning never broke for her. What if!

Mauigirl said...

I often think of those "what ifs." I saw "Sliding Doors" and thought it was a fascinating movie, playing out the "what ifs" to the full in the two versions of what may have happened.

Beverly said...

How terribly tragic for those young lives to be lost.

My "what if" came after Don was killed in the accident. What if he had been injured so badly that he could never do anything again. We all agreed that it would have been a fate worse than death.