(Warning: sad content about a fatal motor vehicle accident).
Yesterday afternoon I went for a run. Well, more accurately, it was a jog and walk mix up, doing three minute intervals of each. Considering how sick I’ve been over the last few months and how little exercise I’ve gotten in (I haven’t gone on a run in way too long), I’m really rather proud of myself!
It was a sun-filled, warm afternoon. I wanted to get an idea of where I have to run around here, what the scenery and paths are like, sideswalks vs. grass, quiet roads vs. busy streets and so on. I used my RunKeeper app to notice the mileage and keep track of landmarks – I now have a great idea of whereabouts my half-mile and mile marks are, etc.
The pooch was happy to stretch his legs. The worst part about me being sick and not going for runs is that the pooch doesn’t get to go jog either. Now, he’s had a lot of chance to play lately. At the hotel in Hawaii there was a doggie park for him, all during our trip he got to hang out with other pooches and play, and without fenced-in yards – to go potty he was taken on walks. So it’s not like he’s all cooped up… but the pooch LOVES going for runs with me. He was so excited he pulled on the leash the entire time, to the point that it was straining and annoying.
While I was out I had the music pumping, I took some fun snapshots with my iPhone camera. I was really stoked for myself, exercising again, getting some sun, checking out my new home, etc.
I was on my way back to the house, jogging my last “run” interval when I looked further down the road and I saw a ton of dirt and dust clouding up into the air. Traffic started backing up and I could see cars swerving and zig-zagging. Something was wrong, and I could just tell. It seemed like an accident. So I took off in a sprint and tore down the road.
I am so out of shape, and I’m sore today already… but when I can tell something serious has happened, that lifeguard in me just responds and I sprinted the whole way there. I got to scene and started yelling, “I’m an RN, is anyone hurt?”
I could see one conversion van, blue with handicap decals and a wheelchair ramp, just smashed to pieces and sticking out into the road at a weird, dangerous angle. I saw a semi truck in the opposite lane pulled over, and who appeared to be the driver, trying to direct traffic.
From what I initially gathered, one man was dead and the other was fine – no one else claimed to have been involved and no one else said they were hurt. The deceased was pinned underneath the rear axle of the blue van, and the scene was just horrendous.
Some volunteer firefighters on the scene started calling up more guys. They said they would need a lot of help, and I asked if I should run home to get Duggs (“my husband’s a Marine – do you need him?” – “oh yeah, go get him now!”).
So I sprinted home as fast as I could, got Duggs and we hurried back to the accident. It all happened a country block away from Nick’s house (where we live now) and we could see the whole thing from the end of our driveway. By the time we got back there so many professionals were on the scene and taking care of everything, they didn’t need us at all and we were told we could go home.
Now. I did take some photos with my phone. I was worried that people were going to try and move the car or move the man, so since I was the first one on the scene with a camera – I just started taking some photos in case things weren’t left as is (I was just trying to do anything I could to help). No. I will not post those photos or share them. I’m going to delete them actually, the officer directing the scene already told me he didn’t need them (it turns out they didn’t end up moving the vehicles or the man).
I went back home and I just felt so weird. I was so sad for the man who died and for his family. I know accidents happen all the time, people die everyday – but it’s sad when you deal with it firsthand, so up close. And I was all mixed up. I had been so happy, so excited to be out on a run – and now patting myself on the back felt weird. It felt disrespectful or inappropriate.
But life has to go on, right?
I didn’t know the man who was killed yesterday. I’m not suffering or grieving his loss. But I know that many are, and that’s what makes me sad. After we got back to the house I went out back to the vineyards and jogged, walked, prayed, and just cooled down. I aksed God to bless the man who lost his life, to comfort his family, loved ones, the other driver and everyone involved. Other than praying, I wasn’t really sure what to do.
Today in the news I saw the story about the accident.
Turns out the man who died was a very well-known and respected former public official: John Dillenburg.
He’s been serving in government since the 70s, he was in the national guard and he went to State Ranger school out here. His whole life he’s given back to his community and the people around him. His wife of 45 years survives him, along with his daughter and grand-daughter.
Forty-five years of marriage. Wow.
My heart breaks for his wife, and now I ask God to bring her comfort and peace. I just can’t imagine what she’s going through. I wish there would have been something we could have done, some way we could have helped or saved him. But that’s not how this played out. The only respite is that he didn’t suffer, it all must have happened so quickly.
Here’s the link to the news story, you can read all about his service and the work he did in this part of the country.
While I am happy to have gone on a run and to have worked out, I’m just left in an interesting state of mind. I’ll take this experience as a call to appreciate life, to recognize how fragile we are, how fleeting and delicate life can be. Each day is a gift, and every day we encounter so many blessings.
I’m in awe of God’s beautiful creation – coming from amazing Hawaii to wester New York, which although different in scenery, is another gorgeous, green, natural place. I love living here so far, and I’m so grateful for my life. I’m so grateful that I felt well enough to go running yesterday, that my husband and loved ones were alive and well at the end of the day.
Even on our worst days, there is so much gratitude to fill our hearts to overflowing. Ever since having cancer, I try to approach and value every day as so special. But it’s easy to get caught up, it’s easy to get into a routine and come to know distraction.
So while yesterday is a tragedy and it’s sad, and the whole thing horrifies me and hurts my heart, at least I can try and take away some lessons. A wake up call, a reminder, a poignant and painful lesson about just how precious every moment is.
I know I hugged Duggs much tighter than usual last night. And I hope everyone who’s blessed enough to have your loved ones alive and well will do the same. Be glad for all that you do have.
As always, thanks for reading my blog.