Tragedy is a Teaching Moment

I was going to do a follow up post about the pace of game rules, and I still may do that at some point, but I decided to go a different route with my next post.  On Wednesday night we heard some news that many of us had dreaded to hear.  We learned that Oscar Taveras had been intoxicated (apparently excessively so) when he crashed his car in the Dominican Republic on October 26, killing himself and his 18 year old girlfriend.  This was devastating news, but for many, not completely unexpected.

Oscar was very young, only 22 years old, and one thing that is universal about young people is their sense of indestructibility.  When one thinks of death, one usually sees it as a result of age and infirmity.  Death to a young and healthy person seems like it just can’t happen, that there is so much life ahead to live.  While that perception may appear to be a little ignorant and naive, it is understandable why young people think that way.  How many of us thought about death when we were 22 years old?  I know I didn’t.

Because young people don’t think about death, they have a tendency to engage in risky behaviors.  It is a part of the joy of living, but those behaviors have a dark side.  One of those risky behaviors is drinking alcohol and driving an automobile.  Intellectually, we all know it is risky and we know the dangers, yet something inside the mind of a young person who is having fun just turns that fear of danger off like flipping off a light switch.  The alcohol itself certainly contributes heavily to that; it impairs the brain’s ability to reason and make judgments.  The thing is though, the ability to reason and make judgments still exists before the first drink is taken.  The knowledge that if I drink too much of this I could get in a lot of trouble, is still there in the computer chips of our brains.  It is at that moment that the rubber meets the road. Unfortunately, for many that moment passes quickly and the drink is taken, and the next drink is taken, and before long that intellectual, reasoning part of our brain takes a nap.

That moment passed for Oscar, and the drinks were taken, and the reasoning stopped, and he got into a car and drove fast on a wet road…..and he died.  The reasoning stopped for good.

Now the rest of us are left to grieve, and yes, in some cases be angry and pass judgment.  How could Oscar have been so stupid?  Many have asked that question, and as a result have blamed Oscar for his own death and the death of his girlfriend.  Is that an improper judgment?  Well no, not in the sense that factually, Oscar’s voluntary actions did cause his death.  Or perhaps more accurately, they more likely than not caused his death.  The accident could have occurred anyway, even if Oscar had been stone cold sober.  Stuff happens, no matter how careful we may be.

That’s the thing about these types of tragic deaths.  Sometimes it just happens.  We want to explain it, we want to blame someone or something, because 22 year olds are not supposed to die.  This particular tragedy most likely could have been avoided, but are we absolutely sure?  If you are, then you have your own problems and maybe should see a therapist about your God Complex.

I am 55 years old and I have seen and done a lot of things.  Some of them have been stupid.  Some of them have been recent and stupid.  The idea that with age comes wisdom is horse hockey.  Yes, there are certain things that you learn along the way that you never understand when you are young. Experience does teach, but it doesn’t make you infallible.  The most important thing to understand is whether young or old, YOU DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING.  It is a shame that too many people don’t get that.  I don’t care how smart you are, you can always learn.  You can always grow in understanding.

So the moral of this story is this.  Be sad, be angry, feel what ever you want to feel about Oscar’s death.  He’s gone and he’s never coming back and that is a tragedy no matter how it happened or who or what is to blame.   What you shouldn’t be is smug and complacent in your judgment.   Learn something from this, even if you never drink and drive.  Let yourself absorb and reflect on this tragedy.  Keep your mind open.  Personal growth does not have a time limit.

Thank you for reading.

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1 Comment

  1. Jen Layne

     /  November 14, 2014

    This is one of the very best blogs, best articles, best anything I have ever read. Bravo Marilyn!!



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