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MailTribune.com
  • No do-overs: Death is so very permanent

  • Ten years ago this month, my friend, Jane, lost her only nephew, Aaron, when he attempted to ski down a large glacier in Alaska and plummeted to his death. During the tragic aftermath, a phrase I heard repeatedly was, "Well, at least he died doing what he loved most."
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  • Ten years ago this month, my friend, Jane, lost her only nephew, Aaron, when he attempted to ski down a large glacier in Alaska and plummeted to his death. During the tragic aftermath, a phrase I heard repeatedly was, "Well, at least he died doing what he loved most."
    I hate that sentence and I cringe whenever I hear it.
    I know it's meant to be consoling, but it doesn't really help the parents who lost their only son, the grandparents who lost their only grandchild, the young girl who lost her only sibling or the girlfriend who still grieves for him.
    The English poet John Donne wrote a poem called "No Man Is An Island." That line becomes particularly meaningful when the world loses a vibrant, talented, beloved young person with a huge circle of friends and family who are still missing him a decade later.
    Those who knew Aaron remember him as one who loved anything that increased his adrenalin level. As a child, he begged his father to read scary stories to him at night. As a teenager he loved nothing more than skiing down a diamond run at Lake Tahoe. He had been injured several times before. Taking risks was part of who he was. He did, in fact, lose his life by doing what he loved most. And yet €¦ how very unfair it is for those left behind.
    I often wonder about those people, especially the ones who are parents, who choose to climb Mount Everest, knowing the high percentage of climbers who die on that trek. They seem to believe it isn't going to happen to them. That they are more cautious, or better climbers or have some guardian angel watching over them. It's hard for me to grasp the idea that the thrill they are seeking takes precedence over the possibility of disaster.
    I wonder to myself whether Aaron, if he had the chance to do it all over again, knowing what happened, would have opted to stay off the mountain that day. But that's the problem with death. It is so very permanent. You don't get any do-overs. You can't take it back.
    Of course, I've heard the argument that you take risks every day when you get into your car and drive to work, and I know that's true. There are some things you have to do. There's no getting around it. But you take precautions: maintain a safe vehicle, keep to the speed limit, wear a seatbelt. It seems to me that the world is treacherous enough without doing something so risky that you intentionally put your life in danger.
    The thing is, it's not just your life. Your death profoundly impacts all of those around you. Can the thrill of being the first person to ski down a particular glacier possibly be worth the consequences?
    So don't say, "He died doing what he loved most," to me. Heroin users also die doing what they love most, and no one pats them on the back. It's not a valid excuse for bringing devastation to those you love.
    Darlene Ensor lives in Jacksonville.
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