September 11

Thoughts on Loss

I’ve been feeling contemplative the last few days, with today’s somber anniversary, the anniversary of my high school coach’s death tomorrow, and a terrible tragedy last Friday in which two local 20-year-old siblings were killed in a car accident on their way home from college for the weekend. I never knew these kids, but I know their grandmother and I’ve met their mother, who is lovely. Unspeakable stuff.

I’ve gone back and forth in my mind on whether or not to write about this on here. Motorista is for funny, irreverent times. It’s my magical little refuge. I say, on here, let’s stick to cars and checkered flags and leave the worst bits of life behind for a moment.

Then I got to thinking about why and when I started this blog. I have never shared this on here, but this blog actually arose out of loss. It was my attempt to get through a really rough period and have something to create and to look forward to. It was as simple as that – I never expected this blog would lead to everything it has.

I had actually first thought about blogging sometime in 2012. There wasn’t really that much thinking involved, just a vague notion that blogging seemed to be the big thing these days and that the one thing I care to opine on, and would have fun blogging about, is cars. I filed that away under “Things to Do When There’s Time,” which of course meant nothing happened. The idea would pop up every now and then, but it never seemed like the right time.

Then, in April 2013, I lost two friends in a car accident. One, Matt, had been my classmate from 3rd-12th grades. We had not seen each other for 10 years, and just had some sporadic contact on Facebook, until March 2013, when our class had a spontaneous little reunion, one of those days where you re-connect and relive old memories and re-kindle that special bond, now with the added depth of adulthood. (Keep in mind that my graduating class had 44 students. We are a small, tight-knit group.)  It was a wonderful, wonderful get-together, and it was there that I met Matt’s new wife, Audrey. We instantly hit it off and, in the weeks after the reunion, Matt and I sent each other Facebook messages, joking about the motorcycle Audrey wanted him to sell. Matt had always been a car nut, even when we were kids. I remember an old Fiat he had that was a running joke, because it never ran. Later, he bought a Fiat 500, which he and Audrey drove to the reunion. That was kind of like righting a historical wrong. 🙂

My last Facebook message to Matt ended with “Hope to see you guys again before too long.” It was sent on April 10. On April 27, Matt and Audrey were killed when they were hit head-on by another car. They were on their way home on a Sunday afternoon after spending the weekend with his family and old friends. Matt was the first person our little group had lost (and may he be the last for many, many years). I could barely grasp it at the time, and I am still occasionally shocked even now when I remember he and Audrey are gone. That hits me particularly hard when I think about a blog post here that he would have liked. A world without them in it is just a little bleaker.

Around the time of their deaths, I was also having some major work stress, all of which left me feeling like my world was crumbling. At which point I decided I had to find something that truly made me happy. It was that or pull the covers over my head. I’ve pulled the covers over my head before. It’s no way to live.

So I started this blog. It began as a way for me to put one foot in front of the other and keep my eyes focused on the horizon. And it went from being this little green tendril emerging from the crack in the sidewalk to this awesome, flowering THING that really does make me happy. But I don’t have to cling to it anymore. It just adds another layer to life.

I started thinking about all of this again after the death of the Murphy siblings. Those shocking, incomprehensible events where nothing makes sense and some things look the same, but how can they when it feels like everything’s changed? September 11 was like that, on both a personal and national level. A thing that creates a divide in life – there is the Before and there is the After. They are thick and heavy and as separate from each other as holding a brick in each hand. And you spend a lot of the After trying to bridge that gap with the Before. But you can only ever bridge it – those bricks will never go back together into one whole mass. So you reconcile that separation the best you can and learn to adjust to the change, to life the way it is now.

Maybe Motorista helped me do a little bridging.

Cars bring me so much joy, but they have also brought devastation to so many. Matt and Audrey’s families and friends, the Murphys, the family of my coach, who died in a car accident 16 years ago tomorrow. I hate that. But it also serves as a very valuable reminder, particularly for the gearheads like me: cars (and driving) must be respected for what they are capable of, both the very awesome and the very devastating. They can create loss just as easily as they have helped me get through it. Having that awareness every time I get behind the wheel has helped me avoid a lot of bad situations. Some situations you can’t do anything about. But let’s stay mindful and do everything we can on our end to stay safe out there, race fans.

A funeral and scholarship fund has been set up for Kylie and Ryan Murphy. Even more important than money, take a moment to say “I love you” to your family and friends. I, for one, do not do that enough, and I sure hope mine know that I mean it every single day, even when I forget to say it. And, also importantly, go out there, do the things you’ve been meaning to do, try the things you’ve been wanting to try, throw a little caution to the wind (while also being mindful as hell!). All of our lives are of indeterminate length. The time to do the things we are passionate about, and to hug our family and friends, is now.

I’m a better writer than I am a speaker, but I don’t write well enough to adequately express my thoughts on all of this. I’ll save that for the poets, I guess. But I think what I really want to say is, I sure do appreciate all of you. Thank you for sharing this journey with me.