I’ve got a secret for you. Lean in closer to the screen so no one else will see it. You will die. There are few accurate predictions I can make about you. Maybe only one. But this is it.
We don’t like to talk about it, let alone think about it, but it’s a reality. About 2.4 million Americans die every year. That’s somewhere between the population of Houston and Chicago. About 57 million people worldwide die every year. That’s about the same number of people who live in Texas, California and Illinois combined.
Death comes in many forms. I’ve had at least two close scrapes. In 1989, a man in his 80’s in diabetic la-la-land, was driving the wrong way on a highway in Putnam, Connecticut. We drove toward each other at highway speeds one December night. When I realized what was happening, I turned the car to the right. The sides of our cars scraped each other before our cars ground to a stop. If I hesitated for a split second, we would’ve hit head on. If we did, if the crash didn’t kill me, I imagine it would have incapacitated me so much I wouldn’t be capable of writing this.
In January 2003, an oncologist told me my relapsed Hodgkin’s lymphoma was going to kill me and there was nothing I could do about it (though not in those words). I continued treatment, and I’ve been in remission since March 2003.
For one grandfather, death came as a truck that hit him while he was changing a tire. For another, it was a stroke after recovering from heart surgery. For my grandmothers it was a heart attack and a brain aneurism. Death came in the form of multiple myeloma for my brother six years ago. For two friends of ours, death came in the form of suicide for two family members, brought on by the inability to cope with drug addiction. Often, it’s a number of things that combine to form death. One aunt recently died due to circulatory problems and an infection, along with pancreatic cancer. Her husband died of cancer when I was in high school. I think he smoked himself to death.
How will death come to you? A drunk driver running a red light? An uncontrolled viral infection? Cancer? Heart attack? Drowning during a vacation? Complications from diabetes? Your guess is as good as mine.
Recently in Connecticut, death came for a group of children in the form of a man with three guns and a desire to kill as many as possible. For whatever reason, he chose to kill these very young children along with a number of adults. The country is rightly stunned and some are outraged. The media coverage is constant. The President gave a tearful press conference, given the senselessness of the act and the loss of innocent, young lives and the murders of adults trying to protect them. There will be calls for legislation, for committees, projects to prevent a similar attack.
For about 2,300 young Americans a year, death comes in the form of cancer. It takes about three days for cancer to kill as many kids as were killed in Newtown that hellacious day. As you’ve noticed, there are no bi-weekly tearful press conferences from the White House due to deaths caused by cancer, though the losses are just as senseless and the emotional wounds just as deep. No regular announcements of outrage or calls for legislation as a result of kids killed by cancer. If they’re killed by bullets, that’s another thing.
I’m not making light of the utter devastation this shooting has caused to families and friends. I have a daughter. Just to imagine what it would be like to be the parent of a murdered child turns my stomach. I just wish it was as socially acceptable to be killed by cancer as it is to be killed by a deranged stranger with a Sig Sauer semiautomatic.