April 1, 2011

Insult to injury

          Last Saturday I received word that an old friend had died in a car accident. We worked together for 10 years, and were very close. We gradually lost touch after I moved away, but that in no way lessened the impact of the news.
          I was shocked and deeply saddened. I walked around in a daze, unable to wrap my head around the fact that he was gone. I had to work hard to be present with my family, and contain my feelings.
          When I first got the news, I cried out and began to sob. This freaked my young daughter out. It was an emotional, gut reaction on my part that I could not control, but it scared her. So I made sure from that point forward I only let the tears come when she was not around.
          No one had been able to share with me the circumstances of the accident that took his life, so I went to the website of the local paper and did a search. I found an article detailing a fatal wreck. It did not use his name, but I knew from the details provided it was him.
          At 6:28 AM on Saturday morning, my friend's car slammed in to the back of a tractor trailer on the Interstate. He was declared dead upon arrival at the hospital. He was 47 years old. The article stated the police believed he fell asleep at the wheel or was distracted. They will no doubt conduct a thorough investigation. He was alone in the car, and no one else was injured.
          I noticed the article had comments, and I made a very big mistake. I began to read them. I was appalled by what I saw. Complete strangers were accusing my friend of drinking and driving. Texting while driving. Driving too fast.
          Some implied he had gotten what he deserved, having drawn their own conclusions and passed judgement. Others actually joked about his death, writing things like, "Darn those all night strip club bachelor parties." And, "How dare that 18 wheeler get in the way?"
          I read an article in my own local newspaper recently, reporting a man had died after his car struck a tree around 2:30 AM on a Friday. I'll admit I had my suspicions that alcohol may have been involved. IN MY HEAD.
          I would never get online and write a nasty or judgmental comment about someone who died. And the thought of joking about another person's death repulses me. How can someone be so callous?
          What has happened to our society? Have we lost all semblance of compassion, civility, respect and just plain old human decency? My friend was a wonderful person who was loved by many. And those who loved him are devastated by his loss.
          Put yourself in another's shoes before you run off at the mouth, or the keyboard. If you are tempted, try to remember it is someone's father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, FRIEND! Think about how you would feel if you read something mean spirited about a friend or loved one of yours while you were grieving.
          It's simple courtesy, people!
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