Yesterday I was at work in corporate cubeville when I heard sirens. That’s not unusual; the building where I work is near both an industrial area and a busy thoroughfare. The police and fire departments always seem to be going somewhere fast.
A few minutes later I took a break and got up to look out the window. Five floors below me in the driveway in front of the the lobby were two city fire trucks; one county emergency truck; one company emergency truck; and two company security vehicles. That’s an infrequent but not uncommon sight for we have a large population of older workers and some do have medical emergencies. I did think the response was larger than I typically see.
But then I looked to the left and noticed two parked city police cars. I knew something tragic had occurred as the police come on scene when there’s been a death.
Word soon spread that there’d been a death two floors below and that staff had been requested to leave the area.
At one point the company emergency truck dropped off a gurney and left; some late arriving workers coming into my area said the emergency truck was parked near the elevator in the parking garage. That seemed to confirm the rumor.
As the morning progressed most of the emergency vehicles left to continue with other calls both grave and minor.
As I was going into the cafeteria some time later there was a group of sober-faced people talking about notification of next of kin, and I understood that a number of people somewhere didn’t yet know that their worlds were about to crash down upon them.
I don’t know the name of the person who died. I’m not sure I’d recognize who it was if I heard it.
I don’t know if it was a man or a woman. I assume that he/she was someone I’d seen at some time in the hallways, elevators, or cafeteria.
I’m not sure if it’s important I know who that person was for you see that nameless/faceless person was a stranger.
We never worked together. We never were in meetings together. We never shared a table in the cafeteria. At this point if it was otherwise I would have known.
But that stranger had hopes and dreams, and hopefully loved and was loved.
That stranger had once been a baby with a life of potential and possibilities.
That stranger had passions and interests.
That stranger had worked for many years – hopefully doing something of value and personal meaning.
And now that stranger is dead.
So why do I care?
I care because someone’s death is a reminder that each day of life should be savored. Of course it’s trite to say it, but it’s an inescapable truth.
Rushing from crisis to crisis; taking no pleasure in the small things; much too soon they will all be gone.
As fly fishers we treasure time on the water. But do we take the time to enjoy the small things: rigging up the rod and line; putting on waders; the slow approach to the water while taking in the day, and the selection of fly for the first cast?
I care because that stranger is every one of us; we are all strangers to others – sometimes even to people with whom we share some part of our lives.
When we’re fishing do we see someone else as an intruder or as someone sharing the love for the same activity and the same special place?
The choices are still ours to make – for as long as we have.
Rest in peace.