“Whom the gods love die young—- whenever they die.” —Marie Tempest
“Do not send for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.” –Ernest Hemingway
The local news has been full of tragic stories the past two weeks involving the sudden deaths of very young people. The horrible car accident in Atchison that took the lives of those college students. The teenager who died in the house fire in Lawrence.
The one that really hit home was the death of Sean Conder, the college student from Olathe, who collapsed and died while playing soccer with some friends. It reminded me of Fast Eddy. It reminded me of the tyranny of the urgent.
I’m not sure where my younger brother got his nickname. Everyone called him Fast Eddy. Part of it had to do with his fleetness of foot on the soccer field. The rest was a snickering reference to Eds facility with women; he was a strikingly handsome fellow. None of that matters now.
It was May 19, 1979, a week before Eddy’s graduation from K-State. He returned home to my parents house one night after a late date. It was around 2 a.m.
Sometime after stripping to his underwear but before he had found his way to bed, Eddy lost his breath, blacked out and died.
Just like that. 22 years old. Perfect health and perfect spirits. No warnings, no last hurrahs. No real determined cause of death. The doctors conjectured something later about a possible brain aneurysm. They couldn’t be sure.
None of Fast Eddy’s three brothers and three sisters got to give him a final hug. The only one who came close was my youngest brother, Art, then a K-State undergrad. He heard the thump in the hallway and found Eddy sprawled on the floor. Only Art got to squeeze Eds warm body one last time as he tried in vain that night to shake life back into the lifeless.
The folks had to call me long distance in the middle of the night with the news. Christ, I hadn’t called my brother for nearly two months. I couldn’t help it, could I? I mean I had been too busy at work, running
All this came back to my mind when I read about Sean Conder, and the college students from Atchison, and the teenager in Lawrence.
I didn’t know their families nor do I suspect that they have grieved any less, or any more, than have I. I only wonder if they feel the way I did, the way I still feel: sorry. Sorry because I never got the time, or took it, to tell Fast Eddy how much he meant to me. Sorry because I never had the time to tell my brother how much he meant to me. Sorry because God snatched Eddy before I looked him in the face and told him how miserable Id be if he ever left me and the family.
That’s the price you pay for run, run, run. Always enough time to meet urgent deadlines, but never for the important things that have no deadlines. Never telling your family what I ought to be telling them — that you need them.
I can, however, say this: Dont do what you had planned to do today. Tell your boss or your teacher that you just remembered something important. Instead, call your mom, your dad. Call your kids at school if you have to. Get in touch with someone you love, and tell them so. Tell them today all those things that you’ll wish by tomorrow you had said should they be stolen from you during the night.
Do that today before the bell tolls for someone you need, someone you cant live without. Sort out the difference between the urgent and the important.
And long may you run.