The Unsettling Realization That Sudden Tragedy Can Happen To Any of Us

tragedy meaning: a very sad event or situation, especially one involving death or suffering

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It started out like every other weekend I’ve experienced, work followed by a day or two off, then the assumption of back to work on Monday. It truly was no different than any other weekend, until it was. I could have never imagined the intensity of feelings I would feel about two situations that were so different, yet so much of the same.

The weekend of January 24th was difficult. It was unsettling. For the life of me, I was (and still am) having the hardest time comprehending sudden death. How can you have a totally normal child one day, and receive an all odds against you diagnosis the next? How can you be at mass at 7am, and then die in a horrific helicopter accident at 1pm? It’s so hard for me to really think about it and come to the conclusion that yes, tragedy can happen to anyone.

On Sunday, the 26th, I woke up with a feeling of dread. I knew that there was a family who was spending their last moments with their child that had received a devastating diagnosis shortly before. I’ve worked in pediatric oncology for over 2 years now, but this particular case was one of, if not the, most devastating and uncomprehendable situations I’ve witnessed. I became almost obsessed with it because I just couldn’t understand it. And I didn’t want to understand it, because there is no justification for why a family has to watch their child pass away. None. I felt like because of the line of work I’m in, I’ve know this, but If tragedy can happen to this beautiful, seemingly flawless family, it can happen to anyone. That is unsettling and I don’t think I fully knew the truth of this.

Later that day, rumors began to swirl that an icon of our nation, a man who was amazing on the court, but more amazing off of it, Kobe Bryant, was killed in a helicopter crash. Details were very little at the time, but I remember sitting on my couch thinking no way. No way. One of the most iconic men in our nation, killed suddenly in a crash? There’s no way.

Unfortunately, the news began breaking and the horrific realization that not only was Kobe killed in the crash, but his 13 year old daughter, Gigi, their friends John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah and Payton Chester, Christina Mauser and Ara Zobayan were also among the victims in the tragedy. When all of the details began emerging, I remember feeling almost numb. HOW could this have happened? These things don’t happen to famous people, because they are supposed to live until they’re extremely old and then pass away in their sleep, right? This sudden realization that nobody is exempt from tragedy struck a nerve with me. I almost felt electrocuted.

As the week has gone on, my heart has stayed between complete shock and complete heartache. It’s almost as if I’ve been reaching for an answer as to how, and come up just a few inches short every time. How can cancer STEAL such a precious, precious child and how can one of the most famous people in our lifetime, his child, and 7 other incredible people die in a helicopter accident on the way to a basketball game? ON THE WAY TO A BASKETBALL GAME! Something they’ve likely done thousands of times before.

I wish I could tell you that I’ve found all the answers to why tragedy happens, how to magically move forward from it and that it won’t happen to you. But I can’t. Because if I’ve learned anything this week, nobody, not even the sweetest babygirl or the most looked up to icon, is exempt.

But what I can tell you, and ask of you, is that as the shock wears off for all of us, don’t forget about them. Our lives may continue to move forward, but theirs may be suspended by the moment they watched the last breath release out of their child or the phone call they received confirming reports they prematurely saw on the news. Don’t forget about them.

In honor of each of these incredible people, I encourage all of us to love our family a little bit harder, live a little bit louder and don’t wait until tomorrow, because we all learned that weekend, that tomorrow is not promised to anyone. And for me, it’s no longer a cliché saying. Tomorrow is truly never promised.

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