My Turn: Remembering Larry Sage – a great friend and person
Special to the Sun
TRUCKEE, Calif. – Friday the 13th of July I went cycling with a good friend. We were doing the “bread and butter” Truckee ride over Donner Summit to Cisco and back. Fantastic day, and both made comments to the effect of “another great day to be alive!”
Coming down the summit into Donner Lake, Larry Sage hit a pothole hidden in the shadows on a straight section at the bottom and was thrown from his bike. I was right behind him. He was unconsciousness and seizing when I got to him several seconds later. I called for the ambulance and the helicopter and he was transferred to the Trauma Center hospital where I work (I am an ER doc there). He never regained consciousness, and with his wife and a few close friends at his bedside, he died that afternoon from massive head trauma.
He was a great human, and while we usually say nice things about those who die, this was a truly great man. He was rather quiet with a sharp, dry sense of humor, and always had a laugh that was used liberally. He was the proud participant in the rarest of commodities; a wonderful marriage to his wife Sue.
There is a profound sense of loss and sadness of someone dying long before their time. Hardly seems fair, but then again, as I experience nearly every shift, life often is not fair. It’s just what you get. Or make it, no?
As one of my partners at work says, “Every time I think I have problems, I just go to work and see people with real problems.” Meaning not, of course, that you in any way feel better if you are aware of someone with more challenges than you have, but rather, to keep your problems and life in perspective. Do not confuse “inconveniences” with “tragedies.” They are not at all the same. A fractured femur is inconvenient, albeit quite “inconvenient,” yet this is just another example of an injury that one recovers from, and usually with a complete recovery. A spinal cord injury or end stage cancer diagnosis is far beyond that, and often has truly tragic consequences for the person involved and those close to them.
I think that perhaps one positive aspect to of these types of events is to keep us focused on the direction our lives are going, and to remind us to either stay on track, or get back on the track we want to be on. To allow us time to reflect on the direction we are choosing our lives to go. Allow is probably the wrong word, and perhaps “remind” or “ensure” may be better choices?
Most of us will not know when life is about to dramatically or tragically change. And accepting this, it is logical to ask, if this is true, then are we living our lives in a manner we want, or should be? Or are we simply going through the motions, letting the inertia of the world carry us along in the current?
Clearly there are things that occur despite our best efforts, but are we concentrating on the big picture? Or dwelling on the background items that 10 years from now won’t matter nor even be remembered? Is the house clean? Or did you get to spend a great day with a close friend or with your kids? Is the yard work done, or did you get to run around outdoors and feel that endorphin fueled exhilaration?
We do get to choose some parts of our life, and some parts, like cancer or trauma choose us. So, I suggest that we choose wisely.
I am not suggesting that we ignore the chores involved with life; a job and paying the bills and doing the wash are necessities for most of us. But do step back from time to time and reevaluate the overall direction your life is going. The direction you have chosen for your life to go. Are you satisfied with this choice? Are you happy with this choice? And do take responsibility for the direction you are going now. It has been your choice.
Choose with your heart. Don’t always let your frontal cortex and calculating logic dictate your decisions.
I write these comments not as one standing on the pulpit to their flock, but rather with eyes filled with tears, and as one who needs to take my own comments to heart.
Firewood doesn’t always need to be stacked, and floors swept and beds made. Chase the passion of life and you are unlikely to go wrong. Or, at least not too wrong.
So, is your life going the direction you want? If not, can you choose another direction? I will try to.
Jonathan Laine is a Truckee resident.
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