My next-door neighbor died yesterday. He was training for a race, running on the bike path when he fell over and died of a heart attack. Apparently he lied there for some time until another runner came along and found him. No cell phone, no identification, he lied there long enough to die alone and when he was finally discovered no one even knew who he was.

I’m working in my yard today and thinking about my neighbor and my imagination gets the best of me. I wonder how long it takes to die of a myocardial infarction. Was he conscious, lying there on the bike path? Did he know this was the end? The hopelessness of the situation is chilling. Less than a mile from home, one chain link fence and 50 feet from a busy interstate, he lied there surrounded by the buzz of traffic and the wind in the trees, under the helpless watch of birds, letting go of life.

My neighbor was 51. He had 3 sons. He had a lust for life. He was a high school football coach, a geometry teacher, a cyclist and runner. He mowed his lawn way too early on Sunday mornings and spent 2 weeks last fall hand-repairing the stone retaining wall that runs the length of our street. He was lively, ambitious and dedicated. He had a will to live.

My father was released from the nursing home last week. His 20-day, medicare-covered stay came to an end and it was determined that he could take care of himself. In most cases this would be considered a good thing; another near miss, a second chance. You think he would embrace the opportunity but instead he’s annoyed. He’s bored. He doesn’t like the dry chicken that Meals-On-Wheels delivers to his door. He can’t stand the old bitty that lives across the hall with the loud television or the Mexicans that tend to the roses outside his apartment complex. He says he’d rather be dead than unable to drive his car, unable to smoke. He suggests killing himself. I fight the urge to hand him a gun.

The randomness of life overwhelms me. One dad dying to live, another living to die.

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