Mistakes We Make: Social. Spiritual. Professional. Style.


A Blessing Foretold

By NJ@30

You’re awake. You don’t know why you are awake, but something isn’t right. Someone is missing. Suddenly, your life cuts to a scene of you in a car, screaming at the driver. He refuses to answer. Your cries are silent to even your own ears.

Soon, you turn into a hospital parking lot. The reality of what you feared true washes over you. She’s dead. And it’s your fault.

You notice a crowd of friends waiting in the emergency room. “Why are so many of them here?” you ask. “They barely knew her.” Each step, each breath, each face, slowly reveals the coming twist of emotions.

She’s alive. He is gone.

Weeks, months, years go by, and you continue to battle the guilt. The same mistake, repeated again and again. Why do you continue to survive? No one is considered. Ever. Friends. Family. Strangers.

Can you recover from your own selfishness? A knot develops each day, all these years later, when you think about that split second. The instant you knew it wasn’t her, and the unintentional relief that entered you, then hid somewhere you never found, and changed you forever.

I remember a conversation I had with my older sister when I was eighteen. She said I would probably know someone that dies during college. Strange how comments like that can come and go, only to return years later in the exact form they arrived. I think one of the problems with never getting in any real trouble as a teenager, was thinking I would never get in any real trouble as an adult. One of the many flaws with that logic, is that the decisions I began making in college were as far away from home as my dorm room. The choice to drive drunk would compound itself, no matter the consequences that surrounded me.

An absolute, unequivocal observation I have made in life, is that people do not want to be lectured. It’s why we avoided our parents as kids. Why some folks skip out on church. It’s why I bring my buddy Dr. David ┬áinside my home to run interference after we’ve played tennis much longer than the expectation set for my wife.

So I’ve decided that the best way to talk about drunk driving is not to remind you of all the dangers that have been shoved down our throats since drivers ed, but to raise my hand to say, “I’ve done it. It’s affected my life. I’ve escaped the consequences. And I never hate myself more than when I think about what I’ve done.”

Everyday, I think about the friend I lost on that cold January night in 2000. Whenever I talk to George, who was in the car and barely survived, I wonder where my lost friendship would be now, all these years later, if I would have been disciplined enough to step in and say, “Stop.” The hazy image remains of the fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances, as I detoured past Austin St., driving my ex-girlfriend back to my apartment, not knowing the connection I had to the mayhem we avoided. We had all been together just minutes before. The pictures of young adulthood that most of us reflect on with private laughs and blushing disbelief, forever with an asterisk.

Eleven years later the magnitude of something so horrible is enough to make me stay home forever. What freezes me is no longer the thought of jail, losing my job, or public embarrassment. It’s a friend making a crying phone call to anyone who will listen, much the way I did that painful night. A mother and father living out their final years in sadness. A grieving wife, who misses her love, yet forever questions him. A son and a daughter, whose memories of their dad slowly fade to nothing as they grow older.

Never mistake your own importance. Our God has a plan that was written so long ago, our minds cannot comprehend it. He gives us choices, though, within his plan. The direction we choose can lead to a promised life, or one gripped by what might have been. Know that you are loved, and awaken to a morning sun full of warmth and welcome.

For Shea.

30 Thread #6: You’re not in the NBA boys, keep the shorts above the knees.

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  1. Lee Nash says:

    Brings back some memories Paul. Shea’s death taught me as much about my own mortality as it did the brotherhood of our fraternity. A more somber message from you in this post, but an important reminder. Thanks.

  2. Cordo says:


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