Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Another Soul Leaves

Monday, for the first time in over 20 years, I saw a person die. 

It was an older lady who was hit by a train. I do not know whether it was an intentional or accidental death, but I watched her perish. I turned to look at the train passing, only to notice that there was a person stuck to the front of the engine. I didn't understand what was happening, or why the person was there, it just didn't make any sense. Then, she was dragged under the front grill of the train. Her body, as she was dead by this time, proceeded to bounce from the railroad ties, to the bottom of the train, back to the tracks. The train was unable to stop until four cars had passed over her body. There was no movement. The paramedics arrived only a few short minutes later, and having looked her over, decided there was nothing more to do besides afford her as much dignity as one can find in death by covering the body with a tarp. 

Immediatly, I was struck at just how fleeting life can be. She, a living breathing being less than 0.25 seconds before I turned my head, was now gone. Forever. If it was suicide, then I hope that she is now in a better place than before. However, it reminded me that suicide is always a permanent solution to a temporary problem. No matter how permanent a problem feels, it really is only temporary. 

The imagry of a train taking down a human being is permanently burned into the retina of my inner eye. The juxtaposition of death against the people on the platform still living, was not lost on me. I found such a stark contrast between the termination of one life and the continuation of so many others.  One blub-a-lub at a time. How can we the living laugh and joke,  when a person, not 20 feet from me, just perished? We can, and will, because life goes on, and the sun will come back up over that mountain range in the east. We must continue to smile and laugh and enjoy the good, if only to be able to turn our backs on death- at least for a little while. 

3 comments:

Matt Fate said...

Holy shit man, thats crazy. Imagine how the conductor of the train feels. Perhaps the dead laugh at the living for their fear of the transition or ascension.

If it was suicide, most religions would claim she just damned herself to eternal fiery purgatory, rather than a better place. I think that suicide in reincarnation belief systems would put you back a few notches in terms of advancing to a higher being after the lesson you needed to learn in each life has been achieved. Back to the beetle/insect stage.

I think it would be the most tragic if it was just an accident - bending over to pick up a paper she dropped and getting bumped from behind by a passer by or something. It definitely exemplifies the fragility of our own continued existences.

Either way, holy shit man. As you said, life continues for the rest of the living. We can't let death bring us down, because it is really the only certain thing about this life, and happens constantly all around us. We just tend to close our perceptual awareness to it to obfuscate our own mortality. Can't help but have your eyes opened clockwork-orange style when it happens so bluntly right in front of you, though.

Don't let it get you down. You should draw from it an appreciation for the time you still have left, and the other living people around you with whom you can share the laughter of which you speak.

Matt Fate said...

http://www.cyclelicio.us/2008/10/caltrain-fatality-in-mountain-view.html

http://cbs5.com/local/caltrain.mountain.view.2.839712.html

Odile Sullivan-Tarazi said...

I have read your blog entry to my family, one by one over the phone.

That was my sister who walked in front of the train last Monday night. We (my other sisters, my parents, and I) spent the week in a blur, sorting through her things, sorting through our thoughts, handling all the necessary arrangements, trying to take in saying goodbye. Saturday morning, a little calmer and clearer, I sat at the computer, hunting for news, witnesses, further connection, anything. She left so suddenly. I found the news articles, I read the commentaries, and I came across your blog entry. Thank you for taking note of her death, thank you for showing compassion to a stranger.

Because I cannot seem to think anymore, I'll say here about her what I have posted elsewhere. For the passengers on the train, many of them at any rate, she was just another walker on the tracks, another delay. But like all of us, she had a story.

She meant no one harm, no one any inconvenience. She simply could not stand living inside her head anymore. The schizophrenia she suffered from made its first appearance -- though we had no name for it then -- when she was 14. We thought her strange, difficult, but not sick. That realization came later. In her late 20s, she could no longer manage a job, an apartment, a life. She took to the streets, where she lived for the next nearly thirty years. Three years ago, with her mind and body ravaged from the disease and its consequences, and from living on the streets, the law finally heard our pleas, permitting the mental health care system to intervene, and she was conserved. The medication brought her closer to our reality, but it brought her no peace. Though she did not understand her illness, well enough she understood the life it had robbed her of. Had she been conserved earlier in her life, there might have been something left of her for her to return to. As it was, there was little. As the result of an earlier accident (fifteen years ago, when she walked out in front of a car, following which she still was not permanently conserved), her memory was faulty, her brain function further compromised, one leg was damaged and at one time it was thought she'd lose it, and she had no control over her bladder. As a result of the schizophrenia, which is a progressive disease, her brain itself was slowly being destroyed. She was a sweet and timid and beautiful child. She was thoughtful and intelligent. But the disease she was born with eventually blossomed and took hold and sucked the very life from her. It has very nearly destroyed all of us in the process.

As I said, when I found your blog, I called my sisters and I read it to them. Thank you, thank you, for pausing to consider her and her life, and for having compassion for someone so lost. It has meant a lot to us, and if Arden were still here, it would mean a lot to her as well. She always appreciated kindness.