Choose Life

On Monday I indirectly witnessed a motorcycle accident, and it left me feeling entrenched in shock. I wrote about my experience and my loss of words, my loss of feeling, when I learned the man had not survived. Yet still I felt numb when I woke up yesterday morning, and then I wondered if I should’ve posted about it at all–here I was, turning tragedy into an opportunity to increase page views and site traffic.

But it wasn’t like that: I was relating an experience that had a profound impact on me, that had left me in a state of apprehensive uncertainty, and sharing it helped me process it. On Monday night, as I typed out the last words of my post, it came to an end only because I’d written up to the point when I sat at my computer and started writing–but the story itself was still incomplete. It ended too soon. Too abruptly.

All too much like the death I had witnessed.

I waded through yesterday as though I were trudging through a marshy swamp: I could see something sweeter in the distance, but I still couldn’t reach it. I prayed desperately for permission to cry, but it was never granted, and I moved from class to class to meeting to meeting without much rest in between.

Then, as I spoke with my fiance, a realization came upon me: Choose life.

There’s a Jewish saying, a mantra, an admonition, that the right thing to do in any moment is always to choose life. God created life, and God is divine, so life is divine, and always we must choose life–to protect life, safeguard life, and embrace life. But since I’d witnessed the accident, I had stopped living: I had chosen death.

The moments surrounding the accident kept replaying in my mind, records reset every time they ran to the end, and I couldn’t distract myself from the image of broken glass splayed beneath the car; even as I stared at trees and other people, the scene presented itself like a watermark upon everything I saw. I couldn’t unhear the sound of motorcycle striking ground. I couldn’t forget the expressions on the other witnesses’ faces. It filled my mind, my lungs, my veins.

So, I realized, I had to choose life.

And I chose life.

It’s a terrible and tragic fact that life ends, and it’s unsettling and painful when it ends so near where you are. But people die everyday, everywhere, and we must keep living.

The man who was killed was named De’Andre Jackson. I did not know him. I know nothing more of him than his name and his picture. And when he died, a part of my life ended. But to allow my life to lilt to death is an insult upon his grave, for he no longer has the choice to choose life or death–it has been chosen for him. I must live, not in spite of witnessing his death, but because of it: because he can no longer feel the sunlight on his skin, the wind in his face, the ground beneath his feet. I must savor these things because he cannot.

I must choose life. So I shall choose life.

In memory of De’Andre Jackson.

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