In the aftermath of most tragedies, like the bombing of the Boston Marathon, civil authorities will often focus on improving the safety of future public events.
As a parent and grandparent, I will applaud these efforts — to a point.
I have always been a safety advocate. I raised my children with such an awareness of safety that they called me the “safety officer.”
As adults, we hear our employers advocate safety. They make us wear hats, helmets and seatbelts.
But no matter what we do, most of us know death can come in the most unexpected ways at unimaginable speed. I learned that lesson in a profound way one afternoon in 1995 when I watched a mother follow her 3-year-old son into our Houston emergency room.
The two of them came by ambulance from a metropolitan subdivision. They afternoon was spent at the community’s beautifully swept tennis court. The gated court was staffed by background-checked employees.
“Can I take off my shoes, Mommy?” he asked.
“Sure,” she replied. She wanted him safe, but not overly restricted.
The boy explored his environment as little boys can by kicking at the tennis fence.
This is fun, he must have thought. I’m in a giant playpen with Mommy. I feel safe.
There’s no way out and no way for the bad guys to come in. If any trouble came, Mommy was close enought.
Close enough was not fast enough. Her son was standing barefoot on a court dampened by morning rain when he kicked the fence near an improperly grounded outlet.
Some might cynically quote the Christian scripture, “It is appointed unto a man once to die,” but the truth is that no one enters a tennis court in expectation of seeing his or her son electrocuted. No one crosses the start line of a race expecting to be legless at the finish.
The good news is that the text admonishes us to live our lives as if we knew death was coming tomorrow. The verse is an encouragement for us to love each person in our lives with the fullness as if we knew it was our last day.
Today, my life will take me onto a 10-mile course in Sacramento called the Capital City Classic. I’m sure most of my fellow racers will start with some trepidation, but as we run we’ll run with the understanding that as close as death can come, we must hold life even closer.