Friday, April 07, 2006

Men are mortal. I am a man. Ergo...

I can't remember who philosophized that men are mortal. It might have been Descartes. It might have been Vizzini in "The Princess Bride."

But seldom does mortality hit home like it does when someone like Maggie Dixon dies.

Dixon was the 28-year-old coach of the Army women's basketball team. I'll be the first to admit I don't really know why hearing of her death from some kind of sudden heart ailment this morning affected me so, other than the age.

I didn't know her, I barely follow college basketball (making it a miracle I won the office pool) and I follow women's college basketball even less. I read one article about Dixon, just a few days before the tournament, and I came away impressed by her drive, her talent, everything.

And now, like that, she's dead. It makes you wonder, doesn't it?

I'm 31 years old. I've had some health problems the past couple of years. I'm at an age where I suppose I should be thinking about things like heart health. I'm at an age where, when a doctor uses phrases like "progressive neurological disease," even if he's speaking hypothetically, it scares the hell out of me.

I like to say I fear nothing, except spiders and heights. That's not true. I'm afraid to die old, and alone. I'm afraid to get sick, really sick, and waste away.

I have a 28-year-old friend who has a heart issue. These are things I don't want to think about.

The other day, I got a survey from my financial planner asking some questions for an evaluation. One question was: Do you expect an inheritance before you retire?

I almost marked "no," before I did some thinking. My Dad will be 71 this year, my Mom will be in her 60s. Their parents lived into their 80s, mostly. I've got 30-some years before I retire. Do the math. I did. And I didn't like the answer.

But if there's something worse than pondering the death of your parents, your heroes, your role models, it's the idea of the Dixon family's hell they must be going through.

I've often said that one of the rules of life's unfairness is that no parent should ever have to bury their child. I can't imagine anything worse.

And for no reason. A beautiful, talented young woman; an inspiration. Gone.

People wonder why I doubt the existence of God sometimes. How one of the youngest babies on one of the last flights out of Vietnam before the fall of Saigon can question God's power feels hypocritical.

But this kind of death, this kind of loss, this waste, shatters belief.

And don't give me that crap about God needing a women's basketball coach. If God loved women's basketball, it would get better ratings.

How does God explain cancer in children? Birth defects? Progressive neurological disease?

If they're part of God's plan, I wish He'd explain it to me, because I just don't get it. Heck, maybe I'm not supposed to get it. That would be presumptuous. But couldn't He at least let me know He has one? I'd settle for a dream, in tongues. Because right now, I have my doubts, and they're not just related to the fish that could walk that they found up in Canada the other day.

Death is everywhere, as Depeche Mode once sang. I mean, we see casualties in Iraq on Bush's Crusade so often, we become numb to the loss of our youth sometimes.

But Maggie Dixon wasn't in the army. She coached at Army. She didn't get shot, she didn't drink and drive, she didn't weigh 300 pounds.

She just died.

I guess everybody dies. I'll die someday. But when I edited obits at my first job, I used to cringe when I saw men who died who were younger than my father.

Now I'm cringing at people younger than me.

Men are mortal. I am a man. Ergo, I am mortal. Ergo, I am sad today to see the mortality of someone who shouldn't have died.

Men are mortal. I am a man. Ergo, I am mortal. Ergo, I am afraid.

Maggie Dixon's death
Maggie Dixon's story
The U.S. Military Academy, in mourning

Rest in peace, Coach. And if there is a God, and I want to believe there is, may He be with your family in their time of pain.


Freak Magnet said...

The idea behind bad is so you know good when you see it. It might suck, but if everything was all peachy keen all the time, how would you know you're fortunate? That's what gets me through.

Ace said...

That's profound, and probably not entirely wrong.

But why can't bad things happen to bad people? I know plenty of jerks who live to be 80 and don't deserve it.

Freak Magnet said...

Because then you wouldn't have any idea what fair is.

Ace said...

True, but what about all that benevolent God stuff - we're really putting faith that people who suffer do go to a better place. I'm not sure I'm ready to buy that.