Late last night word started going ’round the neighborhood that there had been a terrible accident just down the street. The police had the intersection shut down tight and rumors quickly spread that a car had left the road at high-speed, striking three teenage boys walking on the shoulder. Just up the hill my youngest son was participating in a sleep over at a nearby indoor sports facility open to our towns junior high school students. Word had gotten out and everyone was speaking in hushed tones wondering who the boys were, certain that in our town of 7,500 they would be known by all. It was a night of light, fitful sleep.
This morning the local newspaper reported that while a car had indeed left the road late last night, no young pedestrians were involved. An old man from out of town and his wife had missed a sharp turn at the bottom of a long, steep hill and sailed off the embankment striking a tree. The old man came through fine with some scrapes and a broken bone or two, but his wife struck her head on something inside the car and died at the scene. Upon picking my son up from his overnighter, young and old alike were smiling and breathing sighs of relief that the rumors of the night before were just that. Three young men whom we all knew were taken, and then returned. Death had been cheated this time.
Somewhere an old woman, perhaps nearing her time left on this earth, and an old man waking in bed with a broken ankle and a shattered life were cheated out of their remaining days together. It seems that while death can be fooled for a bit, whether or not he can be cheated is simply a matter of any of us being in the wrong place at the right time.