Last Friday, my spouse and I were sitting in a soul food restaurant waiting for two couples with whom we’re friends.  Both were running late, but that’s normal.  Then my phone rang.  It was Ken, one of the people we were waiting for.  He wasn’t coming because “AJ’s been in an accident, and he’s in the hospital in critical condition.”  Ken and Sue were heading to visit AJ’s parents.  Then I spoke with Ron, who was at the hospital with the Bishop; Ron’s spouse was headed there, too.  It wasn’t certain that AJ was going to survive.

AJ, 18, had just graduated high school this past spring.  He was working and taking care of other people as he always did.  He went to pay a traffic ticket, then saw some other people at the same office building who needed rides.  On the way home, maybe he was going too fast.  His car crossed the road at a curve and struck a utility pole.  His three passengers were injured, but the collision drove the pole through the engine compartment and into the driver’s seat.  By Saturday morning, we knew he was brain dead.

Yesterday, I was at the hospital to visit AJ’s parents as his organs were harvested; his heart, his lungs, his kidneys–all will go to help other people.  Which is exactly what AJ would have wanted.

I didn’t know him well.  He seemed like the kind of person you want to like, even though generations stand between you.  A skinny, muscular kid with long hair and an easy laugh.  He seemed comfortable in his own skin and made other people comfortable around him. 

Now he’s gone, and I won’t get to know him any better.

Perhaps this is the time to take a small lesson:  pay attention to those around you.  I wish I had paid more attention to AJ.

I’m 55.  My age makes me a bit of a survivor.  I’ve seen lots of people die.  Many older than me, a few younger.  All I can tell you is that it happens to everyone, so get to know them now.

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