One of my best friends from high school (before then, actually) lost his younger sister yesterday to a drunk driver. The sister was eighteen years our junior. She had been adopted and grew up to be a beautiful, sweet young woman. Now she’s gone.
Another friend of mine, also from high school, lost a stepson earlier this year. The stepson too was the victim of someone driving while intoxicated.
In our younger days, my friends and I all risked it. The friend who lost his sister: he rolled his car once up in Vermont. I was in that car, and I know I was loaded. He probably was too. We all did some crazy things back in the day, and years later we would laugh about how stupid we were, how lucky that we didn’t hurt ourselves or others.
Now all that seems less than funny and so much more than stupid. Most every night, someone makes a bad decision to get behind a steering wheel. Any one of those people could be the one whose judgment results in loss of life. Any one. My friends and I lived not because of our own skill or grace but only because the lottery didn’t pull our number.
Here I am, 43 and my crazy days behind me, imploring younger folks to never, ever, ever, drink and drive. Please be stronger than my friends and I were. Please don’t delude yourselves like we did. Please don’t chance it.
We atheists must accept the responsibility of living in a world of reality. We know that there’s but one life for each of us. We understand that no gods exist to forgive us our most serious offenses. So we must behave always in a way that reflects our knowledge of life’s preciousness and value. We must always act in full moral strength, since we cannot violate or suspend our ethics and then later apologize to a god.
I remember my friend’s sister and mourn her death. I ache for my friend and his family. I regret the foolishness of our youth and even more I regret that we felt pretty good about ourselves for escaping unharmed. Now I see that we did not in fact escape.