The sound of a collision brought my attention upward as I was pedaling my bike on the infield at the velodrome. Two riders went down. One slide down with his bike. The other hit headfirst and his body went limp as he tumbled down the track like a rag doll, stopping between corners three and four. I stopped my bike immediately and jumped the waist high infield railing hurrying to see if there was anything I could do. His body twitched as the last signs of life pulsed through his body. His face turned blue and a medic was on the scene immediately, trying to get some sort of response out of him.
His teenage daughter who had been racing with him in a field of 30 competitors was still on her bike, circled by where he lay limp, and started screaming. She slowly rolled by, nearly crashing as she looked at her lifeless dad.
Minutes passed. I tended to the other injured rider. I still had hope. We all had hoped. Come on Vic, move! We want you here. Your family needs you. We all need you. Please don’t go.
The medics had tried resuscitating him for nearly an hour. They huddled around him, taking turns doing chest compressions and using the defibrillator. A local emergency team showed up with fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars – all trained professionals well versed in what to do when something goes wrong.
But he was gone.
In the next hour I went numb. The race had stopped immediately and everyone went to the infield. Everyone sat there, speaking in hushed tones not knowing what should happen next as the medics continued to try and bring him back to life.
My mind reasoned that this was different then when Ryan died, yet it wasn’t. When someone finally told his daughter that he was gone, her primal sobs brought back the longing and despair that I felt when I first heard the news in the police precinct.
“No, no, no, no!” She cried as she rocked back and forth in the middle of the infield in her mother’s arms.
The ground gave way beneath her and I wanted to hold her up, wanted to rock back and forth with her as her new reality settled in. I wanted to tell her uncomprehending mind that time will heal. That it will get easier. That grief is a gift.
Instead I stood there in silence acutely aware I witnessed another tragic death. Except Vic was only an acquaintance to me. I didn’t know him well other than earlier in the night we had raced along side one another. What impacted me more was hearing his daughter scream and knowing what she felt. That she has a long road in front of her.
I bargained that at least his daughter and wife were there in his final moments, but that doesn’t make it easier. If I had been there when Ryan died, would I have done anything differently? Part of living is dying. We all have a choice on how to let that ultimate reality dictate what we do with the remaining hours, days, months, and years we have left.
An hour later I packed up my things and headed to my car. I was one of the first to leave but had the furthest to drive. I sat in silence for the majority of the two-hour drive home. I took stock of my life: Am I doing exactly what I want to be doing? Yes. Am I settling in any way? No. If I were to die today, was today a good day? Absolutely. Is there anything I would do differently? Get this damn book out there. Do those I love know it? Yes.
Her sobs echoed in my head that night, a reminder that she’s the type of person I want to help. That despite how hard life can be, it is worth living and that an incredible amount of growth and strength blossoms out of grief. The beauty of loving someone is being able to let go and know they’ll be in your heart forever.