How it would be if killed . . . . . . . . .

I’ve been pitching. Oh no, not from the mound of a soft ball field, not a tent and not even a “fit.”

But, I’ve been pitching.

It’s finally spring when our thoughts turn to cleaning – closets, drawers, cupboards. All year long we tend to stuff things here and there to get them out of sight. But, the day does dawn when we need to weed the insides of our homes just as we do our flower and vegetable gardens.

When it doubt, “pitch it,” was my Ruby Girl sister Lori’s favorite saying when we cleaned out our mother’s home on the farm. We didn’t pitch the heirlooms, of course, or the things that could be taken to a thrift store. But we did pitch the little incidentals that nobody in the family wanted, needed or could use.

As I was doing my own personal pitching this week, I came across something that I could not pitch. In fact, I regard it as an heirloom that must be passed on – especially to our youth. I pray it makes them and all of us think!

I’m speaking of a tattered and yellowed Ann Landers column that I’ve had for many years. It continues to resurface and move me deeply. Here’s why:

This time of year is always sentimental for me – with proms and graduations and graduation parties. And oh so very sadly it seems we always hear of teens in accidents and tragically killed just when their lives are beginning.

And so, I urge you; please share the following with as many teens as you can.

It begins: Dear Ann Landers,

Two of my best friends were killed in a car accident yesterday. The whole school is in mourning. Will you please reprint that column about the 17-year-old boy who met the same fate? It was a fantasy, but it made a terrific impression on me. I believe it appeared in 1971 when I was a freshman. Thanks Ann.

Signed: Can’t Believe It.

Ann Landers’ response:

Dear Friend: Five of your classmates have written to ask the same favor.

Here’s the letter:

Title: In Love With Life – or – How It Would Be If I were killed in an Automobile Accident.

Agony claws my mind. I am a statistic. When I first got here I felt very much alone. I was overwhelmed with grief and I expected to find sympathy.

I found no sympathy. I saw only thousands of others whose bodies were as badly mangled as mine. I was given a number and placed in a category. The category was called, “Traffic Fatalities.”

The day I died was an ordinary school day. How I wish I had taken the bus! But I was too cool for the bus. I remember how I wheeled the car out of Mom. “Special favor,” I pleaded. “All the kids drive.” When the 2:50 bell rang I threw my books into the locker. I was free until 8:40 tomorrow morning! I ran to the parking lot – excited at the thought of driving a car and being my own boss. Free!

It doesn’t matter how the accident happened. I was goofing off – going too fast. Taking crazy chances. But I was enjoying my freedom and having fun. The last thing I remember was passing an old lady who seemed to be going awfully slow. I heard a deafening crash and felt a terrible jolt. Glass and steel flew everywhere. My whole body seemed to be turning inside out. I heard myself scream.

Suddenly I awakened. It was very quiet. A police officer was standing over me. Then I saw a doctor. My body was mangled. I was saturated with blood. Pieces of jagged glass were sticking out all over. Strange that I couldn’t feel anything.

Hey, don’t pull that sheet over my head. I can’t be dead. I’m only 17. I’ve got a date tonight. I’m supposed to grow up and have a wonderful life. I haven’t lived yet. I can’t be dead.

Later I was placed in a drawer. My folks had to identify me. Why did they have to see me like this? Why did I have to look at Mom’s eyes when she faced the most terrible ordeal of her life? Dad suddenly looked like an old man. He told the man in charge, “Yes, he is our son.”

The funeral was a weird experience. I saw all my relatives and friends walk toward the casket. They passed by, one by one, and looked at me with the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen. Some of my buddies were crying. A few of the girls touched my hand and sobbed as they walked away.

Please – somebody – wake me up! Get me out of here. I can’t bear to see my mom and dad so broken up. My grandparents are so racked with grief they can barely walk. My brother and sister are like zombies. They move like robots. In a daze. Everybody. No one can believe this. And I can’t believe it either.

Please don’t bury me! I’m not dead! I have a lot of living to do! I want to laugh and run again. I want to sing and dance. Please don’t put me in the ground. I promise if you give me just one more chance, God, I’ll be the most careful driver in the whole world. All I want is one more chance. Please, God, I’m only 17.

Yes indeed, the above is an heirloom. Don’t pitch it!

Until Soon

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