Face death by fully embracing life on our terms

Motorcycles lined both sides of Locust Street in Floyd Saturday.


Motorcycles lined both sides of Locust Street in Floyd on a Saturday.

As a motorcycle rider who almost died in a crash in 2012 that broke my right leg in four places, messed up the side of my face enough to need plastic surgery to put a dislocated eye back into place and therapy for brain injuries, I am often urged to quit riding.

I still ride. I’m a stubborn SOB.

A late-night run-in with a black cow on a dark night caused the 2012 crash. An SUV that pulled out of a side road in 2014 forced me to lay my Harley down and that action broke my left leg.  A wayward dog last September sent me and the bike down my bike and left me with “road rash” from scrapes and bumps.  That crash totaled one of our three bikes.

My doctor tells me I should quit riding.  So do others but the one person who could end my riding days — wife Amy — says riding a motorcycle is my decision and mine alone. She knows that time on two wheels is good therapy — for me.

There’s an old joke that you never see a motorcycle parked outside a psychiatrist’s office.

You will see them — often — outside a physical therapy office.  My bike is usually found at least twice a month in the lot for Peak Rehab in Floyd.

Death comes to all of us.  It is the one certainty we know.

My dad died at 29, electrocuted in an industrial accident while working as an electrician for U.S. Phosphorus in Tampa, Florida, in 1949.  He faced death as an electrician on Navy ships in the Pacific in World War II but came home without a scratch die at work.  All of his brothers died before they were 30 from automobile accidents and other ways.

NASCAR legend and Floyd County-born Curtis Turner died at the controls of his private plane after surviving the hazards of stock-car racing over the decades.  He also ran moonshine and outran the law as a young man.

Some feel death for each of us will arrive at a predetermined time and place.  My maternal grandmother believed in predestination.  I remember her falling down the steps on one Christmas and, as we ran to see if she was all right, said:  “I’m fine.  I just thank God it’s over.”

Songwriter-satirist-singer Tom Lehrer wrote and sang a song about Alma Gropius Mahler, a Viennese socialite whose affairs involved what the New York Times called “an artists’ Who-s Who” in the first half of the 20th century.

Wrote Ben McIntyre of The Times in 1992:

ALMA MAHLER-WERFEL was the Marilyn Monroe of her day. What Marilyn was to the world of cinema, Alma was to the cultural milieu of Vienna in the first half of this century. Her effect on an entire generation of Viennese artists, writers and composers was nothing short of electric.

Her list of amorous conquests reads like an artists’ Who’s Who of the period. She was married three times, to the composer Gustav Mahler, the Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius and the poet and writer Franz Werfel; in between she managed to have a prolonged affair with the painter Oskar Kokoschka and dalliances with a number of other, lesser cultural lights.

What was it about Alma Mahler-Werfel that caused your average Viennese intellectual or artist to go weak at the knees and start dedicating everything and anything he produced to her? After her death in New York in 1964, the satirist and songwriter Tom Lehrer pondered: Alma, tell us All modern women are jealous Which of your magical wands Got you Gustav and Walter and Franz?

Alma simply said “great men somehow continued to cross my path.”  Lehrer ended his song with “the lady who reached her embalmer was someone who knew how to live.”

For me, the best way to face death is to know how to live, one day at a time.


© 2004-2022 Blue Ridge Muse

© 2021 Blue Ridge Muse