By Debbie Carbone
(*Debbie Carbone is a mother of five from Centerport. A Navy veteran, she works part time as a companion, as a personal assistant for Systematic Technologies, Inc. and as hostess at the Greenlawn Family Restaurant.*)
Death and shopping: I never would have thought of the two together. However, not too long ago, I had the responsibility of accompanying a friend on a very unusual shopping trip.
The gentleman who had passed away was 91 years old and had lived a very full and happy life. Like the memory of this wonderful friend, the memory of that room, full of caskets, will remain with me for the rest of my life. Looking back, worse only than the sights before me was the realization that I almost couldn't breathe.
Most of us have heard the expression that “death is a very normal part of life.” It is “what happens to all of us when we get old.” If only that were so. It was five years ago, this past Sept. 18, that the unspeakable happened to our family. On that horrible day, we lost our Keith, a victim of a deadly rip-current. Gone in an instant was my little sister's precious husband and my nephew's lovable dad.
Keith would become a statistic that day; our family would never be the same. A family reunion would become a family tragedy. Like everyone else, we’d read about the sad stories that affected other families, never thinking, that we too, were vulnerable. I guess we always thought that those kinds of things only happen to “other people.”
Keith never said a bad word about anyone, and I know we never cried as hard as we did the day we laid him to rest. Keith was as good a man as was ever created, and one thing’s for sure – he wasn't old. That time, other people took the walk through the casket showroom.
I realize this is a very morbid subject, but there's a purpose to it. Every single day on Long Island, there is news of tragic loss of life; preventable deaths. News of mangled cars carrying innocent young people; lives snuffed out. Family after family left in shock and despair. Schools and neighbors in mourning; the collateral damage everywhere. Then there are the pedestrians, run down like squirrels; many are not killed instantly, but left to die all alone in the dark. How many more families will face that dreadful walk through the casket showroom this year?
I've often thought, that maybe the casket showroom could be a deterrent for many drivers who receive speeding tickets or for those who run red lights. Like the person who hit my daughter for instance. Her car was totaled, but miraculously, she was not. We all, have to think about the consequences of our actions and how bad decisions can hurt everyone around us.
If we do nothing else, we could change one thing right now. Every day, drivers too impatient to wait behind a vehicle turning left will cross over the white line to the right of their vehicle, to pass. This protected area is the bicycle/pedestrian lane. I am guilty too, I admit it. However, that was before I went to my defensive driver refresher course. I came to find out that what I was doing was not just against the law; it jeopardized the safety of my neighbors. If only we would all consider, what if there's a mom with a baby carriage walking there? Many of our busy main roads have no sidewalks at all. Did you know that people also wait for buses in that area? Bicyclists depend on that lane for their safe passage. Ask yourself, “Do I really want a tragedy, like killing someone, to haunt me for the rest of my life?” Is getting somewhere 60 seconds faster worth taking a life and altering yours forever? Let’s all please focus on our driving, so that other families, because of us, don’t have to take that sickening walk through the casket showroom. Believe me, you don't want to go there.