Yesterday I learned the tragic news that Peter Underwood, an assistant women’s soccer coach at the Division I level, passed away in a car accident. I had the pleasure of getting to know Peter when we both worked at the University of Montana. I often say that I never got too close to the coaches when working in intercollegiate athletics but Peter and I talked frequently. He had so much appreciation for the work that the athletic department did for the soccer program. A young coach with an elegant English accent and dashing good looks, it was easy to like Coach Underwood.
On a recruiting trip when the accident happened, Peter’s death leaves behind a wife and two young children. The unnecessary end to his life was caused by a drunk driver going the wrong way on the interstate.
I have a hard time dealing with car accidents. To me, it seems like way too many of them occur. You can just quiz yourself and probably immediately think up five names of people you know who perished while inside automobiles. Then you can probably start thinking about famous people who met their demise behind the wheel and probably come up with at least ten additional names.
Car accidents are different from cancer or other extended illnesses for obvious reasons. They happen without warning, the victims are often too young, and the results almost always grisly. The thought of a loved one being taken in this way will make most people shudder in fear.
As I have grown older, I have reached a better understanding of why my mom could never rest from the time I left for a road trip to the time I reached my destination. Not until I called my mom and let her know that I made it safely could she exhale. Although statistics minimize the overall chances of getting into a fatal car accident, the potential and threat is always there. Bad weather, a deer in the middle of the road, an in-vehicle distraction, an impaired driver, or a host of other conditions can bring a much-too-soon end to life.
Disturbing for many of us is thinking about what car accident victims go through. What went through the poor person’s mind a couple seconds before impact when they knew they were doomed? How excruciating was the pain in the aftermath? What about the fear? These questions are absolutely horrible to contemplate but they really describe why I am so troubled when it comes to car accidents. We can think about what it would be like if it happened to us and get a little scared. But then when we think about it happening to someone who we love very much it not only makes us scared but also sick to our stomachs.
We just never know. It was by absolute cruel luck that Peter was driving that Iowa road at 7:05 a.m. this past Saturday. A billion little things could have occurred that would have diverted the disaster. In the end, it is just the nature of car accidents, the ultimate thief of life and potential.
This is one of those posts where my beloved phrase Don’t Blink rings even more true than usual. No matter how many precautions we all take when we get behind the wheel of a car or sit in that passenger seat, we are always at risk when on the road. We never know when it will all end. My condolences go out to the Underwood family. Don’t Blink.