Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Winter of Car Accidents

Last Thanksgiving, I posted about the death of my uncle in a car accident.

Well, last Friday brought another tragedy. Last Friday night, a friend of mine got in a car accident. In the accident, he hit his head in the exact wrong way, and it caused a very serious subdural hematoma. Aside from that, he had no other injuries whatsoever.

He was rushed to the hospital, and the doctors did scans and tests, and then determined that they needed to operate. They cut his head open and tried to fix the problem by relieving pressure and a few other things (I don't know all the details because I'm not a medical professional). Long story short, the operation did not work. My friend is now brain dead and on life support.

But the news gets worse. His chance of recovery is 0%. He is a vegetable. He will not wake up again, ever. The only reason he is still breathing is because a machine is pumping air into his lungs. His mom is probably going to pull the plug soon; the family has already had a priest and a nun stop by to give last rites (the family is Catholic).

This news has devastated me. Not only because he was a close friend, but also because it is the second fatal (or about to be fatal) accident of someone dear to me in only 2 months.

And to top it all off (as if it couldn't get any worse), my friend is only 22 years old. 22 years old!

His MySpace page is full of comments from friends and family, offering memories, support, wishes, and prayers. Actually, there are a lot of prayers in there with things like "God, hear this prayer!" and "I have faith that you will get through this." There is even one prayer in his comments section that actually says at the end "In Jesus' name, amen."

Many of my friends are religious, and I don't hold it against them. But these kinds of comments piss me off, and rightly so. Not because of their expressed desire for the guy to recover, but because of at least two other reasons. First off, it incorrectly places certainty where uncertainty is more appropriate. Secondly, it makes an appeal to the grand cosmic fuckhead who, if he did exist, was responsible for the accident in the first place! Why appeal to Him for a speedy recovery when this was part of His plan in the first place?

So like I was saying, the prayers piss me off. The best chance of recovery that my friend had was due to one thing and one thing only: the efforts and knowledge of our fellow man. The doctors, nurses, emergency personnel, etc. Those are the people who deserve the credit and the appeals, not some imaginary fucktard space ghost who has all the power in the universe yet fails 100% of the time to wield it properly.

Anyway, the prayers didn't work. The plug will be pulled. The priest gave his last rites. Maybe everyone should have prayed harder and stood on their heads while doing it. Maybe they should have performed sex magic. Maybe they should have drank chicken blood. But God forbid that anyone actually gives credit, trust, and responsibility where it is due! God forbid that anyone says "It's in the doctor's hands."

My friend will be no more. His consciousness will not go to another place. It will not go to a better place. It will not go any place whatsoever. It will simply be no more. To fail to recognize this is an insult to him, and a failure to recognize the severity of the situation. It does a huge disservice to fail to call a spade a spade in this situation. His consciousness will simply no longer exist.

Why do people always want to avoid the gravity of this kind of consequence? People would rather spare their feelings than learn from the reality of the situation. Well I say fuck that. My friend deserves better. He deserves truth between those who care about him.

The more that the afterlife gets killed, the less likely humans will be. This is because people will stop thinking that fatal accidents are a miraculous act of God and instead they will realize that accidents are preventable by our actions. They will realize that accidents can be prevented, and that by taking responsibility for ourselves, we can increase our chances of surviving and recovering from accidents. Putting it in God's hands prevents these things from happening. Putting the responsibility in God's lap retards our own progress.

I used to think that the afterlife was a shitty concept when I first started this blog. I'm surprised to realize that I feel even more strongly about this today. I don't think I have ever been so upset at the idea of making up silly childish afterlife myths as I am now. They are insidious. At first, an atheist may disregard them as silly or infantile. But that is not so. They are fatal. Truly fatal.

Kill The Afterlife. Save a friend's life.


libhom said...

"the grand cosmic fuckhead"

If there were a god, that would be the perfect description.

Krystalline Apostate said...

Oh, Aaron, I'm so sorry about your friend: I'm also sorry that you have to put up w/a bunch of hereafterians.
I am unclear, however, how believing in an afterlife had a causal effect on your friend's accident?

Aaron Kinney said...


It didnt have any direct effect on my friend. But what afterlife belief does, in principle, is get in the way of self-responsibility and it cheapens life itself. It also blurs the profundity and seriousness of death.

BlackSun said...

Aaron, sorry again. This is really shitty this happened. 22 years old. What a shame.

I'm reminded of a couple of years ago when Dallas Mussell died. I don't know if you were friends with him. He was best friends with my son, they knew each other for half their lives until Dallas walked off a cliff (accidentally) at age 19. Like your friend, it was a terrible tragedy--compounded by the sappy religious service they had for him.

What made the funeral a little more bearable was that many of Dallas' friends came up and gave decidedly un-religious eulogies, instead focusing on Dallas' creativity and what they loved about him. They played Tears for Fears "Shout" because that song was a hit when Dallas' mom was pregnant with him. (Damn, that makes me feel old.) Then everyone consumed massive quantities of alcohol and held a boisterous drum circle late into the night.

"it cheapens life itself. It also blurs the profundity and seriousness of death."

Well said, Aaron. Death is the final exit. It provides a profound peace knowing that your friend is not floating around somewhere wishing he were still alive. He is, fortunately for him, way past the point of caring.

That's the truth for all of us. When we're gone, we won't even know or care.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to hear of another loss. It is a bit dificult to know what to say, you being an atheist, and me being a "hereafterian" type.

I do hope that the doctors were at least able to relieve your friend of any pain, in his last moments.

I truely do not wish to offend you, and I hope you will take this well. You and your friends family will be in my thoughts and prayers for the next few days.

As I have said before, I believe that capacity needed to be a doctor or nurse is a gift from God, however you are right that if the medical staff did their best to save your friend, or anyone else who is dying for that matter, they should be commended for their efforts.

Not sure what else to say, and I hope that what I have said does not seem trite or abusive.

Paul C. Quillman

Krystalline Apostate said...

Couldn't agree more.
Deepest condolences, my friend.

olly said...

Dammit Aaron, I hate having to say this again, but my sincerest condolences.

I appreciate your attitude about death, as it mirrors my own very much. Why is it that we must cheapen the life that the person DID live by talking about some ethereal bullshit fairyland that they are supposedly going to?

I've said it before, and I know you know this, but your friend lives on in your memories and in your thoughts -- the only way we survive death is in our impact on those that knew us.

All we can hope, really, is that in the end, someone will stand at our memorial and say "If you knew him, you know enough and no more needs be said."


angelsdepart said...

I will try to keep this short, your post struck a cord with me. About 7 months ago I was hit head on by a drunk driver. It was thought that I would not walk again and the medical staff was shocked that I even lived. The asshole that hit me was a family man with a wife and three daughters who deceided to drive on 4th of July weekend with a .217 BAC. Eventually 6 months later we went to court were he pleaded guilty to vehicular assault in order to bargain out of three other charges. During sentencing this fuck told the Judge that he had no right to judge him and that only God did. He told the Judge that he "wanted to apologize" to me for what he did to me (Even though he never actually said he was sorry to me) and then told the judge that he prayed for me and my wife everyday!!! It just struck me how if you are a Christian you don't even have to take responsibility for your own actions, you can just put it in "God's hands." The Judge gave this man 2 years of work release (a weak sentence for almost killing someone) because he said that the accident was not intentional! Plus he is eligable to get out in 1 year if he is good! If there was a God I would think that he would give a much worse punishment for what this man did to me, or maybe not, maybe this was "Gods" plan. Anyways this fuck head is now fighting my civil suit for $250,000 even though that is the amount that he caused me in medical bills! His reasoning is that he has already paid for his crime. Wow, God is good huh? An absence of religion forces us to take responsibility for our own actions. I see this as only being positive. My best to you.

Aaron Kinney said...


I did not personally know Dallas, but I knew of him. His passing was a very shocking event that deeply hurt everyone I know (and of course everyone that knew him). And yes I did hear a few specifics about the religious funeral service and the secular eulogies. Im sorry that your son had to suffer the loss of such a good friend in such a senseless way. I suppose that this winter was my turn to experience these kinds of losses, and boy have I paid my dues now!! :(

KA and olly,

Thank you for the condolences. I wish that I didnt have to write about another tragic car accident ever again, much less twice in one winter!

Paul Quillman,

Thank you for your thoughts. You didnt offend me at all. Im glad that even though our worldviews differ, we can find common ground in human kindness and decency, and putting responsibility into the human beings who are there to help us :)


That is incredibly shocking. I am so sorry to hear that! Clearly, you have experienced this kind of tragedy in a much more personal way than I have. I am very glad to know that you are alive and kicking after such a horrible accident. Your conclusions are excellent: Putting shit in Gods hands is a BAD thing, and this man is doing nothing other than trying to absolve himself of responsibility through conveniently exercised piety. I dont know if there is anything that could be done to make him see the situation outside of his perspective. Maybe someone should ask the bastard, if he was in your shoes, would he expect compensation for his medical expenses (at least!!!!) ?

Thank you for the links as well. Im going to stop by your blogs.

lynn's daughter said...

I understand how you feel. When my mother died, I used to say things like, "I wish she could have seen me get my master's degree" and people would say, "Oh, but she's watching you right now." NO SHE'S NOT: SHE'S DEAD, AND I MISS HER! Idiots. I know they mean well, but it never helps, and never makes any feel better, even grieving christians, I think, aren't really comforted by such comments.

beepbeepitsme said...

You have my condolences as well.

Luis Cayetano said...

Hi Aaron. I'm so sorry for your loss, and my heart goes out to you and your friend's family. If anything good can come out of this tragedy, it's what you said: that we must not hope for a fictitious afterlife but must work to make this life better and safer for everyone.

In case you haven't read this: it's from Daniel C. Dennett, written while recovering from heart surgery, thanks to the excellent efforts of the medical staff and other workers at the hospital he was treated at. A snippet:

"The best thing about saying THANK GOODNESS in place of THANK GOD is that there really are lots of ways of repaying your debt to goodness—by setting out to create more of it, for the benefit of those to come. Goodness comes in many forms, not just medicine and science. Thank goodness for the music of, say, Randy Newman, which could not exist without all those wonderful pianos and recording studios, to say nothing of the musical contributions of every great composer from Bach through Wagner to Scott Joplin and the Beatles. Thank goodness for fresh drinking water in the tap, and food on our table. Thank goodness for fair elections and truthful journalism. If you want to express your gratitude to goodness, you can plant a tree, feed an orphan, buy books for schoolgirls in the Islamic world, or contribute in thousands of other ways to the manifest improvement of life on this planet now and in the near future.

"Or you can thank God—but the very idea of repaying God is ludicrous. What could an omniscient, omnipotent Being (the Man Who has Everything?) do with any paltry repayments from you? (And besides, according to the Christian tradition God has already redeemed the debt for all time, by sacrificing his own son. Try to repay that loan!) Yes, I know, those themes are not to be understood LITERALLY; they are symbolic. I grant it, but then the idea that by thanking God you are actually doing some good has got to be understood to be just symbolic, too. I prefer real good to symbolic good."

We can do more to honour your friend by doing good in the real world than to patronise his memory with silly God-isms, as you rightfully point out.

Rose Ghost said...

I'm so sorry about your friend. I just hope he made the most of those 22 years, because that's all we've got. The here and now.

It's horrible that these things have to happen, but it's importanmt to move on. Like what Lui said - it's more important to live for what exists now than to live for something that is no more or for something that might not exist.

Anonymous said...

That sucks, man. That really sucks. Death stinks, especially when it's someone so young.

I'm so sorry for your friend, and everyone who knew him. I'm sorry for your loss and pain.

Anonymous said...

I must make a comment in regards to what Blacksun said - I was at the funeral for Dallas Mussell a couple years ago. It was one of the most un-religious services I have ever attended. If you knew Dallas, you would have known that he was not a religious person at all, and would have greatly disapproved of any 'sappy' religious overtones in his honor. The so-called 'minister' there was a man who had known Dallas since he was an infant, and offered to speak at the funeral to give all in attendance a feeling of closure. The song 'Shout' was played because while Dallas was still in the womb of his mother, he would kick and move to the sound of the song. His mother felt it would be appropriate to play, seeing as his life had come 'full circle'. When someone dies in such a shocking manner (as Dallas did when he tripped and hit his head while hiking) we all should be gracious enough to remember that some of those grieving for him might have believed in something other than a hole in the ground when you die. To hope that you go on to a better place makes the passing somewhat bearable - and for some that is the only way they can get on with their lives.
If you actually were at Dallas' funeral service, it would have been nice of you to offer your condolences to his mother (my sister), who also knew your son. Unfortunately, she can't recall you doing that.

tina FCD said...

I am sorry to hear about such a young person dying in such a tragic way. My husband died after being hit by two vehicles at age 22.We had three children by then and one is Larro, at UngodlyCynic.

AngelsDepart has been through some horrendous shit because of a drunk driver. I hope people visit his "drunks" site, it's an eyeopener.

Again, I'm sorry to hear about your friend.

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