In this very moment, while you are reading these lines, one man out there became aware of one excruciating fact: in less than 3 seconds, he will cease to exist.
Hard to imagine, yet it’s the inevitable fact of life and can happen to anyone without any warning.
In one moment, there you are, all happy and perky, looking forward to have sex later this evening. The very next, you are no more.
On average, 1.8 people die every second. That’s 106.6 in every following minute. 6,392.7 for every following hour. By the time you fall asleep, 153,425 people, who woke up this very morning, will suddenly cease to exist.
From the age of 18, for 10 straight years, death and suffering were an important part of my professional life.
When you spend so much time in a company of sudden and unexpected death, you start changing your perspective about what’s really important and what’s totally irrelevant.
One of those mind-changing events was a horrifying car accident with 4 deaths that simply shouldn’t happen.
A man, driver of a vehicle. A woman, on a front passenger seat. A teenage boy, sitting behind the driver. And one young, 10-year-old girl, sitting beside her brother. All ceased to exist in exactly 3 seconds.
But there’s more to this particular tragedy. Much, much more…
One second you are. Next, your head separates from the rest of the body and you can see it coming.
On a hot summer day, in July 2002, two young couples were getting ready for a 200-mile trip to the coast. After working for the entire year without the break, summer vacation time finally arrived and four of them was about to hit the road. Their plan was to spend two weeks in the beach resort to relax, have fun and recharge for a year ahead.
Being coworkers and great next-door neighbors, going on the summer vacation together became certain tradition. This was supposed to be the 5th year in a roll of their joint holidays and the very best so far.
Little did they know how one single tragic decision would destroy their lives.
Preparations for meeting The Maker
While wives were inside, packing those last few bags, two husbands made final agreements about the routes. An old, large roadmap, spread over the entire hood of the gray sedan, was already filled with different colors since they used the same map for years now as a talisman of good luck and reminder on a great time they had together.
Just few minutes before departure, the younger of two men, a successful businessman and the owner of several well-performing companies, received a call. Apparently, there were few things he had to sort out in the office before leaving.
“It shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours.” He swiftly informed his wife.
However, since the man’s kids were anxious to leave, his buddy offered that kids can ride with him. After all, they were practically a family.
The children were thrilled and their parents had nothing against it because their friend and neighbor was known as a careful and responsible driver. Even better than the kids’ father.
15 minutes later, everything got packed and two couples waved to each other and went own way. Responsible neighbor and his wife picked the younger couple’s children, a teenage boy and 10-year-old girl, and went south. The businessman and his wife went west, for a short drive to one of the man’s most profitable companies.
3 hours after leaving the hometown, with kids sleeping in the backseat of his car, and wife reading her favorite women’s magazine on a front passenger seat, driver suddenly decided to speed up. The man obviously became anxious to reach the coast as soon as possible.
The endless stream of sharp curves, with the rocky hill on the right side and deep abyss on the left, for the last two hours of driving made him nervous. That short portion of perfectly straight road ahead seemed perfect to “stretch” the right foot.
So, after coming out of a mild right turn, he radically increased the speed, taking the advantage of that straight, empty strip of a road ahead. A half a mile long gentle slope, just perfect for pressing the accelerator all the way down.
What he didn’t know was that the truck was coming his way, driven by a young driver who seemed to be testing the capabilities of the large and heavy vehicle. He was driving north, using that same route, rushing to deliver the order.
According to later witnesses’ accounts, the truck driver was frequently engaged in, what can only be described as, reckless driving, almost causing a few accidents along his way.
The truck was speeding in the direction of our nervous car driver who will soon decide to press the pedal and increase the speed.
Two vehicles, set on a collision course of a complex and unchangeable chain of events, approaching each other at terminal velocity. Both completely oblivious of one another’s existence and dangerous trajectory.
A deadly decision
Two hours on the road, struggling to with turns and steep slopes, while being pressured to meet the delivery time, truck driver decided to cut through the sharp left turn even though the large piece of rock on his left side prevented him to see further from just a couple of feet. The gamble that will prove itself disastrous just 5 seconds later.
The car driver was in the middle of that long strip of straight road when this large truck suddenly appeared on his side of the road. In panic, he hit the brakes, completely blocking the wheels and losing every control over the vehicle’s trajectory.
The truck driver did that same wrong and deadly thing.
Counter, set to 3 seconds, got activated.
Driver of the car must have realized that death is inevitable. His car was rushing toward the front side of the large truck, driven by inertia, and there was no force that could stop it. The longest 3 seconds of anyone’s life played in extreme slow motion. Along with activating panic and feeling of utmost despair, the brain does one additional thing in those moments. It triggers the memories.
For 2 seconds, the one on the collision course with death, has just one, specific type of thought on his mind – if only.
And that’s all. The next moment, driver’s head got separated from the rest of his body. Same happened to his wife. From the force of impact, the roof got stripped away and driver’s seat, along with the driver’s dead body, squashed the teenage boy, breaking every single rib on his chest and severely damaging both sides of his lungs, liver and pancreas. Little girl was also pressed with the front seat, but the main damage and the cause of death was a single piece of metal from the roof that penetrated deep into her skull, killing her instantly.
By the time we arrived on the scene, firefighters managed to free the boy and get him out, by cutting through the metal and ripping away parts of the vehicle. Medical team did all they possibly could to save the young boy’s life, but everything was in vain. His body succumbed to heavy damage. Heart simply stopped beating.
It was then when we received the information that the parents of tragically deceased children are on their way, just an hour or two away from the spot. In that moment, they knew nothing about the destiny of their two children and friends. A husband and a wife, enjoying those rare moments of alone time with each other, talking about the past and making plans for the future because the husband was about to sell his businesses and devote time to family. Family, that just suffered the worst hit imaginable. Something nobody can make peace with or recover from.
The worst part?
There were more than enough space between the left side of the truck and the edge of the road for the car to pass between without the scratch. 2.20 meters of free space for a 1.45 meter wide car. Truck driver managed to move to the right while braking, just enough for the car to drive by. If only the car driver didn’t panic. If only he managed to control himself. If only he maintained the trajectory and slowly decreased the speed while staying in full control of the vehicle. Then, this would be just one more adrenaline story with a happy ending.
Panic reaction of obviously inexperienced and shocked driver, eliminated every chance of that happy ending. Hitting the brakes with all of his force, killed 4 people in just 3 seconds.
I don’t really know why, but this case got deeply imprinted in my mind. Up until that moment, I already processed 402 dead bodies. Each and every died suddenly, brutally, and above all, unexpectedly. Another 74 corpses went through the lenses of my camera in a following period. Homicides, suicides, car accidents, arsons, fires and other tragic events, heart attacks. 476 people in 10 years. 476 different circumstances of death. Only one thing common to all of them – those final 3 seconds before each of them ceased to exist. 3 seconds of shoulda, woulda and coulda. 3 seconds of if only.
When you think about it, they all made a series of choices that ultimately put them on a collision course with death. None of them could do anything to prevent what was about to happen. And each of them was left with only 3 seconds after realizing that death is inevitable.
Death, as the only true absolute thing in the life of every human being. Everything else is relative and for the most part, completely irrelevant. What color of the drapes to put on? What kind of bread to eat? Greens or meat? Water of sodas? Juice or alcohol? Paying that bill or not? Killing yourself because of debt or eviction or not? Working for someone else or trying to conquer the world on your own?
Whatever the choice, only one thing is certain: sooner or later, you will become just a faded memory in the minds of your children. Will it be instantly and unexpectedly or will you suffer for months before your heart finally gives up? Nobody can say with any kind of certainty.
The conclusion is simple…
As the man, you should do 2 things
#1 – Prep everything for unexpected.
Just think the way I do. If I happen to drop dead in the next 3 seconds, will my wife and kids be settled for at least a couple of years until they manage on their own? And, if I drop dead in the next 3 seconds, how will they remember me?
Will I be the subject of despising and something pushed into oblivion, or will my two sons talk about their father with pride?
Will my wife save the memory of a caring and loving husband and think about me from time to time, or will she jump in another man’s arms with joy and unhidden enthusiasm and impatience?
Have I set the stage for my disappearance?
#2 – Focus on what matters.
Do you honestly give a fuck about the color of those goddamn drapes? Are you really fascinated with the branded rubber boots trend?
Lately, we are advocating a brand new concept of life for every man. We call it “The 20-20-20 rule.”
It’s the concept of life that allows more freedom to focus on what truly matters which, subsequently, enables us to leave the permanent mark in a fabric of time. Something to be remembered for, at least by our own children.
You probably reached the age where kids are grown enough and where true passion is some long forgotten feeling. During that time, you survived many potentially deadly situations by pure luck. Some of them were caused by your own decisions and deeds and others, you weren’t even aware of.
Now it’s time to focus on yourself and things you find inspiring and interesting. The time has come to give back to society that made possible for you to exist. The color of the drapes or someone’s childish moaning is not in your scope of interest anymore. You will remain in a role of a main pillar of your family, but you won’t be wasting too much of your time on nonsenses. Leave that to someone else.
Don’t forget that in every given time, for seemingly no good reason at all, you may become aware that counter, set to only 3 seconds, just got activated. The final 3 seconds, triggered and caused by the sum of events, reaching back millions of years. You really don’t want many regrets in that moment, don’t you?
Live your life with full lungs, that’s all we’re saying here.