Friday, April 10, 2009

Day Eighty-Nine: Nick Adenhart is dead

I know most of my loyal readers took a look at today's blog title and immediately thought, "Who?"

Nick Adenhart was a 22-year-old rookie pitcher for my team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (still hate the extended name, by the way). Wednesday night he made his first start of the year (and fourth of his career) and pitched six scoreless innings, with five strikeouts and three walks. After the game, he went out for a ride with a couple of his friends when a drunk driver ran a red light and killed them all.

Number three starting pitcher at 7:00, dead just after midnight. It happens fast sometimes.

Here's the story, if you're interested, from the Angels' web site.

Now, I'm a sports fan, and I (as do all fans) have a tendency to place pro athletes on this other plane of existence. Not that they're better than the rest of us necessarily, but they are different. Some folks do this with actors. Some with politicians. All we see of them is the manifestation of their work, and we tend to forget that they're normal folks with lives and families and friends and such.

Then, there's something like this that brings everyone back to a level playing field.

Adenhart was 22. Okay, I'm 26. I have learned and felt and experienced SO MUCH in those four (almost five) years between his age and mine. I had many aspirations when I was 22. Some of them I've achieved, and they've spurred me on to newer, bigger things. Others I'm still working toward. I've also got aspirations now that I'd never dreamed of when I was that age.

Sorry for the rambling, I think I'm just using this to sort out the thoughts in my own head. But here, I think, is what gets me the most about this kind of incident: in the past two years, my shows--whether they be in our children's theatre, on tour, or at one of the schools that have produced my stuff--have played to over 9,000 people, most of them children. Stories of acceptance, of dreams, of peer pressure, of Immanuel, et cetera. Next year, a new show on child drug use is going to hit the road. I don't know how often any of these stories have left a suitably lasting impression, but I have been getting inklings from all over lately that they have stuck with many people in different ways. When I was 22, I hadn't written any of them. Sometimes it's almost breathtaking to look back and see how much God has blessed me and my work in the past four (almost five) years. Then you see someone young and promising like Nick Adenhart, and wonder what the years ahead may have held for him.

And of course, a drunk driver. Always. So freaking unnecessary.

Anyway, I don't mean to depress everyone. I think there's a message of hope in all of this mess. I am young, yes, and I have some exciting things on the horizon. But I'm not promised any of them. A sudden loss of life always reminds me exactly how precious life actually is. Undoubtedly, I will be thrilled, once I've passed on from this existence to my eternity with my Lord and my God, but until that time I've been given this, today, now, as a gift. I'll never have this exact life again. Robbie will never be going-on-two again. Kim and I will never be still-fairly-newlyweds again. Dave, Tarvis, and I will never discover Das Biest for the first time again. I'll never win my first new play contest again. I will revel in these happenings of life as they happen, and then take the advice of the eminent sage, Dr. Seuss: "Don't cry because it' over. Smile because it happened."

So smile, friends. Find something in your life that is worth celebrating, and smile.