I hadn’t planned on posting anything before taking off tomorrow for the great manta ray adventure, but news has come through of the Russian plane crash that has killed 44 people, including many hockey stars, from Swedish Olympic champions and ex-NHL players to several ex-Red Wings, most notably Ruslan Salei, who only left the team at the end of last season, and coach Brad McCrimmon.
Bam. Just like that. A faulty 18-year-old Russian plane and an entire team of hockey players in their prime, or not far off it, are gone.
Pavel Datsyuk broke the news to the Wings as they were about to go onto the ice for an informal training session and the team closed the locker-room to the media. Coach Mike Babcock and his wife headed for the home of McCrimmon’s wife and kids, to offer support.
Just like that, hockey and sport and so much everyday life is put into perspective.
There’s not much to say, except for this: live your lives, people.
Embrace life. Smell the air. Look at the sky. Take a moment to be aware of the fact that you’re alive and the world is full of potential.
I’ve had a few deaths, and other losses, in my circles over the past couple of years and they’ve hit me deeply. This one is on a grander scale, we’ve already watched the Japanese earthquake in horror, and tomorrow you can guarantee every news service will carry the images of those planes slamming into the twin towers exactly 10 years ago over and over again.
In one month, my boys and I will be standing at Ground Zero, in downtown Manhattan, site of those fallen towers, looking at the reflecting pools they have built as a memorial. The first time I went there, less than a year after the terrorist act, I stood contemplating that twisted metal, the carnage visible from Church Street, the financial district only a block or so away. I can remember the smell of decay and death that hung over the mountains of rubble, and drifted through the subway system. And I became aware of the people around me, many crying, many holding photos, many silent. They were the family members of those lost in the towers, paying painful homage.
I walked away from that site thinking about the thousands of people who went to work that day, not realising they weren’t coming home. That such a random vicious act would snatch their lives.
My cousin, an oncologist, has told me many times how cancer is so random; it takes whoever it wants, and he treats so many “gunna” people – those who were “gunna do this or gunna do that” but now they won’t have that chance. I determined early that I would not be one of those people.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m a long fucking way from perfect. I continue to hurt people and I fail at things and I stumble in fog and have no idea where I’m going; more or less than most? I have no idea.
But I try. To be a good person. To do the right thing. To take my seat on a small plane flying precariously from Hervey Bay to Lady Elliot Island on Saturday morning with the knowledge that those around me hopefully know they are loved and I have tried my absolute hardest, for them and for me. Win or lose.
I spend possibly too much time wondering about this stuff; what do I need to wrestle, to ensure is right, rather than just letting life unfold. I just got a large tattoo of a yellow-tailed black cockatoo feather on my upper left arm to remind myself every single day that we are all in the Wings of Fate.
And we are. If I broke my leg last week at hockey, that adventure would be over and my trip to Project Manta and America a week or so later would be scuppered. Do I stop skating in fear of that? Or trust those flapping wings?
And that’s not the least of it. If I had happened to be a member of an elite Russian hockey team attempting to take off from Yaroslavl Airport yesterday, could I say I’ve lived a life? Could I say I have left the world a better place? Could I say that I took the bites out of existence that justifies time on Earth?
Rest in peace, Ruslan Salei, Brad McCrimmon and everybody else on that plane.
For the rest of us? None of us know how long we’ve got so live life as though you mean it. I intend to, starting with manta ray face time.
After that? Who knows.
Take care, hockey fans.