Why haven’t we done this before?

25 Jun

Why does it usually take a tragedy – or a near miss – to jolt us from our routines and remember what’s really important in life?

On August 1, 2007 the Interstate 35W Bridge collapsed in Minneapolis killing 13 people and injuring 145.

I was playing tennis just blocks away when it happened. I remember the roar of emergency vehicles going by and smoke rising on the horizon. We all rushed inside the tennis center and stood motionless in front of the TV monitors, unable to comprehend what had just occurred.

My whole family crossed that bridge multiple times during the day, so I was freaking out. I grabbed my bag and rushed over to my parents’ house. As I drove I kept thinking, “Is everyone OK?” Little did I know that my mom had driven across the bridge fifteen minutes before it went down. When I arrived at their house she was visibly shaken.

The next day I asked my mom for a ride to the light rail station in downtown Minneapolis. Veronika was working in London at the time and I was flying over to spend a few days with her. Before hopping on the train, I said to my mom, “If something happens to me, please take care of the dogs.” (I’ve always been a little nervous about flying, and she was the one who watched over the dogs when we were away)

I gave her a hug, waved and walked away to catch a train to the airport.

Jasper and Mom
Photo: My mom and J as a puppy – my most precious photo (2001)

Veronika and I spent the next day – a gorgeous, sunny day – strolling through London and taking in the sites. When we returned to her apartment in the afternoon, there was an urgent message. “Call your sister right away. It’s an emergency.”

My sister answered the phone and as she started speaking I collapsed to the floor.

While I had been on the flight to Europe, my mom had suffered a major brain aneurysm. She was rushed to the ER, but there was nothing more the doctors could do.

I can hardly explain the emotions I felt. I was stuck in London with no way of getting home until early the next day while my mom was in a hospital in Minneapolis slowly slipping away.

Around 3AM, my sister called with the news that our mom had passed away.

It may seem strange, but in the weeks and months that followed I felt an incredible sense of calm (along with the obvious sadness). For a stressed-out, anxious worrier, it was unlike anything I had ever experienced. All of a sudden the concerns that had been plaguing me no longer mattered. Life became simple, which brings me to Jasper.

In the years since my mom’s death, the stress of everyday life slowly returned. But now I’m starting to awaken once again to what’s really important. It isn’t the arbitrary deadlines, the latest technology gizmo or the size of your house. It’s the simple moments we share with family, friends and yes, our pets. Seems obvious, right?

Can you believe that I’ve lived in Minneapolis for nearly twenty years and I’ve never walked around Lake of the Isles? One of the most beautiful urban lakes anywhere. Sure, driven by a bunch of times, but never bothered to stop.

On Friday night, Veronika and I took the dogs for a walk there. It was like an evening escape to Italy! But with mosquitoes.

For years it was the same routine with Jasper. Go to the northeast dog park once or twice during the week. Visit the Mississippi River dog park on the weekends (still one of my favorites). Watch a lot of TV.

Photo: Jasper’s favorite thing – WATER!

No more! Now we’re getting out and visiting new urban trails during the week while exploring a new dog park every weekend! Did you know there were trails up and down the river bluffs in Inver Grover Heights? A swimming pond for dogs (and turtles and frogs) in Bryant Lake Park? A marshy woodland preserve that looks like something out of Africa in Brooklyn Center? These places rock! Why haven’t we done this before?

This past weekend we went to our new favorite place in the cities – Afton State Park! Jasper loves swimming in the St. Croix River at the edge of the park, Veronika and I love the fields of prairie wildflowers and we all love hiking the endless trails through pine and hardwood forests. After four hours in the park swimming with J and walking until our legs hurt, I felt the best I have in years! Wow!

This is really what life is all about.

Afton State Park
Photo: Todd and Zooey taking a break while J swims in the St. Croix

To end on another positive note, the doctor asked us to do some “informal” at-home measurements of Jasper’s tumor on a regular basis. We were so happy this evening when we did the measurements and found it hadn’t grown in the last week.

It’s the little victories that keep us going now.


One Response to “Why haven’t we done this before?”


  1. And so it begins (or ends?) « My 40×40 List - March 7, 2011

    […] If the last few years have taught me anything, it’s that you really have to live for the moment. As clichéd as it sounds, you only have one shot at this thing called life, so why not get out there and create some memories?! […]

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