Linda Lewis Griffith

‘Is life really that fragile?’ What deadly dive boat fire can teach us about loss, living

The news about the Conception dive boat fire hit us all like a collective punch to the gut. Whether or not we knew any of the victims —a dear friend of a friend of mine lost two members of her family — we gasped at the randomness of the tragedy.

“How can death be so sudden?” we want to know. Then pale at the next logical question, “Is life really that fragile?”

We want to think we’re invincible, as if we’re in control.

And to some degree we are. We can decide to get regular medical check-ups, wear helmets when we ride bicycles and fasten our seatbelts whenever we drive. Thanks to medical advances, we’re also less likely to die in childbirth, contract the plague or succumb to an infection.

Still, our lives can be forever altered at any second. The phone rings in the middle of the night, informing us, “There’s been an accident.” A loved one gets a devastating diagnosis. A heart attack fells our spouse while we’re on vacation.

Such frailty is horribly unsettling. We don’t like being victims to whim.

Some of us up the ante. We demand that our doctors perform every possible diagnostic procedure in order to detect lurking problems. We take vitamin supplements by the handful. We eat vegan, organic and local.

It all helps. But only a little. Because the truth is that we are mortal and our lives dangle by a thread. No matter how staunchly we deny it, we and our dearest loved ones can be gone in a blink.

For most of us, the odds are in our favor. Still, anything can happen.

You’d think we’d have a better grasp on this concept. After all, every household has had to deal with loss. Each of us has felt the mind-numbing sorrow of missing someone we loved to the core.

We wondered how we would get through the day or if we wanted to go on at all. Our lives were indelibly altered. Nothing was ever the same.

Yet we slogged through the pain and patched a new life together. No, it’s not what we had or what we still long for. But it’s something. And we have survived.

It’s that ability to stagger on, no matter how dreadful the situation, that enables us to endure both individually and as a species. We do what we can to protect ourselves and our families, then trust that we can handle whatever arises.

Rather than shying away from uncertainty, we can embrace it as a lifelong partner. We can thank it for teaching us what truly matters.

Let it guide us to appreciate each day to its fullest, express our love to those in our innermost circle, and hold gratitude in our hearts for our many blessings. Because its presence reminds us that everything is fleeting. Tomorrow it just may be gone.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a retired marriage, family and child therapist who lives in San Luis Obispo. Reach her at
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