Monday, December 12, 2011

Life Death and Jenna Morrison

Jenna Morrison, mother to a five year old and pregnant with her second was killed as she pedaled to pick her son up at school.  A truck crushed her to death under it's wheels.  The driver (wait for it) did not see her.  She is missed by her friends and her son and she is missed by her husband who adored her. 

When I first began bicycling in California, people would ask me if I wasn't afraid of being killed by a car.  I said that I was afraid of being killed.  I have had no car love affair like the rest of American.  Yes I can drive.  Yes I can drive a standard.  No I do not like cars.  I like horses.  Also bicycles.  When I started towing a wagon and carrying my kid home from preschool the same people asked again, "Wasn't I afraid of being killed?  What if something happened to Rapunzel."  Yes I worried.  Superstitiously I never wrote about it because I didn't want to make it happen but now she's in 2nd grade so I can say "yes, I worried that someone would kill us on Middlefield Road."  Amusingly enough a second class of people would ask a lot about the Burley bicycle wagon I used.  "Was I afraid it would tip over?  Had it rolled over?"  I said, honestly, that my only fear was that a car would hit us and crush us both.  Awkward silence would follow this pronouncement.

So why bicycle?

Know that joke about masturbation?  The boy gets told that if he continues to wank off he's going to go blind.  He asks "Can I do it until I need glasses?"

If you told me today with total accuracy that I'd die on my bicycle I would ask if I could bike until I needed glasses.  I love bicycling.  Today was grey and cool with the taste of rain in the air.  My tires made their soft steady noise of rubber and pavement.  As I rode towards Mountain View a sudden breeze caused a flurry of bright yellow leaves to swirl down around me.  Where in our solar system but on Earth can you have such a short perfect experience? 

Like most parents I want to live long enough to enjoy the love of my husband and see my children safely to adulthood.  If I am killed on my bicycle I will fail on this count.  But there are many ways to die and in my family, it is not cars that have killed us it is coronary disease.  My maternal grandfather was dead before my mother graduated High School.  My mother had quadruple bypass surgery before she was fifty. 

Go back four years and the Contraption Captain requires open heart surgery to repair a congenital defect to his mitral valve.  Despite the various confused dietitians who stopped by a problematic mitral valve has nothing to do with what you eat and everything to do with the heart you were born with.  Contraption Captain is tall, slim, and athletic.  Amusingly (sortof) enough the person in for surgery immediately before him also needed a mitral valve repair.  This guy was also slim and athletic.  Every other person on the ward was neither slim nor athletic.  They were huge panting miserable people in terrible pain.

I repeat.  Terrible pain.  Open heart surgery hurts like a motherfucker.  They saw open your rib cage to get at your heart.  You wake up in the ICU with a tube disappearing into your chest.   Guess what you do immediately after surgery?  Get out of bed and walk.  You have to walk to recover.  You have to move or fluid accumulates in your chest and you get sicker until perhaps you die from the complications. 

Guess who was up and walking around within twelve hours of this surgery?  The two guys who needed mitral valve repairs.  I would walk around and around with the Contraption Captain as he wheeled his iv and tried to move without hurting his damaged body.  We walked by room after room of giant pale people who were damp with pain and far too weak to get out of bed despite the fluids building up in their bodies that needed to be circulated away.

What I am getting at is, not bicycling can kill you also.  It is slower and less dramatic but it is a terrible death just the same.  Could I die of a heart attack?  Sure, yes, of course.  If you test my blood is there any indication of inflammation?  No.  There isn't.  I don't have any of the signals of heart problems that turn up in other members of my family, most of whom are on statins. 

I don't want to be killed by a car.  I don't want to die in agony on a hospital bed, either. 


  1. Darn, I *already* wear glasses. Huh.

  2. Heart disease. Obesity. Hypertension. These are the deaths I worry about, also based on my family history. I have no family history of being killed on a bicycle to worry about. I come from a long line of people not killed on bicycles.

  3. @John Romeo Alpha I was about to say that I also come from a long line of people not killed on bicycles but... My paternal grandfather, a devoted Dutch bicyclist, died at age 94 some hours after taking a spill on the fietspad outside of Groningen. The general consensus in the family is that this is not an entirely bad way to go.