So I know that a ton of my posts are about hockey. Whatever. I love it, and this is my blog, and no one is under any obligation to read it. That said, hockey is definitely not the only thing I think about.
Like today. Like Carly Bragnola. Who was 27. Sure, there's the fact that she was Taylor Pyatt's fiancee. There's the hockey connection right there. It's another Canucks-related tragedy. It's impossible to avoid in this city, even if, like me, you aren't a Canucks fan.
It's like trying to ignore Luc Bourdon's death in a motorcycle accident in May of 2008. Or even the death of Mickey Renaud, Captain of the Windsor Spitfires, who died on February 18th, 2008, of a heart attack. Mickey Renaud was 19. Like Alexei Cherepanov. Also 19. Also dead.
What the hell's with all these people dying? Four of them, in a remarkably small global sports community. Four. In the span of 16 months. I heard about Mickey Renaud on TSN while I was at the gym. The kid had a heart attack in his living room. At 19. I know what the medical reports said: hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. A genetic heart disorder no one knew he had. It's still mind boggling. His heart just stopped beating. His heart failed. Failed.
Then, on May 29th, 2008, Luc Bourdon died. I found out three hours after he was pronounced dead. I burst into tears then and there. I honestly have no control, even now, over my emotions when I see the May 30th presser with Kris Letang. He has this blank look in his eyes. He keeps rubbing his owns elbows, as if to remind his nerve endings that they're supposed to feel something. Anything. Please. Even if it's pain. So long as it's not nothing.
On October 13th Alexei Cherepanov died. Honestly, could more NHL prospects die in the span of eight months of completely unrelated reasons?
There was some controversy surrounding Cherepanov's death. The ambulance not being where it was supposed to have been. The defibrilator's battery being dead. Doping rumours. Chronic ischemia. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Myocarditis. Does it really matter what killed him? He was 19. No matter the cause, it's tragic. Even if an investigation later proved that he'd been engaged in doping. Doesn't change the fact that he's dead. Doesn't change the fact that the kid played a game for a living. That he was talented. That he was a good kid. That he didn't kill anyone. Or hurt anyone. Not intentionally. It's not his fault the news of his death made me cry.
Nikethamide (which Cherepanov is alleged to have taken approximately 3 hours before the game in which he died) is a stimulant which affects the respiratory system. Bear with me for a moment (and keep in mind that I don't have a degree in pharmacology, so this is purely speculative)... if you're out of shape and you do intense physical activity, what happens? Your heart speeds up, trying to pump oxygen into you blood stream, trying to keep you going because you need oxygen. But your heart can't keep up, and you get winded. Your lungs hurt.
Now imagine you're an 19 year-old hockey player who doesn't know he has myocarditis (an inflammation of the heart muscle, which results in not enough blood getting to the heart). Your lungs keep hurting. You keep getting winded. You don't feel so good on the whole. You're getting tired too easily. You think there's something wrong with you. That maybe you can't cut it. Maybe you're not strong enough to make it in the big league. Or maybe you just need a little boost to help you get to where you need to be physically.
The problem is in your lungs (or so you imagine). You take stimulants that affect your respiratory system. Makes some sort of basic logical sense, right? Only the problem isn't in your lungs, it's your heart. And it can't keep up. And then one day, during a game, it fails. Epic fail. With unfortunate consequences.
They try. The medics try to convince your heart to start up again and for a few minutes they do, the same way another young heart was convinced to beat again after a lethal bolt of energy coursed through her. You don't know that girl. She'd be a few years older than you now, if they'd been able to convince her heart to keep beating. She was younger than you are now though, when she died. She was sixteen. Too young. Like you are. You are nineteen. You were just trying to live the dream. So was she. Different dream. Same kind of reckless, wonderful heart. Hearts that failed, through no real fault of their own. Those dreams pushed those hearts to the limit. It's a beautiful concept if you ignore the outcome: living so hard that your heart can't keep up. It's almost poetic. Leave it to the Russians and the kids with grit and the girls you can't help but fall for, to push their hearts to the point of no return.
Years later, when someone who knew that girl with the reckless, wonderful heart that failed reads about all these young men dying, she can't quite keep herself from tears. She cries because she cried over that girl, and these boys are enough like that girl to make it hurt like it did. Even if that was years ago now. Even though she's never met these young men.
And then a young women dies. A pretty young woman who loved a man like these reckless, big-hearted boys. That someone who knew the girl with the reckless, wonderful heart, she cries. Even though she's never met the young woman. Even though she knows virtually nothing about her. Part of them is the same. Some part. The part that loves, and mourns. It's almost as bad as trying to imagine dying herself.
It's why watching that May 30th presser with Kris Letang is still so heart-breaking.
Because it doesn't matter who they were when they were alive, because they were all too young to die. They had lives to live. They had people to love. They had people to inspire. In their own ways, they still manage to do the last one. Even if it's nothing more than as cautionary tales, stories that, rather telling us what not to do, tell us what not to waste.
Life's too short to waste it doing things you don't love. So don't. (Except for dishes and laundry and paying taxes, those are probably a good plan, regardless of their potential monotony.) Do what makes you spin with joy whenever and however possible. Be a little bit irresponsible. You may never have another chance to be. You never know when it'll be over forever.
Even if there is such a thing as heaven, it's not the same as this life; this short, sweet, fleeting life on Earth. So make the most of it. And be happy. And try to tell someone you love them today.
**To everyone who was referred to this post from "All Hawks Hockey", welcome to Life is Peachy. I hope you come back now and then, and when you do, don't be a stranger :) A big thank you to Clare, for considering this worthy of sharing with her readers.**