In the News
Natasha Richardson: When Accidents Happen
-Julie Ryan Evans
One minute Natasha Richardson was enjoying a ski vacation with her sons at a Canadian resort, and the next, her life was over.
During a private ski lesson on March 16, the 45-year-old actress who was married to Liam Neeson, took a tumble on a beginner’s run. She initially seemed fine and walked back to her room.
But a headache sent her to the hospital, and things got worse from there. Initial reports were that she was brain dead, having suffered from Talk and Die Syndrome in which the victim has bleeding around the brain without showing any external signs. Then just three days later her family confirmed that she passed away.
It happened in an instant, just like that.
While we all grieve for her and her family, it’s a jolting reminder of how fragile and out of our control our lives really are. “It” can happen to any of us, to any of those we love. We can work to build a great life, raise a wonderful family, do good and have a successful career, and then with no warning, no justification, it can be taken.
I think about “it” all the time. I think about it when my son gets in the car with someone other than me, and I wave goodbye to him. I think about it when I watch him dive into the swimming pool and when he eats a piece of steak that he could choke on. I think about it when he’s at school and sometimes even when he’s sitting across from me on the couch watching TV and I hear an airplane fly overhead – they have been known to crash into houses after all.
I think about it when I imagine my infant daughter getting dropped, or when I sign the form consenting to allow her to be injected with vaccines. I think about it when I walk down our steep staircase with her and imagine tripping …
Though all the worrying probably takes years off of my life and puts many more on my face, I continuously think about countless “its”. I know it’s not productive, and most accidents that happen are likely ones that never even occurred to the persons involved. But, common sense does little in the face of my fears.
There was the six-month period last year in which my son needed stitches THREE TIMES! And each time the total flukes happened – golf club to the head, running into a pole and tripping going up a slide – the fear of what could have happened, what could happen at any minute, any time, overwhelmed me. And for days after each encounter my heart lurched with every step he took; everything seemed dangerous.
Then as the stitches were removed and scars started to heal, I relaxed a little bit more and more each day he went by unscathed.
Because I have to move on, move on from incidents and move on from thoughts about accidents that could happen, or I will be paralyzed by them.
So while on one hand, hearing about accidents, like Richardson’s, makes me want to wrap my children up in a cocoon and never let them out of my sight. (But then surely the material of the cocoon would be toxic, and they’d contract cancer or die of rickets from Vitamin D deficiency … or something.)
On the other hand, it actually relives me of some of my worrying because I’m reminded how random accidents are, how little control we have over them no matter how much worrying we do, and how we should enjoy life to its fullest while its ours to live.
So I say yes when my son asks if he can eat the food that fell on the floor. I sign him up for golf lessons again. I take him back to the playground and cheer him to climb higher, and I book tickets to go out of town and leave my newborn daughter in someone else’s care. I encourage my children to take risks and to embrace all that life has to offer. Because I know that it can be changed in an instant. Just like that.