When I was a young girl, my mother and father would ride motorcycles with several of their friends. They would take wonderful road trips and group vacations together. If my father had an errand to run, he would often ask me if I wanted to ride along on the back of his bike. I was always happy to go with my father. Sometimes we would take the scenic route and ride through the mountains and stop for sodas together. These are treasured memories from my childhood; moments spent with my father for which I am most grateful.
When dad and I would head out toward his bike, my mother would always call out to us, “Have a good time, wear your helmets and be sure to be careful.” My dad never rode his bike without a helmet. I remember when he installed an intercom system. We could talk back and forth as we rode together, and we often had very serious conversations about his expectations for my life. Eventually, his helmets were upgraded again, and we could hear the radio through them. We would ride the roads and sing along with our favorite tunes, but even though it was fun, I still preferred the talks over the music. I knew my dad loved me, and I knew he had great expectations for my life. There was never any doubt in my teenage mind of these facts.
Eventually, I moved away from home as most young adults do. I left the southern United States and moved out west. Southern California was my destination. I met and married my husband there and even talked him into riding my Vespa with me. Just as my parents had always insisted, helmets were always required. We would ride out of San Diego on back roads to Alpine CA and visit my parents as they had eventually moved out west too. I enjoyed riding with my husband and just like my father, I knew he loved me and had great expectations for my life.
I am now a mother and grandmother. I love my children and grandchildren very much, and I have great expectations for their lives. Now that I have made the death care business my life’s work, I do not encourage my children and grandchildren to ride motorcycles. I have seen too many young people lying across my embalming table after being hit while enjoying a ride on their motorcycles.
Today I met with a family. Their son too liked to ride motorcycles. Unfortunately, today is a very sad day for them. Their son was hit while riding his motorcycle and now lies on my embalming table awaiting his funeral services. As his mother and father met with me, tears streamed down their cheeks. I thought to myself, how very sad it is that their beloved son will not achieve the great expectations in life that his parent’s had for him. At first glance, his body appears unharmed. It even seems probable that he might have survived his accident had he been wearing his helmet.
In my profession, there are many activities I once enjoyed from which I now shutter. I am so grateful for the precious moments I spent as a young girl with my dad on his bike. I am thankful that we never suffered a life-altering accident. At this stage in my life, my eyes have seen too many broken and mangled bodies for me to deny that life is too precious and fleeting to take thrilling moments of unnecessary risk.
I pray for this grieving family, who has this evening, lost their precious son of great promise. If you ride motorcycles, please think twice when you’re running out the door. Remember that you should always wear your helmet and watch out for motorists who might not see you. My brother calls it “The Law of Gross Tonnage.” His philosophy is that the vehicle weighing the most is probably going to survive an accident with a better outcome than the lighter one, and particularly better than a motorcycle.
Be mindful of your safety and please be careful. Believe me when I tell you that the funeral directors in your town do not want to see you prematurely lying across their embalming tables. I assure you that they most certainly do not want to have to meet with your heartbroken parents and tell them that your casket must remain closed because your helmet is sitting in the garage, without a scratch on it, beside your motorcycle’s parking spot.