One Second

R.I.P. Andrew Leon Wood

Nov. 25, 1973-Feb. 10, 1997

You would be 37 now, probably married, a few kids running around. But you’ll always be frozen in time at 23, muscular body pumped up with protein drinks and your Marine drills, buzz cut hair gelled into little porcupine spikes on your head. As a little girl, Britt loved running her fingers over them—ouch, she’d screech!

Second of five of us—the biggest hell raiser. Loved jumping out of planes in the middle of the night, even after the time your chute caught in a tree’s branches and you dangled there for hours in the dark. Riding that motorcycle fast enough to elude cops on the freeway. The last time I saw you driving away from mom’s house crouched over the frame, I muttered it would be the death of you. Why do big sisters always have to be right?

In the poor neighborhood where you worked and where we grew up, you’d hand out loaves of bread to hungry kids. You pulled practical jokes on your Marine buddies and wore your girlfriend’s new lingerie to give to her.

Life as we knew it changed in one second. Years of shared family jokes, holiday dinners where mom’s turkey was too dry, hot August nights taking turns at the handle of the ice cream maker on the back patio, making our younger sister scream and pee her pants when we told her a spider was crawling on her back. Twenty three years of sibling rivalry distilled into something that promised one day in the not too distant future to be friendship—the kind that only forms once kids are grown enough to make their own terms beyond the boundaries of mom, dad and the rest of the gang.

One second and it was lost forever. Life became divided by an invisible filament of time, before and after you were a tangible part of our lives, before your helmet failed to protect you from “massive head trauma” listed on the coroner’s report. One second—I always wonder whether you knew that on impact with the side of that van under the glare of a setting sun that you were living in the last second of your life. Did you have time to contemplate your mistakes, your joys or was it so fast that one second there was light and the next second it was dark?

Have you had one second change your life irrevocably? How did that experience change the way you live now?


Author: TJ

adventurer, writer, photographer

5 thoughts on “One Second”

  1. TJ, I’m so sorry for your loss. Your brother sound like a wonderful guy.

    I, too, lost my brother in one second in 1997. He died in a car accident. I, too, have wondered if he experienced a moment of knowledge that is life was ending. I hope not. I hope he was happy until his last second since it’s hard for me to imagine him being anything but happy.

    I hope today you fill your day with happy memories of your brother. I wrote about how we celebrate my brother’s birthday on my blog:

    I hope you and all the people who loved your brother are able to share your memories and comfort each other today.


  2. Thanks Yvette. How odd that we both lost brothers the same year. So strange how these events divide our lives into before and after. Loved your post–made me smile!


  3. tj–

    what a tribute you have written to your brother here. i am so sorry that you lost him. i am so glad that you seem able to find words.

    i am struggling for words. one of my brothers almost died, but didn’t. he pulled through and–though no one knows how (the doctor’s kept saying, “but he should be dead…but he should be dead”)–he still did, he’s still here.

    it has been ten years since his accident and this year he has sunk, down down down. until i read your post i hadn’t considered that perhaps this anniversary is snagging him a bit, offering up an existential crisis instead of reverence.

    we tiptoe around that day in my family, pushing and pushing and pushing it into the past.

    you have given me a lot to think about and reminded me to be grateful. thank you for that. i hope that today brings you what you need it to bring you, that the world is gentle and helps you through.


  4. Interesting that you say your family “tiptoed around that day, pushing and pushing and pushing it into the past.” I did that for years, like it was too painful to acknowledge. And I didn’t have the words to express how I felt—a mix of sorrow, anger, regret. I knew my mom would be thinking about it, but I didn’t want to. I’d enter a funk for a good chunk of February and try to numb myself with other things. This year, I wanted to address it head on. I’d like to create some way of honoring his memory from year to year, but I’m no good about visiting a gravesite. For me, he isn’t there. Perhaps a day of practical jokes would be the ticket 🙂

    It would be really interesting to know what your brother is experiencing–a life reevaluation at this anniversary? Perhaps he should have two birthdays a year, one to celebrate a second chance. My heart goes out to you and to him. I hope he can find some way to work through it and to come out the other side with a bit of insight. There are so many regrets I have about my brother’s death…more to come in the writing in the next couple of days.

    By addressing the anniversary this year, I feel a cloud lifting. Tears still, yes, but a deeper peace about it than I have had in quite some time. Thanks so much for reaching out and sharing your story too.


  5. Oh TJ – this is so powerful. So powerful. And inherent in its very power is a lovely and charming tribute to the brother you so palpably loved. Yes, I have experienced that “one second” phenomenon. For me, it was when my mother called on that crisp day in October, the day after my 29th birthday, and told me that Dad had cancer. In one moment, my life split into Before and After. I will always remember that day.

    Thank you for sharing this here. I can only imagine that it continues to be hard to process your loss. Grief evolves, but never completely fades, right?


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