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?