It is 2:45 am—nature calls. I get out of bed, and with my eyes still closed, I make my way to the bathroom. I’m not thinking about anything more than going back to sleep, but God has other plans for me tonight.
The tossing and turning begin. Stupid thoughts are running through my now wide awake brain. What time do I have to get up to be at the restaurant on time for my breakfast meeting? Gerald never got back to me about my client’s tax question. Maybe I could research it myself. I reach for my phone on the nightstand. I type in “number of allowed dependents…” Google has some suggestions, but I still need to call Gerald tomorrow.
It is tomorrow, darn it. 3:22 a.m. Now I’m worried about being tired when I wake up. I’ve got to get back to sleep. Instead, I close out of Pennsylvania tax codes and open Facebook.
I am entertained. Ilene, a random girl I went to high school with (forty-nine years ago), posts a TikTok of a hilarious comedian lip-syncing a reading of the news. Laughter is a welcome distraction, even if it is now, 3:53 am.
I’m looking at a post that stops me cold. “RIP, bro,” my former co-worker is dead. “Oh, my God,” I say. It could have been me. But it’s not. I’m not sleeping, but I’m having a very real nightmare.
And then, “Thank You, God.” Yes, I’m thanking God that it’s happening to Ted’s family, not mine. I’m shocked and disgusted by what’s running through my mind. Where is my compassion? Apparently, there’s no limit to my selfishness.
I lean over and kiss my wife. Katie feels me trembling and hears my sobbing; she wakes up and holds me. We talk.
I met Ted in the first week of my first real job after college. We were both newbie accountants with GB & L, one of the bigger accounting firms in Pittsburgh.
Ted was poached by a client early in his career. He was a standout among our freshman class of newly minted CPAs.
Professionally, Ted was a success story. Personally, he had more than his share of failures, beginning with his three short marriages and subsequent quick divorces. He shed his faith, and he lost his way.
Ted was famous for taking unnecessary risks. He took up sky diving and fell in love with the thrill of being dropped from the sky at 14,000 feet. After a near-miss one perfectly clear June day, Ted decided to stay closer to the ground.
He bought a McClaren. The street-legal race car had a horsepower of 1035 hp. He drove it in road rallies and races across the country until one Sunday he crashed. He was taking the powerful beast around a turn at ridiculously high speeds. It was a miracle he got out of the wrecked heap of metal alive.
I find out that reckless hobbies didn’t kill Ted. Ironically, it was a simple yet insidious infection that got him. Ted burned his arm on a hot barbecue grill, cooking a tomahawk steak for himself at home. He self-treated the wound, and it got infected. He didn’t go to a doctor until the pain and swelling became unbearable.
And by then, it was too late. Ted died at Mt. Sinai Hospital later that night.
I give in to the fact that sleep is not happening; I get out of bed so Katie can go back to sleep. My heart is heavy with thoughts of Ted.
I take my shower. I resolve: There will be no more grieving for me on this day. It is a workday, and I have a breakfast meeting. And I have to call Gerald and get back to my client about his tax issue.
I pull myself together and get dressed. I drive to my office and prepare for the breakfast meeting.
It’s later on, of the same endless day. I call each one of my grown children. “I love you, Chris. I love you, Ella. I love you, Russell.
Isn’t that what we do when we hear of someone else’s tragedy? We think of our own, and we hold them close. We thank God for our own good fortune. We are grateful for God’s grace.
Bedtime again. My wife makes me change my mid-night habits. She puts a basket on the dresser across the room from our bed. It’s for our cell phones.
There are now two high-powered book lights, one for each of us, on our nightstands. When I can’t get sleep, I turn pages. I have my Bible and the latest copy of the Journal of Accountancy on my nightstand; either one has the power to put me to sleep in minutes.
A scroll free bedtime is a peaceful bedtime. If a sleepless night comes upon me, I’m ready for it. Someone else’s nightmare can no longer keep me awake. Bad news can wait until the morning.
Thank You, God, who gives the darkness of night to revive slumbering souls.
Author Talks: There is real-life truth and inspiration for this fictional story. My husband found out about the tragic death of a friend from Facebook in the middle of the night. He woke me, we wept together, and went back to sleep. The end of this story is pure wishful thinking. If only there were not three in our bed every night, me, my husband, and his cell phone. Sigh. – Susan