Monday, October 10, 2011

59 Years Wasn't Long Enough

Nothing stops life in its tracks so definitively as the death of a family member. For the McGee family, the wife and four surviving grown children, 59 years of life for Larry W. McGee wasn't long enough. He was hit by a pick-up truck while he was biking down FM 1303 just south of 1604 outside of San Antonio. He was not killed instantly. A passerby tried to resuscitate him until an ambulance arrived. He died at 9:30 am on October 4, 2011. Up until today, I have been unable to approach this subject on paper without breaking down.

Left: Fern McGee. Right: Larry McGee. This picture
was taken by my uncle Dwayne McGee at my
wedding in March of 2010.
Larry McGee was a decorated and retired San Antonio Police Department homicide detective. As horrifying as his death was, how it was handled was even worse. An investigation was curtailed by my aunt's being brushed off by Bexar County deputies, who told her she did not need a lawyer to prosecute the driver because it was an accident. My aunt went home to grieve her husband with very little in the way of closure. Whatever the intentions of the deputy, I believe that it is unfair to say that a man on a bicycle should die under the wheels of a truck (though technically he died of his injuries in the hospital) and the only explanation that was given was that the driver was incapacitated, "The sun was in my eyes."

It is very convenient that the four other people in the truck had the sun in their eyes as well.

I do not buy that my uncle's death was an accident. Nor will I believe the story The San Antonio Express News ran detailing the events, explaining that my uncle was an honored man, but that he was also biking incorrectly, which is what ultimately caused the truck driver to not see him. The truck hit him at 65 miles an hour on a narrow, winding road that my uncle had ridden his motorcycle, bicycle and any number of horses on for 20 years. The driver never even slowed down. My mother said to me that it wasn't The San Antonio Express News' fault that the article was spun that way. I wish I had been the editor responsible for placing that article. I wish the author of that article had bothered to try to get in touch with my aunt or one of my cousins. A good man died in a terrible way, and the best that journalist could do was include a statement from statistics saying how few cyclists have died in 2011.

"We have been lucky."

I somehow doubt my family looks at it that way, nor the families of the other four cycling-related fatality victims in Texas.

My uncle led a full life, always doing what he loved, and he loved a great many things and a great many people. He will be missed. The hole left in my family where his presence used to be can never be filled. The great rift that occurred when my grandfather left this world has widened. No service is being held for him, at his own request in his will, but the family looks forward to getting together some time soon to celebrate my uncle and honor his life. For my family, we try to believe that death signifies nothing. My uncle, as well as my grandfather and my father, had and have very dangerous jobs and equally strenuous hobbies. We live while we are alive and enjoy each other while we can. This is how we move on. No matter how many of us strive to live this way, dealing with the loss of a father, even an uncle, and it becomes a very poor philosophy.

This tragedy has brought my family closer together. I am now friends on Facebook with cousins I do not speak to more than twice a year. My cousins and my sisters all used to be very close, but marriage, kids and distance are not conducive to keeping in touch. In spite of the horror that has inspired this, I cannot help but be very happy at how connected we all are.

I know my uncle would wish us all to be strong, and strong we shall try to be, especially for my cousins and my aunt.  I wish I could offer some sort of conciliatory advice, make some sort of remark that we should all be more aware of cyclists and motorcyclists on the road. But that is all very well in good to those who it can still apply to. For us, and the man who ultimately killed my uncle--accident or no--this is advice coming too late. Suffice it to say that my uncle did not die in vain, and that we will remember him the way he was.

My husband and I had a beer in his honor at lunch the day I got the news. I tried to find a Tecate, but they didn't have it. We had to settle for Dos Equis. I like to think that he would have wanted us to have a beer for him as well. Larry McGee, you will be missed.

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