“When you arise each morning, think about what a precious privilege it is to be alive… to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
When I was 11 years old, my summer consisted of playing a full season of Little League Baseball and District 52 All-Stars. All the while, I was playing competitive tennis, which had me traveling throughout the entire state of California. There were days when I would finish a match, literally run off of the tennis court, Superman change into my baseball uniform, and get to the game just in time for first pitch. I loved every minute of it, but when I would have an off day from my structured activities, I enjoyed doing the normal unstructured sort of sh*t that kids usually do. I rode my bike, played commando in the woods, hit the skate ramp, or snuck out to Felt Lake (privately owned by Stanford and shut off to the public) to do crazy ass flips off the water tower. That summer I spent every spare minute I had with my best friend, Todd Wilbanks. We would ride our bikes together all over Woodside and Portola Valley, exploring new trails looking for crazy jumps and steep hills to bomb. If we didn’t consider the jumps to be big enough, we would figure out a way to build them higher. Todd had two awesome older brothers, Matt and Doug, and a cute little sister, Wendy, that we would let hang out with us every now and again.
On a day I had a big tennis match, my mom was waiting for me as I came off of the court. I don’t remember whether I won or lost or even the exact location of where the match was, but I remember the look on my mom’s face and the crackle in her voice as if it was yesterday.
“Todd Wilbanks was killed today. He was riding his bike and got hit by a car.”
I didn’t know how to react. My defense mechanism and way of coping was to try to block it out. 11 years old is a volatile age to have to deal with any sort of tragic event, let alone the death of your best friend. Nothing in the world could have prepared me for this. My first thought was if I was with him that day, just as I was so many other days that summer, Todd would still be alive. For the past 30 years, I have passed the spot on Cañada Road where he was killed, usually while riding my bike. There has not been one time when I have passed that spot without feeling a rush of overwhelming emotions. I’ve cried, I’ve laughed, and I’ve cried and laughed at the same time. The one constant when I ride by that spot is Todd’s presence — I have felt him there every time.
I still keep in contact with Wendy, who has had a very successful career in real estate, and I keep up with Matt & Doug through social media, who have beautiful families of their own now. It has been 30 years since Todd Wilbanks died, and there are certain memories that I have held on to that literally make it seem as if it was barely 30 days ago.
Human Crash Test Dummy Life Lesson #5
If you are fortunate to live long enough, f*cked up sh*t is going to happen throughout the course of your life. Be grateful for every minute that you get to spend on Earth. Be grateful for every opportunity you have to spend time with loved ones. We don’t know when our time, or the time of those closest to us, will be up, so embrace each moment as if it may be the last.
Make sure to take a few minutes each day to reflect on everything in your life that you are thankful for. Recently, I have immersed myself in daily guided-meditations that have allowed me to really understand what it means to be in the present moment. We all live crazy hectic lives; slow down and embrace the NOW.
We cannot change the past, and the future is completely unknown. How we live our life in the present moment is the only thing we will ever have complete control of. Don’t waste it; we don’t know how long it will be here.