Kentucky Derby 2008 (2): Sudden Death

Sudden Death

Having overcome great odds to earn second place at the Kentucky Derby, the filly Eight Belles suddenly collapsed after the race and had to be put down by the veterinarian.

No one could have foreseen this tragic end to a great performance. Her jockey had no cause to be concerned for her health as he galloped her around the track with the other horses after they had all crossed the finish line. She had run strong, and seemed fine.

With no warning, however, she acted a bit strange and then fell down. With both her ankles broken and no way of standing up to be taken off the field in an ambulance, she had to be euthanized immediately.

Elation turned to intense for her jockey, trainer, owners, and many in the stands.

What a precipitous fall from glory to grief! How unexpected it all was.

Earlier in the day, I had been reminded of the imminence of death when I called a friend who’s dying of a virulent cancer.

“I have two weeks to go,” he said firmly, though with a hacking cough. “It came on quickly in January. I’ve done my best to put my affairs in order, and now I’m about ready to go.”

He’s a strong Christian, with a firm hope in the resurrection from the dead for all believers, so I could detect no self-pity or fear in his voice. On the contrary, he offered me counsel:

“Put your affairs in order!” he urged. “This thing came on me suddenly and left me little time to prepare. Put your affairs in order!”

The sudden demise of Eight Belles later that afternoon pressed home the point. Life is short, and could end at any time. Are we ready?