We Lost A Rat Snake Teammate

“Dan, it’s with a heavy heart I’m reaching out. 

One of my best friends

and fellow Rat Snaker/beer lover 

Mathew Fredricks was killed in a car crash earlier this week. 

He had run the race multiple times with us.”

We all know that life is precious. Think about it, the universe as we know it is about 14 BILLION years old. On this continuum, we physically live for about 78 years. When I asked my phone for a calculation for a percentage of our life span compared to the total life span of the Universe, its response was: “The answer is zero.” ZERO. We are truly a spec of stardust in the timeline of known life. We don’t even have a moment, not even a moment to live. I can’t even say a split second. It doesn’t encompass how short our time is in this vessel of flesh and bone. Our lives are precious. To the point that they’re inexplicable. It’s a concept that I cannot wrap my head around. We have no time. And when we learn of someone having even less than zero time, we MUST rethink the way we live our moment in time.

It’s our responsibility, our moral imperative… obligation, to live for those we love who cannot live out their purpose. Every day. Every moment. They are the ones who remind us that our time isn’t for nothing. We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to THEM. There’s no time for being selfish on this one. We have one life. Live it. The darkness that gets brought to us from time to time is a harsh reminder of WHY we are obligated to give it our best shot. Maybe some days aren’t as good as others. But did you put your hat in the ring for something that day? Did you sit up in bed, turn to place your feet on the floor and say “I’m going to live with purpose today. I’m going to drink as much from life that I can. That I will wring out the dampness of whatever wet blanket is thrown at me and use its adversarial power to propel me through the next obstacle. Today, I will do the best that I can for me and for those who cannot?” 

“Live for them,

for those who don’t have the opportunity. 

For those who were stolen away

by death’s cruel hand. 

For them, I will live.

I will revere the memory and I will live.” 

~Jocko Willink

Yesterday, a Rat Snake friend messaged me saying that we had lost a teammate to a car accident. Mathew Fredricks was patron to the Rat Snake at least 4 times. As all Rat Snakers know, to participate in at least one race makes you an enthusiast of challenges. To do this race multiple times makes you an enthusiast of life. This is the whole purpose of the race. To celebrate the life lived by a man who sought out his limitations through challenge. 

Mike Day said, “Loss connects us.” I may not have known Mathew, but I do know this… I know his company. And you can tell much from the company you keep. If he’s toed the line multiple times with the rest of Ken’s Rat Snake community, I know a few things about the character of a Rat Snaker. I know Mathew had commitment. No one who has trained and completed this race could complete it without commitment. I know Mathew sought out a challenge. To be in a race where you have no time to let up, seeking out challenges in life is the only way to push through. Mathew is humble. To participate multiple times in the Rat Snake means you are constantly looking for improvement. You understand that there’s always room to do better. That you are never satisfied with your results. You just want to be a better person. Love, Mathew has much love in his soul. Being a multiple offender of this race alludes to the fact that you love your tribe. No one does something multiple times because they are a maverick. They do them because they love who they’ve surrounded themselves with. People like Mathew surround themselves with the very best human nature can offer and stuck with them. Knowing that love is the true binding element that makes life secret. These virtues surely don’t begin and end on race day. They are daily efforts. They are entangled with every facet of life. Virtues cannot be turned on and off like a light. They are ingrained in your being. They direct your course through life. And true life is never ending. And Mathew’s life continues to live on, through him, through us. This imperceptible force flows through all he’s come in contact with. That’s the true gift of a great person. That his efforts to be as virtuous as he can be is what makes each of us who have been in his presence, better. 

“I slept and dreamt

that life was joy.

I awoke and saw

that life was duty.

I worked – and behold,

duty was joy.”

~Rabindranath Tagore

When tragedy comes unexpectedly, when loved ones pass naturally, we need to remember what has been left to us. The fingerprints, the footprints, the life lessons. The examples that have been set from their happiness, from their sadness, from their anger, and what we have learned from all they have done for the time they were with us. We must honor that. We must live that and learn from it and apply it to how we live today. What else are we to do? There’s no way anyone that has touched our lives that has left this physical life and thought “I hope people will feel sorry for me for the rest of their lives.” Anyone who’s lived a life well lived would refuse that. They would want you to move in the direction of improvement. They would want you to remember what they have shown you in their lifetime. That you respected them enough to live a certain way that they wanted to live for themselves, for you and for those around you. They have taught us that. We can’t stand still. We can’t move backwards or sideways. There’s no sidestepping this. There’s no avoiding it. There will be grief, sadness and anger. These are primal emotions. These emotions are the ways we deal with loss. So, let’s use the grief and the anger and the sadness to do right by them. To do right by us. To do right by those we love. There’s no correct formula for how to move on except for we must move on. We must move on in a positive direction. There’s no good time to let go. Maybe there’s never a good time to ever let go. We hear this now and then, “You’re going to have to let them go.” Why? Why can’t we grab on to the spirit, the energy that we were left. Why can’t we grab onto it and run as fast as we can lifting that spirit to great heights as a child would with a kite. Let our energy and the wind created by its velocity carry their legacy to great heights. Giving us a beacon to focus on that keeps our heads held high. A goal for us to work towards. No one ever looks down for greatness or enlightenment. We always look up. Let’s keep looking up. Let’s keep forging forward and doing what’s best for us by remembering how they behaved to do things that were best for them. And they did what was best for them, so that WE could learn from them. 

“The crowning experience of all, 

for the homecoming man, 

is a wonderful feeling that, 

after all he has suffered, 

there is nothing he need fear anymore…”

~Viktor E. Frankl

Death gives us more meaning to life. To their life. To our life. To life yet to come. Death gives us the opportunity to still make the world a better place. To love more. To learn more. To be more. To live more. Each moment is a gift. There will be times when we won’t be strong enough to be positive. There will be times we won’t be strong enough to dig ourselves out of a hole one day. There will be times you won’t be strong enough to see the good in this situation. Those times will not last. Those times can’t last. Those times will teach us to push through. They will teach us to be stronger. They will teach us to love harder. They will teach us even in sorrow, we can still march forward even… if it’s millimeters at a time. And this is what they have taught us through their life. This is what they would have wanted us to learn. This is the Legacy they want us to keep alive. Because one day, we will be on that doorstep as well. In what would we want for those that we will leave behind? What Legacy do we want our loved ones to keep? What lessons do we want our loved ones to learn? In this strangely circular event, we can improve life generation by generation. We can leave a positive mark on this planet. A loving impression in the hearts of those we touched. We need to continue on and do what was taught to us by those who can no longer teach. When you think of loved ones lost, how does it make you feel? Sorrow of course. But what else? What other emotions did it fill you with? What direction did it make you want to go? What legacy did it make you want to continue? What actions did you want to start? What obligation did you feel you needed to fulfill? These seeds of intuition were planted by the loved ones we’ve lost. Their virtues, habits, wisdom, courage, trust, fairness, goals, everything, have been instilled in us. Their energy poring through us was kickstarted by their departure. As if their loss was a catalyst setting off a reaction inside us to do the good they left behind. To fulfill an unspoken promise that we need to keep. An energy that they sacrificed for us. To propel us towards greatness that they began. They spared all of their life force so that it could spread within us to light an everlasting fire to burn the fuel of desire to complete the deeds that need to be done. Their loss is a jumpstart to our obligation to live a good life. A life of service. A life of gratitude. A life doing what we can in a positive manner to make our good mark. This energy can neither be created nor destroyed but can be utilized. And when someone passes, this energy spreads through all of us who have loved, adding another drop of fuel in our hearts. Our hearts that can not only physically force us to move better but can also spiritually guide us to greatness with the invisible power of love. No known force or energy in this Universe, after 14 BILLION years, can generate the goodness, the righteousness, the drive, or the caring, that the love we’ve learned from those who have passed, can. We MUST know the DARKNESS so that we appreciate the LIGHT. So that we LIVE in the light. So that we can push through in the darkness. 

Maria Popova says, “Most of us, if at all aware of the glorious accident we experience as our own existence, are only dimly aware of it and only as an abstraction.” Ken was someone who was brightly aware. When Ken passed, his energy left me a vibrant mental collage. It was a portrait of love of family, a love for his vocation. He left me a drive. A mentality with no excuses. A willingness for doing things the difficult yet right way. Of being self-reliant by attacking the unknown without hesitation while using fear as an emotion for improvement. He showed me how patience in perfecting any endeavor, with silent fortitude is time well spent. How seeing things differently without judgement is the only way others deserved to be treated. These images were branded on the grey matter of my brain, on the pink flesh of my heart. Its burn powering me to rethink the way I think. To redo the way I do. To re-love, the way I loved, towards all things. That was his gift to me. More powerful and moving than any physical object could ever provide. It is an eternal gift that flows through me triggered by the opening of my eyes in the morning. His life introduced me to these fruits while his death provided me an eternal sustenance. A sustenance that doesn’t allow you to be spoiled or take it for granted as this sustenance is a jolt of soulful energy. An explosion of the flavors of a life that never dulls. That never dissipates. That always tastes as good as the first bite. 

The Rat Snake team has lost a teammate. This tragedy is another stark reminder of how secret life is. We must honor their lives. In what way do we go about doing that? By using what we already have. The love, the spirit, the virtues that were unknowingly given to us from those we’ve been surrounded by. Their touch has always been there, and will always remain. Their passing is an event that makes us see what we’ve always carried with us. When life is cut short, it shows us that we need to live. Not just get by, but really live. We have only but a moment to do so. 

“Nothing once created ever fully leaves us. 

Seeds are planted and come abloom generations, centuries, civilizations later, migrating across coteries and countries and continents. 

Meanwhile, people live and people die — in peace as war rages on, 

in poverty and disrepute as latent fame awaits,

 with much that never meets its more, in shipwrecked love.

I will die.

You will die.

The atoms that huddled for a cosmic blink around the shadow of a self will return to the seas that made us.

What will survive of us are shoreless seeds and stardust.

~Maria Popova