I never met Nathan Luke Ray, the 18-year-old Fresno State student who died in a car crash on the fifth of September, but I’ve found myself thinking of him often, sometimes for hours on end, since I learned of his death. According to stories in the Fresno Bee, Nathan had dreamed of playing the sousaphone in the university’s marching band since he was twelve.
Normally, when I think of folks with lifelong dreams, I envision people my age (50s) or older. Perhaps that’s why I was so deeply touched by Nathan’s story. He had entertained his goal for all of six long years (!) before seeing it come true. It took me some twenty years of writing before I held my first published book in my hands. That was ten plus years ago, but I can still remember how excited I was to have finally realized my dream. Nathan must have had similar feelings that night when he played at his first Fresno State home football game. He was only 18, but he was already living his dream. All things were possible!
Later that same night, Nathan lost control of his van while driving home and crashed head first into a telephone pole. Drugs or alcohol were not a factor. I feel terribly sad for Nathan’s family and friends, all of whom surely must have expected to see his smiling face at many more games. And yet, amid all the awful sadness, I find myself feeling happy for Nathan in one small respect: he lived long enough to realize his dream.
If there is a lesson to be learned from this tragedy—and I’m not sure there is—it would be to make the most of our opportunities. Work at realizing our own dreams no matter how big or small they might be because when our number is up, it’s up.