Tomorrow morning we’re leaving for our Third annual beach vacation. Yippee. If you’re on I-95 tomorrow I’ll be the stressed out looking guy with the amazing hair that turns gray right before your eyes, my son will be eating his 879th chicken nugget, and my wife will probably be driving. I’m sure it’ll be fine, maybe even fun.

Today, on the other hand, we made an anything-but-fun trip to Pennsylvania to see my 17 year old cousin. My cousin has been unconscious in the hospital for two weeks following a severe head injury he sustained in a car accident. I had been putting off seeing him because I am the most hospital phobic person I know. But in my heart I knew I couldn’t go to the beach for a week without seeing him, so we went.

I’m not going to get into the details of the accident, which almost seem irrelevant when it’s all said and done, although I want it to be clear that it totally wasn’t his fault and he had on a seatbelt. And I’m not going to talk about the visit because it shook me more than I could predict. I will say, however, that I cannot imagine what my aunt is going through right now.

There are several reasons why this hits close to home (aside from the fact that we all shared a home as one big dysfunctional family for about 10 years and that he’s only 17), but one stands out: my cousin is an only child. I know how precious he is to my aunt because I know how precious my only son is to me.

The image of my cousin in his hospital bed will follow me south reminding how unpredictable, and fragile this life can be.