Two days in solitude out in the woods of the Pacific Northwest can do wonders for the psyche. The need to be outdoors and one with nature is an absolute necessity in my life. I lose myself in a world of nothingness undisturbed by everyday distractions and return to the hectic life a renewed being. Whenever difficult situations kick me in the butt, I find that solitude coupled with nature, heals my soul.
While this year has been filled with terrific blessings, I’ve been hit with a couple of curve balls lately and it always gets me thinking about life’s greatest mysteries and the reasons why things happen the way they do. Recently loss has been at the forefront of my mind. There’s actual loss and fear of loss and my fear of losing something special and dear to me actually happened only a few days ago. It’s not like I’ve not experienced loss before –I’ve lost family, friends, lovers, and jobs. Heck, I’ve even come close to losing my own life a time or two!
As a matter of fact, a few near death experiences that come to mind are a couple of pretty bad car accidents, severe food poisoning that left me passed out on the bathroom floor, and narrowly escaping the exit door on my church bus after it caught on fire in the middle of the night on our way home from a youth retreat many, many years ago.
Some bigger incidents include the time I suffered a heatstroke and nearly fainted after a 23 mile trek in the Grand Canyon. Another moment was on the Olympic trail when I crashed my mountain bike just a few feet short of a cliff that plunged about 100 ft. straight down into rocks and broken tree limbs. Whew! That one freaked me out, the thought of being impaled by a branch was just a little too gruesome for me. At least with heatstroke I would’ve just slipped away into the abyss. Anyway, I walked away with a cut to my right calf, thanks to the pedal that wedged itself in my leg, massive bruises, and an extraordinary soreness all over my body that lingered for three days.
And if that wasn’t enough, two of the most harrowing and life-threatening moments were during my rafting guide training on the Wenatchee River. The first time I fell overboard, the wind gusts were so strong that the rescue line thrown by my teammates went in one direction while the rapids took me in another. I was saved by one of the trainers kayaking behind us as she paddled fiercely towards me screaming at me to grab the front of her kayak. With the swift rapids and 50 degree water, it was either drowning or dying of hypothermia. EEP!
On another day, with an unusually high water level at 19,000cfs, my team hit a massive wall of water that plunged four of us into the rapids. I felt my body violently spinning and tumbling beneath the waves. As I surfaced, I was so incredibly weak and disoriented; I couldn’t grab the line on the raft. My teammates, fearing I would drown, grabbed onto my life jacket and held me close to the raft until they were able to pull me in. My head felt like it was going to explode and I was shaking uncontrollably and then came the vomiting…Blech! Needless to say, I ended up in the ER having suffered a concussion and severe whiplash. That ordeal had me in a neck brace for two weeks and six weeks of physical therapy. To this day, I can still feel the stiffness from time to time.
Yep, I’ve come close to losing my life several times and God knows why I’m still here. Yet, I’m reminded that loss, whether physical or emotional is inevitable and that loss is painful because it teaches us to love–to love life, people, family, friends, your dog…whatever. Maybe these reflections on my near death experiences are to remind me that if I can survive those terrifying events, I will survive this recent one. Some losses are bigger than others and some losses are permanent while others are only temporary. I know that my recent loss is only temporary and things have a funny way of coming back around. Sometimes you gotta lose in life, but in the end, it’s gonna be alright.