If you live long enough eventually you may have several near death experiences. At least ones you interpret as near-death. But who knows really? I was in car wreck caused by my friend swerving to miss a possum crossing the road. Our little VW station wagon flipped over and over again– of course we were not wearing seat belts. When we finally stopped I heard Chuck Berry singing Sweet Little 16 from the 8-track tape deck. I was still alive but with a broken sternum and my friend had broken neck. Once off the Canary Islands I got caught in a severe riptide with no one around and barely struggled back to a tiny rock to recoup and then swam as hard as I could back to shore. On Wheeler Peak in Nevada at 13500’ I was caught in a severe electrical storm. Several folks got struck that afternoon. In 1998 four others and I got swept off our paddleboat while going through Crystal Rapid on the Colorado River. Those of you that have done this trip know that Crystal is one rapid you do not want to swim through! I came up under the raft in 48° water, certain it was the end of me. But wonderfully strong hands pulled me safely back onto the raft. Once near the top of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco I was pretty sure some Berbers were going to put an ice ax in my head if I didn’t pay them some money. I once startled three African buffaloes in the darkness that fortunately stampeded away from, not toward, my future wife and me. An aggressive male hippopotamus came charging out of the reeds at our tippy canoe in the Okavango Delta, we got away barely.
The most recent one was just several days ago. I was in northern Tanzania at a fairly nice hotel by the airport waiting for my flight home. I went to shower, turned on the hot water and walked into the stall. I went to adjust the cold-water tap and 220 Volts suddenly went through my right hand as I was standing in water. I could not pull my hand back. Finally – I’m not sure what happened maybe I just fell or I managed to pull my hand away – but at the next moment I was on the floor–alive and very, very angry. Several thoughts went through my head after I realized I wasn’t dead. First thank goodness this did not happen to one of my clients, the second – would this make me frightened to take future showers in Africa? The final thought was – what a stupid way to die. I’d rather fall off a mountain or get stomped by buffalo or snagged by a leopard but not electrocuted in the shower! How boring!
But the lesson is to live life fully. Don’t put off what you really want to do or what you want to say to someone. Life is precious and dangles by the slimmest of threads. Don’t waste it.