Things that Truly Matter in Life
Have you ever had an experience that reminded you of the preciousness of life? I had not had a significant one until two summers ago. While mine was incredibly harrowing, I am thankful I had the chance to become reacquainted with the things in my life that are most important.
My family and I were invited for a dinner boating outing with our neighbors. My daughter had not been on a boat since her toddler years, and she expressed nervousness about the evening's plans. However, with fond childhood memories of boating with my parents in mind, I quickly calmed her fears. The foreshadowing emanating from those few hours prior to our dinner trip is uncanny.
That evening, nine of my friends and family members arrived at our local boat launch, weighed down with bags and coolers containing our dinner feast. Our group sauntered to the dock in anticipation of a fun night. After the boat launched, we all hopped on board. Looking back, I remember perusing the scenery and pushing aside nagging thoughts regarding the wind and choppy water in favor of enthusiasm.
As our boat passed through the first set of guiding buoys and entered further into the lake, a few waves crashed over the boat. We giggled with delight. That delight instantly turned to terror. Within seconds, water overtook the boat, and it began to sink. Yes, I said sink! All six adults and three children began to panic. The children were wearing life jackets, but none of the adults had taken the time to secure our own safety devices. As the boat sunk more, I screamed, "Where are the life jackets?" The answer: they were in a compartment in the part of the boat that was already submerged.
The image of watching the water rising up my legs is burned in my mind along with a haunting audio clip of my daughter screaming. We all stumbled to the section of the boat that was still above water. We became a heap of bodies on top of each other frozen in terror as the novice captain tried to save us. I looked at my husband while we were clinging to our daughter's arms with all of our might, and I demanded, "Please save her."
I watched helplessly as our belongings, once safe in the boat, were carried away into the lake by the waves. While I realized the life-threatening situation we were in, I could not help worrying about the fate of my cell phone and wallet. Soon, fear completely overtook me as I scanned the lake, realizing there were no other boaters around to witness what was happening or to save us. My brain registered my friend yelling, "We have to jump." In response, I looked at the choppy, raging water and thought, "I cannot swim in this. I will not stay afloat."
All the while during my panic, our captain was making calm, clearheaded decisions, somehow steering a boat with the motor and steering wheel submerged in the direction of the shore. Before long, however, the boat stopped running. We were not close to shore. I remember willing the wind and waves to lead the boat in the direction of the beach. Miraculously, the next time I took note of our location, we were close enough that the lake bottom was visible. The captain's brother jumped out and began pulling the nearly capsized boat towards the beach. Two other friends jumped out as well and carried the children one-by-one to the sand. Soon enough, we were all on the beach. Wide eyed. Stunned. Silenced.
I felt grateful for solid ground beneath my feet, almost in disbelief that I was no longer engulfed in water and in danger of drowning. I felt despair that my child, a mere six years old, had to suffer through such a traumatic experience. I felt a deep need to run with my daughter back to our car in an attempt to forget that this had ever occurred.
In the hours and days following, the reality of the danger my family had encountered seeped into my thoughts. I believe that we escaped a situation as close to death as we had ever experienced. My initial instinct, as I mentioned previously, was to push the experience and frightening memories to the back of my mind. I did not want to dwell on it, worried that I would further distress my daughter.
Fortunately, I soon realized that it would be wasteful not to glean a lesson from such an intense experience. While it was tough to force my mind to stay present and to focus on my uncomfortable thoughts, it was critical. What is the purpose of surviving crisis without learning from it and being able to pass on the lessons?
My take away message that I am compelled to share with you from my family's brush with danger: It can end in an instant, completely out of your control. With this in mind, nothing else matters in the world but living fully and loving deeply. Your messy kitchen counter - who cares? The dent in your car's bumper - not an issue! The tight budget you are working with until next pay day - be thankful you are here, money or no money.
I give thanks for my new-found appreciation for life and for my family. Now I know that love and laughter are the most important parts of my day. Live fully live fully.
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When faced with uncomfortable and difficult experiences, how do you force yourself to stay present in your mind in order to stay positive and taking advantage of living fulling and loving deeply? Please share in the comments below and in our Mother Manifesto - Community group on Facebook.