Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Second Roar

I have a number of works by novelist Mark Helprin. His latest work, "The Pacific and Other Stories" is a collection of short stories. NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday recently interviewed Mr Helprin about his new work. You can read an excerpt and listen to the interview by clicking the link HERE.

One of his stories in this collection is of a British paratrooper in WW2 who falls behind enemy lines and faces his final moments. His thoughts go his daughter. He dies with visions of the girl as he best remembers her. I thought this was an interesting thought to begin a discussion "around the fire".

What images of your loved ones would be in your mind at a time like this? Something to consider.

In my office I have a picture of my sons as two little boys sitting on a bench in the woods. I was lucky enough to catch them in a perfect "Kodak moment". It is one of my most cherished possessions.



2nd Hand Lions Club said...

I experienced an 'event' early in my married life; married less than 6 months; my new wife pregnant with our first child; where I thought I was having my 'last look' at what I would 'see' in this life.

I was on a canoe trip down the lower-section of the Rockcastle River in southern Kentucky. This section is well known for its rapids- and that is why we were there in the fist place.

We entered a well-known difficult section, when I realized that my partner -the bowman- was totally inexperienced, and that we'd both, soon be 'over-our-head's in this ordeal. Sure enough, he 'froze' just when he should have really poured-on-the-coal and the next instant we were human-flotsam in the rapid current, huge waves - and VERY COLD water.

He was, fortunately, washed into the shore eddy almost immediately. I, on the other hand, was in the thick of the 'haystacks' (standing waves over 3' tall ) and headed for a rock the size of a semi-tractor trailer.

I hit the rock quite hard - but there was no 'bouncing off'. More like a fly hitting 'fly-paper': I was stuck. The only movement seemed down - deeper into the zone where only fish can assimilate oxygen: not humans.

I managed to get enough of a push to get my head above water - but only for one gulp of air - as I noticed the mid-ship portion of a canoe making a beeline for my head! Not wanting to end up with a pumpkin-meets-a-truck likeness with my head - I dove down: back into the no-human-oxygen-zone.

It was at this point - in the flash of a couple of seconds - that I had this crystal clear vision of my new wife, unborn child and a future that would not be met. This picture was coming - WAY TOO EARLY - but it was, none-the-less, crystal clear.

In the next couple of seconds I acted - as most humans do - in self-preservation mode - to eject myself from the clutches of a much-too-early-end. I can't claim a great burst of non-panic wisdom in my next move: I was scared spitless! It could be recorded to 'dumb luck'; but I doubt it. I know a lot of whitewater enthusiasts who have told me the 'natural reaction' is to ".. attempt to push away from the obstruction; which is into the current. An impossible task at best." What should be done .. is to learn downstream - push easily into the current and point your 'exit' upward and downstream. I 'sensed'. I followed. And .. it worked.

What seemed like 10's of minutes, most likely only lasted 20-25 seconds... 30 at the outside. But it was an event that has been indelibly stamped into my memory. From it I garnered two very important views on the struggles in life:

1) Until properly 'trained', if 'it' feels right, it's probably wrong.
2) The positive mental image will point you correctly.

As I've aged (52 years young) and have archived those years; as well as the experiences; between that event and now ( 30 years worth!), my positive mental image has remained the same over the years. Changing only in its environmental aspects. It's metamorphosis acting only on the environmental details that naturally change to include the gains and the losses over time. The vision has always remained steadfast: MY FAMILY.

Today this is the picture I see - in my mind's eye. This is that 'picture', which keeps me focused on my most important job: CHANGE. When I 'see' this image in my mind, I know I must stay on the 'right path'; I must do 'what is right'; I must not slip back into old ways and habits. And when I do - because I am human and it is inevitable that I will - I know I MUST go to God for both forgiveness and for strength to get Back On Track. He has NEVER failed me and I know He NEVER WILL. This is the ONLY way I can keep the IMAGE, "Ready at a moments notice."Why?

Because, to NOT do so, would be to erase that picture. And that is one thing I will just won't do.

This is the collage of images that I will want to focus upon as I expend, my final breath... in this life.

David Cobb said...

I don't think I have a single Kodak moment that my mind would immediately turn to. I'm sure I'll have one in time (specifically if we make good on our resolution to get in the habit of using our camera more:).

I think that my thoughts would go to scenes from my every day life with Mandie. Our life is very simple in a lot of ways; there's not a lot of drama or excitement. As Mr. McNeely said that his father explained to him, "we're just making a living, son".

I can't think of anything I'd trade that simplicity for though, or any life that would make me more content. If I were facing my final moments I don't think I'd wish for the opportunity to do all the things I never had a chance to. What I would think of is the life we shared that may have been pretty simple and ordinary, but it was blessed with peace and abundance, and I had more opportunities than I ever dreamed I would.

I would hope that I'd be thankful for having had the opportunity to be content. Mandie is a huge part of that contentedness, and I would think of her as we live together now; there's no life I'd rather live, and no best friend I'd rather share it with.

Donald Artman said...

I think my situtation is different from all of yours as I have yet to experience marriage and parenting. I can recall two things that I would remember at this point in life that I would reflect on. The first moment happened to me when dad was first diagnosed with the bone tumor in the fall 2002 just two weeks before the Feast. I remember him telling me he wouldn't be able to make it that year for the Feast and I would have to go without him. But what really stuck with me while he was telling me this was when he mentioned how proud he was of me and how I had outstanding young man. He went on to say how happy he was to see me and my sister turn out so well from our upbringing. I was floored by the comments as this was so unusual for him to really express his love for me like this. Little did I know until a year later after he had died, there were test results in the desk showing the lymph nodes were already showing positive for the cancer. He knew he had little time left and felt he needed to say what he wanted to say to me.
The other moment happened to me when I was handling some difficult situations with the estate by myself as my sister wasn't around to help. My mother had came up to the house a day after I had wrapped up the auction items to be sent out and collected other items for my sister to retrieve later. She surprised me with the proud comment that she was happy to see me handling this so well by myself and how happy she was in how my sister and I had turned out. Nearly verbatim to what my father had said a year earlier and I know that they hadn't talked to each other during that time. Again I was floored by the uplifting comments and humbled at the same time. It made me realize even as an adult, it still feels good to hear your parents show they are proud of you and what you have accomplished with your life. Made me deeply appreciate the words "Well done, good and faithful servant", as I had shown to them what I felt compelled to do not because I was forced to do this for praise or other gains. These two recent moments have left an impact on me as I hadn't felt or heard outward love from both of them for a long time and now one of them is gone so I won't take these rare moments for granted nor wait for the opportunity to tell my children I love them when I'm faced with death.