(Looks tranquil enough, here, doesn’t it? But weather experts say: Conditions change in a heartbeat. On one occasion, a ferry loaded with people went down in the turbulent waters, when a storm came out of nowhere. Several people drowned. Such is the mystery of Lake Pepin, in Minnesota. I know its character, personally. Photo from lakepepinhomesites.com)
In “The Bucket List” introduction, Morgan Freeman’s voice comes over: “In a random sampling, people were asked if they could know the exact time of their death, would they want to?” 86% answered, ‘No.’ ” The question came about because Jack Nicolson’s character, as well as Morgan Freeman‘s, had been hospital roommates both hearing the same dire prediction: “You’re going to die soon.” (one in 12 months; the other in 6).
What’s the Bucket List? It’s the things one needs to begin (or finish) before he or she expires, or simply put: “Things I must do before I kick the bucket.” They were in the unenviable position of knowing when their end was to be–at least in a general sense. So, it allowed their preparation.
I faced death, too, at a time earlier in my life. There was never any doubt. It looked a certainty. What I didn’t have was preparation time, as you’ll see.
It happened when I was 25 years old on an occasion of a visit to my brother in Minnesota. It was a warm July day, when I sailed one of Minnesota’s Ten Thousand Lakes (it proudly claims this on its license plates) on a boat owned by an opthalmologist friend my sister-in-law introduced me to. He’d just bought the boat, a 25 foot Jay, and I‘d discover: He was pretty much a novice at sailing. We weren’t alone on that sail: His parents were along, too. Blue skies and a gentle steady wind promised perfect conditions.
Dexter got the sails unfurled and moved the boat out from the mooring into open waters. Fifteen minutes later he handed me the controls as he swung out over the side in hiking gear (a trapeze-like apparatus to which he was hooked). I steered the boat as we flew over the water. The winds picked up, and at some points I buried the rail (sailor talk for keeping the boat so low to the water the rail touches it). Dexter asked me if I wanted to try.
We traded places, I got into the gear, hooked myself to the mast, and swung out. The boat flew across the water. Suddenly, out of nowhere strong winds hit, took me, and spun me around. I tried desperately to get footing but failed. In my barefeet (a no-no in sailing), I pawed the air.
Next, I smashed into the deck and rolled, while loose lines encircled me (I told you he was a novice; real sailors tie down the ropes.) And then I slid over the edge. The boat overturned and I went down…down…down, some 30 feet into the inky blackness, mummified by the ropes, hooked to the mast.
I tried not to panic but I knew I was working against the clock. Heavy canvas sails floated eerily around me, making visibility impossible; I was somehow tethered to the lines and I couldn’t see where. I needed to untangle myself from the ropes and reach the fly clip to disengage. I frantically ripped at the lines.
I thought of my little girl and feared she’d be raised by her father, my ex-husband.
After what seemed like an eternity, I found the clip and tore at it, releasing myself. Realizing I had very little time before I blacked out, I pushed the heavy canvas away and swam through, then kicked hard for the surface many feet above where I saw the outline of the boat. My lungs felt as if they’d explode; I’d been down there way too long.
In the next few moments I burst through the surface, only to find myself under the boat in the air pocket. Dexter and his parents screamed together, “God, you’re all right…we were so worried!” That worry didn’t mean any of them had gone down after me.
We four never saw each other following that, but I never forgot them. Nor did I forget the experience that taught me: “It just wasn’t my time to go.“ People asked me following that: “Did you ever go on a boat again?” (remember, I live in Rhode Island, the Ocean State). I always reply: “Sure…I just never hook myself to one.”
In conclusion, there really was no other reason I survived that day except luck…. fate… destiny or a higher power’s design. Maybe it was just so I’d write this post to plant a seed in another: “Hold your life as precious indeed and never foolishly put it into another’s care.” I was lucky that day, for I could easily have been just another bad statistic.
I’d have two more occasions of surviving extraordinary circumstances that confirmed my belief that one‘s time is predetermined…But those are tales for another time.
(Now, do you have a story of how you or someone close cheated death? Tell us by hitting Comments or Leave a Comment. C’mon people…I want to hear from you.)