Saturday, January 20, 2018
Minutes to Live
A friend was in Honolulu visiting family last week when the alert went out that a ballistic missile was headed to Hawaii. The alert stated that it was not a drill. She was absolutely convinced that she had just minutes to live.
We know now of course that the alert was a false alarm. But for the people who went through it, who believed it, something profound happened. How could it not?
What my friend experienced is her story to tell. But hearing her tell it made me imagine the experience for myself. A beautiful day in paradise. I’m enjoying the sun, maybe strolling along the beach. I feel good. And then I get a warning that in minutes everything is going to blow up and we are all going to die.
That seems different to me than becoming ill, or having an accident, or even being attacked by another person. In this scenario, everything around me still looks the same. I still feel good. Nothing seems dangerous. And yet I believe that in minutes something is going to fall out of the clear blue sky and my life is going to end, and there is no escape.
We don’t know of course what we would actually do. Some things you just can’t rehearse. But what can we learn from imagining such a scenario? What would I think about? What would I do? What would I feel?
And after learning that the alarm was false, what would I carry with me into a life that just moments before I thought was never going to happen? How would my life be different? How would I be different? Would I remember the lessons of those minutes when death was imminent, or would I settle back into my life as it was before?
There are many ways that the people in Hawaii who lived through this last week could look at what happened. It was a mistake. Perhaps it was also a gift. How many of us are given a few minutes to look our death that closely in the face and then live to tell the tale?
And perhaps the rest of us can share a little of that gift by listening to the stories of those who were there, and by imagining what we might have experienced and learned if we had been there ourselves.
Isn't it sad that so often it takes facing death to appreciate life and each other fully? ~Lori Earl