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When Your Life Flashes Before Your Eyes

Has your life ever flashed before your eyes? Have you ever faced your own mortality either because of your own actions or things beyond your control? Have you thought about death and dying and what you’ll do when you are facing the end of your life? We all die, some sooner than later. Some will have to prepare for death and wait for the end to come. Some will be knocked down unexpectedly, unprepared but unknowingly! I don’t know about you, but I would prefer the latter! In youth we think we are invincible and death is the furthest thing on our minds. Death is for the old, grand parents, great grand parents, aunts, uncles not us or our friends. We sometimes tempt death by doing stupid things because we feel we just cannot die! Did you ever run up to a neighbor’s house, ring the doorbell and run away not ever getting caught? I did that quite a few times to the door of the Grim Reaper, but never got caught. I did stupid things when I was young and a few times narrowly escaped my stupidity.

There was the time when I took two hits of windowpane acid with two other friends. That’s eight individual hits my friends! I did it under duress and peer pressure and sheer stupidity. Luckily my Mom was out of town for a week and our next door neighbor who was supposed to be keeping an eye on us, really didn’t! I don’t know what happened for three days of my life. All I know is that one friend got arrested and disappeared for three months, and the other friend was never quite the same mentally again. I returned to reality virtually unscathed! I was in the 10th grade. Then there was the time I left a keg party totally whacked and met up with another one of my scumbag friends at an A&W who had two doses of morphine and two eye dropper needles. I said hell ya and we went to the bathroom and did them up. Again, luckily I was too drunk to hit a vein and hit a muscle which didn’t do much more than get me even really drunker which lasted way into the next day! I had no clue what I was doing and was soooooo stupid! That was the one and only time I ever used a needle. Again, I was in the 10th grade. I can’t forget the time I developed some red spots on my legs and under my arms. I had no idea what they were, but I felt just fine. As the days passed, the number of the spots increased but didn’t bother me so I just ignored them. I had an after school job and on a Friday evening I was loading a truck and stepped between the dock and the back of the truck severely hurting my right leg. When I woke up the next morning, my leg was black and swollen from my knee to my ankle and the spots had literally covered my body. My stepfather called his doctor and I was in the ER in less than half an hour. The doctor, a brilliant man whom no doubt saved my life, didn’t even focus on my leg but asked me how long I had the spots. While every other doctor who saw me wanted to immediately treat me for leukemia, he wanted to wait until a bone marrow test was done to verify it and started treating me for mononucleosis. I do remember laying there hours after I was admitted, my Mom bawling her head off, and the doctor telling me I was a very sick young man who was on the verge of death and may not make it! I knew I must have been scared but I couldn’t fathom dying because I just did not feel sick! The first night I was awakened every hour on the hour for a blood draw. I later learned that yes the hourly blood draw was needed, but the nurses were also making sure I had not expired. The next morning after a very obese male nurse climbed on my while I was on my stomach and painfully and forcefully inserted a huge needle into my hip bone to draw bone marrow leaving with the sample drenched with sweat, it was discovered I did not have leukemia. My doctor was right and I recovered ever so slowly. I spent the Thanksgiving of 1976 in the hospital. I was in the 11th grade.

Oh yeah, then there was the time right at the end of my first year of college, classes were basically done and the dorm I was in was a rocking party. We were nonstop and I had gotten a hold of a bag of Valium of every color and strength and was popping them like candy washing them down with whatever alcohol was put in front of me. I was just asking for an overdose! And again, one time some friends got together for an afternoon of revelry and I snorted what was supposed to be a whole nights worth of crystal meth in two fat lines all at once. I thought it was cocaine. My friends stared at me in disbelief when I did it. It was two full days before I could either eat or sleep. Thank goodness I was in the best physical shape of my life, but I still could have stroked out or blown my heart apart. I was then in my 20’s. Oh and then there was the time when a bunch of us went camping in the mountains of central California. We trucked our bicycles to the top of a paved mountain highway and was to ride down the mountain back to camp. I decided to see how fast I could go. I had no helmet on, no shirt, just a pair of swim trunks and off I went blazing down the highway. At my fastest I was passing every car I came upon. Then came the curve I was not able to make at the speed I was going. I went off the road and over the cliff. I had no idea how big the drop was or how steep. I just saw blue sky and figured my life was now over! I came too in a cloud of dust and a broken collar-bone. I was taking off the mountain in an ambulance. I was 30 years old at the time. Ok now DON”T YOU JUDGE ME, it was a long time ago and I am just making a point.

Now I have approached the age of 52 years. How I made it, I have no idea. I am a card-carrying AARP Member, having to wear glasses to see at night, taking meds for high cholesterol and acid reflux disease! I no longer run to the door of the Grim Reaper, knock, then run away. Nowadays, he is the one lurking outside my door waiting, watching. I have to see doctors for things like colonoscopies, prostate exams, and recently an endoscopy. It was this last procedure that had my life flashing before my eyes again. I have had GERD for many years but of which I have under control by taking meds. My doctor recommended that I get an endoscopy just to make sure things are okay down there. I had the procedure done on a Thursday and was not unpleasant. They give you good drugs! The results showed evidence of acid reflux and some biopsies were taken to be examined and the results were to be provided to me in a week or two by mail. I thought nothing of it until I received a call the following Tuesday from his nurse that he wanted to see me about the results and could I come in the next morning. She didn’t convey the message very well and my heart sank. We had a neighbor when we lived in Laurelhurst who was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and died a horrible death just months later. I was mortified. It was a long night of worry, not being able to eat or sleep, and wondering how Debbie would handle bad news if it were such. She took the morning off and went with me to my appointment. My life was again flashing before my eyes. This time I didn’t have that feeling of invincibility as in youth. My mind may still reside in young wistful ways, but the reality is that my body is no longer as young as my mind. Age creeps year after year after year. The doctor came in and was a bit surprised that Debbie was there with me and said there was no real concern. I did have damage to my esophagus and proceeded to diagnose me with Barrett’s Esophagus! While the news isn’t great, it isn’t a horrible death sentence. It will have to be monitored and I will have to maintain my daily regimen of Prevacid, but nothing else needs to be done. I am going to voluntarily make modifications to my lifestyle and tweak my daily supplement intake, but I am grateful for now! I am not ready to leave behind my lovely and wonderful wife and I am not ready to die. I love life! Stay away from me Mr. Reaper, you asshole! Do I have any regrets? Yes I do have regrets about not have done some of thing things I wanted to! Would I do everything all over again if I had the chance? Hell yes…..I have had one hell of a time so far!

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