On the 5th December 2018, I watched part of the funeral service of the 41st president of America : George Bush senior held at the Washington National Cathedral. It was a state funeral : president Trump and the four living former presidents of U.S.A and many other world leaders were in attendance. Bush senior was remembered as America’s last great soldier-statesman. I was struck by what Bush the son,the 43 rd president of U.S.A. talked about his father: “ He was the greatest father that any child would wish to have.’’ He explained away his late father’s humility, love and kindness as virtues born out of his close brush with death. His father survived a serious staphylococcal infection as a teenager and during World War 11 in 1944, as an US. Navy jet fighter pilot, his jet fighter plane was shot down by the Japanese.
“For Dad’s part, I think that his close brush with death made him cherish the gift of life.”
Cherishing life demands that you live your life fully- you wake up every day, grateful, thankful and ready to make the most of the day. You recognize that you have been given a second chance at life; you become determined to want to be more and do more with what you have for yourself and the community you live in. You want to be deserving of this gift since not everyone receives it. You start off by striving to know who you are: your strength and flaws and what is deep in your heart. Over time, you become true to yourself.
This reminded me that I for one had once been granted this rare gift. Twenty years ago, on a rainy day, my two children, a friend and I were involved in a serious car accident. I was the driver and I sustained a nearly fatal injury. I broke two of my lower neck bones. I was in coma for two days and on waking up the orthopedic surgeon explained what had happened to me. The first thing I did was to thank God for the miracle then I moved my toes. Once I realized that I could move them, my healing started there and then. I was extremely thankful and happy to be alive. Two operations on the neck and I was back on my feet.
I had cheated death by a whisker. Confronting my mortality and acknowledging it, I emptied myself of the old-letting go of what no longer served my journey and began to seek for who I was truly. I learned to be honest with myself and others and to be open to receive from others and give to them. I would say that I died to what I was and it allowed me to give birth to what I could be. I found myself in a new world while at the same time taking the trouble to grasp the meaning of my survival. I began to look for the beauty in each person I meet other than focusing on the negative. I accepted that I did not know many things and it opened me up to learn more and gain more wisdom. My main goal in life was to seek purpose and meaning then harmony and balance.
Having recognized that I could lose my life in an instant, I began to value it immensely other than take it for granted and do my best to make the most of it. This has helped me to claim my power and to express it in the world. My values in life changed completely: my faith, my family and friends became the most important things in my life. I had to redefine my relationship with people to live a life with a sense of purpose and meaning. The awakened genuine identity deep within me has made me more imaginative and creative. I do things from the heart and so far I have been creating life and things that emerge out of the truth about who I am. Knowing the truth about myself has taught me to love and respect myself and to go out and love and respect others.
I take an active role in creating a better world- serving and helping others, doing what gives my life meaning.
Looking back, my late father had a similar experience in his early 70s. He looked death in the eyes when he suddenly developed acute renal failure. A man as robust as a Muvule tree found himself lying helplessly in the Intensive Care Unit of the Teaching hospital. For over a month, he hovered between life and death while physicians battled to save his life. Miraculously he survived and thrived and was never the same again.
He accepted his mortality and from that time allowed death to guide him through life other than his ambitions and fears. He had recognized that life and death are two sides of the same coin and to enjoy life fully one had to embrace death. Accepting his mortality lead him to a new life- he took responsibility of the wrongs he had done and began looking for a balanced life where he could have success as well as spiritual development. He made the best use of all the resources available to him- people, time, money and things to create order in his life. Every day, he wore the apron of humility to serve God, people and his community. He considered the two months he had spent in the hospital as the best thing that ever happened in his life; he was empowered to find his uniqueness and mission in life. This enabled him to live out what was his own to do and make the unique contribution to the world.
He had died to his former self to be fully his own best. “It is as if I had died and was given a chance to return to the world,” he was heard saying many times.
Khalil Gibran said: “For life and death are one, even as the river and sea are one.’’
My father started preparing himself to die with grace by accepting all life’s losses including the death of his son, and disappointments. He died a happy and fully contented man twenty years after the close brush with death. He considered those twenty years as the best years of his life and believed that he could never thank God enough for giving him that 2nd chance at life.
Over the years, I have read numerous stories of survivors: survivors of the gas chambers of 1939-1945, survivors of the world wars, survivors of the Rwanda genocide, survivors of cancers, survivors of aeroplane and deadly train crashes and terrorist attacks. I have talked to my patients who at one time believed were dying only to be revived by the Antiretroviral therapy. They all consider it a miracle to have survived and are ever grateful for having been given a second chance at life. They were all stirred up to strive to achieve their inner potential. They have all gone on to live their lives in such a way as to confirm that the gift of a second chance was so deserved. Little wonder then that George Bush Senior is remembered as a man of great integrity and a loving father who put his family first after his God. He found joy in his faith and family and lived life to the fullest to the end.
As Joel Osteen the great evangelist says: “ I mean we all need a second chance sometimes.’’
And Zig Ziglar said: “ We cannot start over, but we can begin now, and make a new ending.’’
Have you or any of your closest relatives or friends ever experienced a second chance at life?
How did it affect your values and principles in life? How did it change your lifestyle?
Thank you for reading this post. Feel free to share it with family and friends.