May 8, 2012

Life is Short: Wear a Helmet & Love the Ones You’re With.

He crashed his bike alone on a dark street after a Cinco de Mayo celebration.

With six broken ribs, a collapsed lung and a broken collarbone, one of my closest friends and biking partner is still smiling through a morphine induced fog. He’d called me for help in the middle of the night, disoriented and unaware of how bad his injuries were. My phone was silenced, as were those of all of his friends.

When he couldn’t reach anyone at 2 a.m. he called 911. I found him at Boulder Community Hospital this morning, bandaged, breathing and joking.

I’d had a similar injury ten years before—I’d fallen chest first while rock climbing in Boulder Canyon and sustained a collapsed lung and three broken ribs. It changed my life: I went back to school, gave up climbing and realized at age 41 that I was not immortal. Now, at 51, I am even less immortal.

Boulder attracts those of us who are blessed with strength, youth and athletic ability. We come to play in a paradise where we believe we will remain eternally young. A friend my age offered a sobering thought: if we lived for another 20 years, and went camping only once a year, that would mean only 20 camp outs for the rest of our lives. Fortunately, I’ve been on two camping trips the past two weekends. I am also genetically disposed to live another 40 years, but there are no guarantees.

“Life is Short” is a cliche wasted on the young, but when injury, sickness or death strikes someone close to us, the awareness becomes more acute. When an interruption in the normal continuum of life strikes, we contemplate that which is most precious to  us. If I were to die today, what would I have accomplished that changed the course of someone’s life or added meaning to this world. And if I lived each day as if it were my last (another cliche with meaning) how would I live it? How would you?

I would choose (and most often do) to love deeply and care unconditionally about those closest to me. I would choose a career (I haven’t) that reflected my true gifts and gave me unfettered joy each day. I would carefully examine each relationship in my life and keep those that were mutually rewarding and let go of those that were not.

As my friend lies in his gown hooked to IV tubes and heart monitors in the hospital tonight, I hope he will realize more caution in his actions, so as to preserve his precious life. He wore no helmet nor did his bike have lights. He is fortunate to have many who love him and who will care for him. When you are at your most helpless, you find out who really loves you and who will take the time to care about you.

Life is short, do what makes you—and others—happy.

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Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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