Mortality. When we’re young it means nothing to us. When we grow old and have experienced a bit of life’s pains, turmoil’s and triumphs we learn to have a little more respect for it. We know we are not immortal and yet sometimes we live life as if we are not predisposed to death when all the while we know that in life there are only to constants: Change and Death.
Over a year ago I had my latest brush with death. We had been invited by friends to join them on a weekend excursion to Southern Utah’s Dixie to enjoy the sun and have some fun on all-terrain vehicles. Before we set out, we were warned repeatedly about the dangers of recklessness on these powerful, unpredictable and underappreciated machines. I took the warnings in stride, thinking that they were primarily for the kids.
You may not think it just by looking at me, but I’m addicted to adrenaline. When I’m faced with danger, whether it’s riding a motorcycle or ATV, jumping from a ledge three stories up into a pool of water or riding down white water rapids, I throw caution to the wind. That’s okay (I guess) when you’re young and single and have no one to answer to besides maybe your mom. Not so good when you have a wife and little mouths to feed at home.
On that particular day I came face-to-face with mortality and mortality nearly won. I was riding full-throttle across a mesa, came up over a ridge when the bottom fell out and I was thrown head first over the ATV. I broke both bones in my lower left leg just above my ankle and that was just the beginning of my trip down ‘Humble Pie Lane’.
As I lay there in the local hospital emergency room waiting to be wheeled into surgery to repair my shattered leg I thanked God repeatedly for sparing my life. I had escaped with just two broken bones but it could have been much worse. I could have easily broken my back, my neck or worse yet, I could have lost my life. My callous attitude and my unwillingness to heed the warnings resulted in a very serious injury that not only put my life in danger, but I also risked the well-being, financial stability and long-term care of my family.
It was at that point more than at any other time in my life that I realized that my actions, good and bad, affect not just my life but the lives of those whom I have a responsibility and stewardship over. I use that example as a very impactful lesson on caution and living a life not just for me, but for my family, friends and loved ones.
It scares my wife to death (literally) now when we are planning family activities. She still gives me a lot of leeway when choosing my fun, but when she begins to see my thrill-seeking vein overtaking common sense, she’s quick to step in with a bit of spousal advice.
As a father there are a few things that I’ve done to prepare for an untimely event, including (yikes) death:
- Medical Insurance – It’s a hot topic in political circles right now but it should also be a major priority in your home. Thank goodness I had great medical insurance through my employer. I’m still paying bills for specialists and ambulatory services over a year later, but I can hardly imagine what my situation would be like today if I had not had medical insurance to cover my hospital stay, follow-up visits, x-rays and prescriptions. If medical insurance is not available through your employer, look at independent carriers such as Humana or a health insurance broker like eHealthinsurance.com
- Life Insurance – Super Mom says I can be crazy all I want as long as my life insurance policy is current. She’s joking (I think) but people often avoid this conversation because no one wants to talk about death and life after you’re gone. I have a life insurance policy through work and I have elected for additional coverage on top of that. Having a supplemental plan along with the coverage that you receive through your employer is a good idea too in the event that you leave the company. That way you can ensure that you’re always covered, even in between jobs.
- Plan your activities wisely. This is the common sense aspect of your preparation. I may never give up my adrenaline seeking ways, but I can guarantee you that I’m going to take every precaution before heading out on a scuba trip, a skydiving adventure, kayaking or spelunking. If you’re doing something adventurous that you’ve never done before or that you have little experience in, make sure that you go with a certified, seasoned professional. Avoid taking unnecessary risks. If you’re hiking in the back-country, plan your route, leave a copy of your route with someone you trust along with your itinerary before setting out. My new rule of thumb is (yes, I’m losing my touch in my old age) if I can’t ask my sons to do it, chances are I shouldn’t be doing it either.
Get out there, enjoy life and experience as much as possible but always remember that someone, whether it is a parent, a child, a spouse or significant other is concerned for your safety and wants you around for a lot longer than just a few wild and crazy years of life.