Sunday, August 5, 2012

Luck and My Accidental Life

The other day I was alone in my car, sitting at a stop light, patiently waiting for it to turn green. It was a busy thoroughfare, and the line of cars was like an evacuation.

Finally, the light turned green. I paused for a moment, and in that moment a 16-wheeler flew by doing 60 mph. Whoa! He had run a red light! If I had gone ahead when the light turned green, he would have hit me and probably would have killed me.

Reflecting on how lucky I was, I remembered that something similar happened to me nearly 20 years ago in Miami. I had spent the evening sampling the colorful nightlife at South Beach and was headed back to my hotel. Two blocks from the beach, I came to a red light. I was listening to the last few minutes of an NBA Finals game in which Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were about to win the championship. The light turned green, and since I was listening to the game, I wasn't in a big hurry and didn't zoom off. But just as my foot reached for the accelerator, a huge truck flew by. The driver had run a red light. I thought at the time that I could have been killed. I was lucky. Maybe I owe my life to Michael Jordan!

I've had plenty of close brushes with death - in Vietnam, in traffic, etc. After each event, I thought that I was still alive purely because of chance. I could have died.

One of my best friends, a fellow Vietnam vet, remarked to me once, "We're already dead." Meaning, we almost died numerous times and are still alive by luck or accident. None of us knows when or how our death will come. The fantasy is, I will live a full, happy life and then die in my sleep at the age of 100, plus or minus. As I said, a fantasy.

Two of the most important people in my life are my sons. I'm lucky to have them. In the case of my youngest son, I'm lucky in two special ways. One, he's the genius software engineer who has created every product my company has produced for more than 25 years. How about that for luck? What would I have done without him? My life would be a lot different. I'm sure I wouldn't be writing this blog post right now.

Two, I'm lucky that he's alive at all. No, he hasn't had any close brushes with death - that I know of. But he's lucky he was ever born. All those years ago, my wife and I wanted two children. My first son was born in Frankfurt, Germany when I was stationed there in the late 60's. Sometime after I went to Vietnam, my wife miscarried. It was a sad thing, and I couldn't be there for her. It was probably brought on by stress. Midway through my tour, I had an R 'n' R pass to Hawaii, and we met there for a romantic week. She got pregnant, but later suffered a second miscarriage. A year after I returned, my second son was born.

But here's the deal. If she hadn't miscarried, a child would have been born. And it wouldn't have been the person who is my youngest son. It would have been someone else. And we wouldn't have tried to have more children. So my youngest son owes his life to those two miscarriages. Yes, they were difficult times for my wife, but they were lucky times, because of who my youngest son turned out to be, and the great relationship we've had.

So both of us are living "accidental lives."

Come to think of it, aren't we all?

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2012. Building Personal Strength .

1 comment:

Lisa Buben said...

Yes, we are. It's amazing to think about how some things turn out. You never know. I always said I wanted to live to 100 but I know how the word healthy to it :)