Falling MAG

September 23, 2011
By SandeeTaylor BRONZE, Santa Barbara, California
SandeeTaylor BRONZE, Santa Barbara, California
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

I lie motionless at the base of a waterfall. Leaves are clumped in my hair, dirt smears my face, and cuts run the length of my left foot. My tongue scrapes my ragged front teeth – through the taste of blood, dirt, and skin – to an upper lip severed in two. Here is my body, sinking into the earth as it holds me in place. With my eyes closed, I hear the screams of a child and slowly realize they are coming from me.

A week before I took a nap in an unusual spot: a coffin. I lay enclosed, and followed the printed instructions to contemplate the “world's greatest teacher.” The idea of my own death seemed absurd, laughable, kind of like a coffin in the middle of a yoga studio, so I took the opportunity to fall asleep. A few days later while enjoying the company of friends on a weekly hiking club excursion, I had no idea I might soon be meeting “the teacher.” Our group – an adventurous bunch – began to free-climb the side of a waterfall.

A moment later I was breathless with my arms splayed open, praying for something to grab onto. As I fell through the air, the music from The Beatles – Falling, yes I am falling, and she keeps calling me back again – played in my head. I felt no physical pain, but I could feel my thoughts tighten as they clung to the idea of life. I was too young to die. This was not supposed to happen to me; I hadn't kissed all the boys I wanted to. I alternated between feeling and thinking. The moments of feeling were calm and relaxing, while thinking made me cry. It took too much energy to think, so I decided I would let go.

The warm hands of firefighters lifted and strapped my still body onto a board connected by a long rope to a helicopter. I opened my eyes and admired the blue sky. Suspended in air, I had left my fear of death on the ground.

The bright yellow dots created a sea of silence and quickly percolated into fluorescent hospital lights. I tried to speak but there was nothing to be said. Untroubled, I glazed over as the doctors frantically cut off my shirt and pants. Naked I lay free and open, empty of concerns, full of presence. I watched the kind-faced surgeon as he delicately sewed my lip back together. My eyes latched onto my surroundings: the ceiling, the lights, the moving fan. Then I saw my mother's worried face and my father's shaking hands. Their expression of helplessness was familiar, except now, I saw my parents as people who were not living, but letting life live them.

I met death that day and went to sleep that night with a new appreciation for the living.

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