I never thought it would end this way. My life, that is. And yet, there seemed to be a good chance that it might happen. There we were, crouched over, hugging our knees, as the plane that was to take us to Disney World on our first anniversary made an emergency landing in Houston.
My life flashed before my eyes, the same way it had only five years previous when I had been held up at gunpoint at the Mail Boxes store I worked at in college. I remember that feeling vividly. I felt one inch tall as the man, almost the same age as me, held the gun to my forehead and demanded to know where the Western Union money was. I was sure he was going to hit me, if not shoot me, when I told him there was no money there. In an effort to reason with him I asked him what good reason I had to lie to him, it wasn’t even my money! It must have worked, because I escaped unharmed. Yet, he did rob something from me that day; my sense of security. But, in its place, he unknowingly left a gift. The gift of seeing my life flash before my eyes. I had always heard of it happening to people, yet there I was experiencing it firsthand for myself. And what did I see? I saw that there was much left for me to do. I saw that there were friends and family that I needed to spend more time with. I saw that there were places I needed to go, and more I needed to experience. I had an overwhelming feeling of panic, that I wasn’t ready for my life to end that day.
I thought of that day as the plane circled around to make the emergency landing. We had only been in the air about 5 minutes before we knew something had to be wrong. My ears started popping like crazy, and the few babies that were on the plane started screaming while everyone looked at each other with wide eyes. The captain came over the speaker and told us there was a problem with the landing gear. Apparently, they couldn’t tell if the landing gear had retracted as it should have, or if it was stuck. As a result of this, the pressurization of the cabin air wasn’t working correctly and there was nothing else we could do except turn around and make an emergency landing and hope that the gear would hold. We expected the oxygen masks to drop at any moment, but they never did.
With the runway in sight, lined with fire trucks and ambulances, we assumed the crash position. I prayed that our landing gear was down, and would hold. In those few moments, my life flashed before my eyes once again. But, it was different this time. I wasn’t ready to die, but I thought “If this is how I die, I’m ok with it.” It was a drastically different feeling than the one I had before. I was surprised by the calming peace that came over me in those moments.
Well, I didn’t die that day, none of us did. But, I walked away with another gift. The gift of awareness. I no longer bumble through life blindly trusting that I will always have another day ahead of me to do the things that I want to do. I try to honor the gift I was given by living each moment, acutely aware of how precious it is.