Few of us get the opportunity to examine our lives from the edge of death. Victoria writer, educator, and runner Gregory Marchand had the opportunity to look at his life after nearly dying and tells about it in his book, Open Heart Runner.
On January 11, 1998 at the end of an 8km race, Marchand collapsed suffering from a major cardiac arrest. Near the end of the book in which he describes this incident and his slow recovery, Marchand gives a list of “What Almost Dying Taught Me”.
Here are some of the lessons Marchand learned from “almost dying”:
- life is tenuous
- we can’t count on anythings staying the same
- family is paramount
- prayer has power
- simplicity beats complexity
- we can see much more by walking than by running
- we need very little to survive comfortably
- it’s easier to be kind than cruel
- people respond positively to goodness
- everyone is searching for something
- there are several paths to understanding
- many people work too hard
- change teaches us
- failure teaches us
- time spent reflecting is time well spent
- contemplation gained from raking leaves can’t be duplicated by a leaf blower
- the closer we come to death, the clearer life becomes
- feeling loved is more powerful than death
- death isn’t negative
- our fear of death is really fear of an unlived life
- as we move away from death, we miss the messages of life
- life is not easy when we’re too immersed in it
- life is simple when we treat it simply
Most of all, Gregory Marchand’s close encounter with death seems to have enabled him to discover a more gentle way of living. His journey back to health taught him to stay more connected to his feelings and to approach life with greater openness and acceptance. After nearly dying, it seems that many of the things that had previously felt so important suddenly became less significant.
It is sad that it so often takes a catastrophic event for us to learn such simple lessons of life.
By taking a walk in creation, Jesus learned the same lessons Marchand discovered by nearly dying. Jesus summed up what he discovered in nature saying,
25‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?”(Matthew 6:25-31)
As much as it may often seem complex, complicated, and confusing, Marchand may be right that life is more simple than we usually think. Truth is not far from us if we will only stop and listen deeply to the realities of life.
So many of the complexities of life come from our determination to impose our will upon the world. So much of the confusion we feel arises out of our desire to gain the attention we feel will ease our loneliness and pain.
But all we really want is to connect with the deep tender centre of our being and to learn to live from that place of trust and light that death can never destroy. Perhaps I will choose to try to learn these simple lessons before nearly dying.