How One Journey of Gratitude Changed My Reaction to Life Threatening Moments

After I completed my yearlong journey of gratitude described in This is the Moment,  my wife, Lola and I decided to go on a Caribbean cruise. Halfway into the trip, I felt chest pains and saw the ship’s doctor. He discovered that I had an abnormal EKG, and my blood pressure was 50 percent higher than it usually was. Given my father’s early death from a heart attack, I was afraid that I might be following in his footsteps.

Since the next port after the one we were on was a remote island with no hospital or airport, I had to make an immediate decision about what to do. I chose to leave the ship and fly home so that I could consult my own doctors. As it turned out, it was a muscular problem in the chest area, and I’m fine.

This was not the first time I’d had to cut a cruise short. Just two years earlier, Lola and I had embarked upon one in the Mediterranean. A few days into the cruise, I began experiencing what was initially diagnosed as indigestion but which turned out to be a life-threatening strangulated hernia. I had to leave the ship immediately, and I found myself on the island of Corsica, where I knew no one and had no resources. Frankly, I was panicked on top of being seriously ill.

I was overwhelmed by the fear of losing my life, but I had another source of anxiety as well. I knew in my heart and soul that I hadn’t said everything I really wanted to say to those who have mattered in my life.

That experience and my subsequent one in the Caribbean were like before-and-after emotional x-rays. I had two similar circumstances with two very different reactions. On the cruise we took after my year of gratitude, I was no longer overwhelmed by those emotions when faced with a life-or-death situation. I felt peaceful knowing that those significant people unequivocally knew how important they were in my life. Plus, there was an audio recording of our conversation that they could listen to if something happened to me. In turn, I knew how everyone felt about me, and it was as if I’d already been to my own funeral and heard the eulogies.

This sense of completeness was never a part of my intentions for my gratitude journey, but it turned out to be a profound by-product of it. If that peace of mind had been the only outcome, then my journey was worth taking. I came to this epiphany in that moment when I thought my life might possibly end prematurely.

How would you feel about your relationships if you, or someone significant in your life, became seriously ill?  Would you have regret for what was unsaid?  Or would you feel at peace knowing you communicated to those who are important to you how grateful you are for their contributions to your life.

Don’t wait to connect with those people who have impacted your life.  Make a brief list of how one, just one, person made a difference in your life, and reach out to him/her today.  If you aren’t sure how to start or you need help verbalizing your thoughts, download the free guide available at the bottom of this page by simply typing in your email address.

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