Happy to be alive

We take a lot of things for granted every day.  Things like…our health and safety.  And then every now and again…along comes a reminder of how fortunate we are to be alive and well.

My wife and I have just returned from a long stay at our home Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.  During that stay, several really good friends of mine died.  One of those, Pennington Way lll, is someone I featured in my book, The Way Up: How to Keep your Career Moving in the Right Direction.  Penn was my boss when we lived in NYC and my friend from the first day I met him.  I loved Penn and miss him badly.  Two things give me a bit of comfort…I was able to get him a preview edition of the book so he could see what I wrote about him and I had the good sense to get in a car and go visit him just a few short weeks before he died.  Seeing him that last time gave me a bit of closure.  It also gave me a chance to tell him that I loved him and that he was an important part of my life.

So…with several friends dying in a short period of time…a sharp reminder to be thankful for all the blessings in our lives.  Trust me…I am one thankful guy.

Then, just so I would be certain to get the point, two days before we returned to the Mainland, two of my buddies and I traversed a lava field at night to get a sunrise picture at a hard to get to part of the Big Island.  About a mile into the hike across the broken, uneven, black as night, sharp, hard and unforgiving lava field…and at about 3 in the morning after the moon had gone down…the guy just a few feet in front of me, C.J.Kale (one of the worlds great photographers…look him up), took one big misstep and plunged feet first down a crevice in the lava.  He probably fell 25 feet before coming to an immediate stop when his foot hit a rock.  His photographic/business partner, Nick Selway, and I thought he was dead for sure.  Much to our surprise, he looked up at us and said something like “Gentlemen, I believe I have broken my leg.”  OK…he may not have said it exactly that way.  What ever was said were the happiest words I’ve about ever heard, because that fall would have killed most people.  CJ just happens to be one tough son-of-a-gun. I’m still not sure how he survived.

Somehow, CJ, with a major assist by Nick, managed to get out of the crevice and back on semi-flat ground.  From there, we broke up a tripod, made a makeshift splint, fastened it with a Canon camera strap and then carried CJ and his compound fracture back to the car.  We managed to get our 100 pounds of camera gear back to the car, as well.  And, I am ashamed to say, I even took a few pictures of CJ rolling around in pain (hey…we are photographers and guys…what did you expect?).  In the car we had our medical kit, one Bandaid and two Ibuprofen.  So…off to the nearest hospital.

Our GPS took us toward Hilo and then toward Mauna Loa.  We exceeded the speed limit all the way.  We finally had to slow down a bit when we reached a winding road that ended in a dead end, miles from Hilo.  The GPS then announced “You have arrived at your destination.”  Almost as helpful as our fine medical kit.

We found our way to the hospital.  About two hours had gone by since CJ disappeared down the crevice.  He was in extreme pain.  The meds they gave him were appreciated.  Surgery followed and they put him back together.  I checked with him yesterday and he is healing up and doing much better.  Again…something to be thankful for.

So, I head into an important week of my life (The Way Up goes on sale March 1) thankful to be alive, thankful for my friends, thankful for good doctors, thankful for my publisher and my publicist and thankful to anyone who actually picks up my book and reads it.  If it sells a million copies…cool.  And if it doesn’t, I will remain one thankful guy.  Life is really really good.  Enjoy every minute of yours and I will do the same.