Coming Out of a Coma

As he last recalled driving to work that fateful day, the Dow was trading at ~13,500, gas was about $3.00/gallon and rising, Clinton was leading Obama and Guiliani had a “virtual lock” on the Republican ticket. He was turning up the volume on NPR’s Morning Edition when tires squealed, the airbag deployed and then ….stillness.

Twelve months passed. Darkness and quiet. Then a flickering of light. Miracle of miracles, he began to stir. Groggy, confused, disoriented ….awake. “What do you mean it’s been a year??”, he asked in disbelief. His voice was scratchy and head was pulsing. He realized it’s time to catch up with the rest of the world.

A lot can happen in a year. He was told the market has been sliding and we’re in a recession. Gas skyrocketed and now is under $2.00 a gallon. And the presidential race? That’s right, Barack Obama is moving into 1600 Penn. People are panicky, corporations are doing massive layoffs and the ratio of tears to smiles is at least 50:1.

As he began to rekindle relationships, most were awed by his easy smile and relaxed demeanor. To be truthful, it made them a bit uncomfortable. A good friend finally mustered the courage to convey that his sense of calm was “making the rest of us feel a bit uneasy. We’re going through rough times man.” ‘Uneasy’? This confuses him, because what his friends don’t realize is that he’s simply grateful to:

  1. Be alive.
  2. Have food, shelter and clean water.
  3. Have friends and family.
  4. Be part of a community.
  5. Live in the United States.
  6. Cheer, laugh and smile!

This isn’t some BS story I wrote as a parable for how we should act and feel. This is a true story of a man I met yesterday afternoon during a delayed flight home.

He woke up about a month ago and is now on his way to Paris as part of a round-the-world trip he was taking, “even if it costs every last cent I have.” While other passengers were rushing about and grumpily muttering about the mechanical delay, he had his hands behind his head, his seat leaned back and a grin on his face. We started chatting and spent the better part of an hour with one another. It’s not an exaggeration to say I’m a changed person because of it.

Looking at the world through his eyes was enlightening. He told me that his priorities became “crystal clear” as a result of this experience. Prior to the accident, he was an assembly manager for a well known food manufacturer. He said he wasn’t especially well liked, and that included his wife (who, incidentally, left him for another man while he was in the coma). He had struggled to keep it all together. And now his outlook was completely different:

“For all the negative crap that dominates our daily existence, it’s helpful to step back and simply be grateful for some of the things we still have. It doesn’t have to be big to have meaning. So just find it, hold it precious and breathe.” (His smile glowed as he said this.)

I can’t help but think about this man and his new lease on life. It’s difficult at times, but I’m going to try and heed his advice. So let’s all take a deep breath, exhale, smile, and keep the conversation going.

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