Last year, while wistfully thinking of how great my life is, I commented in a message to a friend “you know, if I died tomorrow, I think it’d be alright…”
Well, of course it wouldn’t be alright – I’d be dead, and maybe there’d be people grieving for me (I hope) – but what I meant was, I think I’m alright with my life; that I’ve lived a good one to date.
Talk about tempting fate…
The next day our annual work outing had been organised, the excitement of which included quad biking for two hours across the Belgian countryside. It was a surprisingly beautiful and sunny day, the last of summer’s rays bathing the still green land – and I literally mean the last day of summer, as the next day it completely pissed down, the heaven’s finally opening to pour on colourful, cool autumn.
Twelve of us left the quad biking prep area, with crash helmets and water proofs on – we looked like a right bunch of inept but large and eager teenagers – and firstly having signed our “in case of accident and/or death” waivers, we were totally raring to go! Wait, accident and/or death waiver?! I did not see that when I first looked at the document – it was written in French after all!
Down shady lanes, across the simultaneously mud and sun drenched fields, through green dripping woods we roared – the noise was deafening, and I wondered whether the fauna were just as bewildered as I, while no doubt they were not as exhilarated, nor did their hearts beat quite so fast! Well, had I not been wearing my helmet, the wind would have been oh-so-poetically blowing through my hair… what an invigorating feeling!
…until 15 minutes before the end of our 2 hour slot, when we came to the most challenging part of our course – a path lying at a 50 degrees steep angle, with only room enough for the two tires on my left side to fit on it.
And so I, the last of the 12, and the most inexperienced driver – with balls of steel, mind you, so a rather dangerous, heady mix – thought I was being clever as I tried my hand at getting down this irregular and unbalanced path, swinging the front tires from one side to the next, until finally swinging them too far towards the bank on my left, turning the quad exactly horizontal to the path – not a great position in which to be. I tried to reverse and back out, to change the direction in which the quad should have been going… then my thumb slipped while it was on the accelerator.
In full throttle the quad bike flew up the bank, throwing me on my back to the ground, and flipped completely over, right on top of me.
In those split seconds I remember seeing a big fat red F A I L stamp scrawled across my vision, and laughing at the stupidity of this “Biggest Fail” moment, most likely seen on some random YouTube video…
…and then the pain hit – my hip and leg, my arm screaming at me as I crawled from under the quad. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t speak. I could only stand there wondering at the sheer waves of pain rushing through every fibre of my being.
Remembering that day now, I am grateful for the unbalanced path where there had been space for my head to go as I had curled over into a protective ball, waiting for the quad bike to crush me. And I’m grateful for the helmet I wore, and for both of my bosses and all my colleagues who rushed up to me, concerned for my well-being.
I am grateful I can write this moment down now.
I am grateful to have learned not to tempt fate again.
I am grateful to be alive.