Loch-Vale View Inspires My Respect for the Frailty of Life

| October 28, 2011

loch vale rocky mountain national park

The beautiful Loch-Vale of Rocky Mountain National Park

I considered being able to take this photo a privilege and a significant accomplishment at the same time. The scene you see above is what I found at the end of a two and a half hour hike to an elevation of 10,200 feet in Rocky Mountain National Park. I know Everest would be infinitely more impressive but, you see, ten short months ago it was all I could do to take a single lap around the surgical trauma floor at our local hospital. Without getting into the gory details, what I thought was going to be a routine laparoscopic gall bladder removal last January turned into a a full blown invasive abdominal surgery that included a bile duct exploration and transduodenal sphincteroplasty topped off with a pulmonary embolism for bad measure. Talk about a surreal experience. In an instant, I was confronted with a potential life changing event over which I had no control.

When I reflect on the ordeal, I did not seem all that worried at the time. I just wanted to feel better. Nothing else mattered. I later asked myself why and came to the conclusion that I seem to worry more about the things I perceive I have control over. I worry about the outcomes of decisions I may make that could turn out badly. My medical condition, however, evolved so rapidly that I felt like I was just along for the ride and the outcome for better or worse was out of my hands. What good was worry when there was no way that I could alter the outcome? My biggest fear, quite honestly, was that I might not be there after the surgery for my wife and son. Aside from that, I felt I had, by the grace of God, lived a blessed life beyond my greatest expectations, rich with experiences and deeply meaningful relationships.

A day after surgery, I woke up with a nine-inch incision across my abdomen and all the fun that came with it. My surgeon told me I would be at the hospital recovering for a while and that he would need to follow my progress for three months. Despite the pain, I was out of bed that day and thought I was on my way back. My general surgeon, who brought four other doctors onto my case, came in to check on me later in the afternoon. With a slight wave of emotion, I said, “Thanks for pulling all the talent together and helping me get better.” To my surprise, he said, “Wait a minute, you are not out of the woods yet.” I was shocked. At that point, I had not thought for a second that I would not get completely better. It hit me in an instant that many of the things that I had enjoyed in life were now threatened by this unplanned turn of events.

Fortunately, after leaving the hospital nine days later and and five weeks of follow up, my surgeon told me I did not have to come back to see him again. He said, “You have had a very good result. Much better than it could have been.” With that, I was free again. Free to enjoy life to the fullest with a new respect for the frailty of life. I am completely better now and consider myself a very lucky man indeed.

What did I learn from this life experience? I learned that I REALLY love my wife. Her unwavering support in every aspect of my life has made me a better and stronger person. I can strive to attain the highest levels of self proclaimed importance at work or anywhere else, but in the end, my wife, family, and close friends are who I can depend on to be at my side.

The experience also drove home the importance of the A Day Not Wasted concept for me, which I had embraced long before the events of last January. If things had turned out worse and I had lost the freedom to do the things I love, I would still have all of the great memories from the experiences that Donna and I have shared together. My passion for living life to the fullest would have paid off. All I would have had to do is close my eyes and remember hiking the Alps in Switzerland, meandering the canals of Venice, and marveling at the grace of Paris, among other truly memorable experiences. Those memories are mine forever and they can’t be taken away. Run, don’t walk, to enjoy your life. Every day is a gift that is not to be wasted. Are you pursuing your passions and creating memories? I hope so. If not, put a plan together today that moves you in that direction. You will not regret it.

This post is a lot more personal that I usually get on the ADNW blog. I have wanted to write this for a while and finally had the clarity to put it down. Thanks for listening and have a fabulous weekend!


Category: Multifarious, Photography, Travel

Comments (14)

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  1. Chris Nitz says:

    Very powerful post and wise words to live by. Thank you for sharing your experience and providing fuel to the fire to live life to its fullest.

  2. Thank you for these encouraging words. I am certain it took you great courage to share such a personal experience. Many who read it will be moved, I am certain, and hopefully follow your hard won advice. Best regards.

  3. Heather says:

    Lee, since the passing of my sweet Gram I have been pondering all of these things myself.

    I appreciate you sharing this, and I for one am really thankful it turned out good for you…

  4. Jim Denham says:

    Sometimes, we need to turn it loose Lee and you have here. Thanks for sharing the story and some inspiration. I think God puts obstacles in our path for a reason and that He intended for us to be in a specific place at a specific time. Your experience here may have been one of those times – likely – and me reading it could be another one. Carry on my friend!

  5. A.Barlow says:

    Wow! This is such an amazing image. I think the way the tree is used to frame the scene and add foreground interest came out really well. Beautiful!

    Nice words sir and I am happy you are on the mend. Although, I think things like that never leave you; and by the looks of it, they shouldn’t.

  6. LeavesOfCrimson says:

    Lee for me it was the birth of my oldest daughter, then the follow up with daughter two that made me know of God’s existence, know of the frailty of life, know not to ever take it for granted. I appreciate it so much, see the beauty and wonder in so many things that prior to their arrival I would have superiorly glanced over. I love the title of your blog, always have. Never waste a day indeed.

  7. Margo says:

    Your words moved me. Similar experience five years ago that changed my life… needed your reminder to continue savoring life. Life is fragile and should be respected.

  8. Jean Nelson says:

    A very wise, moving and inspiring testamony Lee. Thank you for sharing it. And I love that you coupled it with the photo of the lake at the top of your mountain climb – it is symbolic.

  9. Sylvia Young says:

    Lee,how wonderful is the world that God has given us,and we can appreciate it so much more when we think it may be taken away from us..Simple things in His wonderful world are ours to enjoy – record ,paint and be a part of,and to share with others.
    Wishing you all the very best,God bless,Syls

  10. Adam Allegro says:

    Fantastic post. Truly inspiring. And a wonderful image as well!! Great job. And congrats on the recovery!

  11. Marc Collins says:

    Great post and a great image. Very uplifting!

  12. Lee says:

    Thanks for the thoughful comments everyone. I hoped the content was not too heavy for the blog but felt convicted to write about my experience. I hope it benefits others. Nice to meet some new people here and I look forward to catching up on your blogs as a result!

  13. Ross Lynem says:

    So glad to have found your site and to see your beautiful work. I greatly appreciate your heartfelt story as it reminded me a of a life lesson learned long ago when my young wife died suddenly. I shall put tomorrow to good use. God bless. RL

  14. Lee says:

    Thanks for the comment Ross. Sorry to hear about your loss. I can’t imagine having to through such an experience. Take care!