You’ll love this edge-of-your-seat story by Tasha about that time she didn’t die. I never knew this had happened!! And be sure to read all the way to the end because there’s a lot in this that we need to remember as we walk this journey of life. :)
That one time I didn’t die
by Tasha Hackett
Hi! It’s Laura’s friend Tasha. I really want to tell you a story about how I accidentally almost died, but I didn’t die. Have you heard when I fell off a cliff? Literally. And when I say literally, I mean I literally fell off a cliff. Not figuratively.
Spoiler: I didn’t die.
The summer after my senior year, I attended camp, WCYC, for the last time as a camper. This final year, I was one of the privileged few, the proud, the fearless, who were honored to spend two class periods with the game-coordinators, assisting in preparations for the evening games. We were gifted matching white T-Shirts with permanent markered logos: SAAC (Special Activities Assistant Corps). As it turns out, this was code for filling water balloons. Not nearly as exciting as you were expecting. I know. Me neither.
One particular morning, we had no water balloons to fill, so our leaders took us for a little treat. We went to The Rocks. These are fantastic outcroppings hidden in a dense Wisconsin forest. The tallest is roughly 35-40 feet high, one side is sheer cliff, while the other is tucked into a hill with an easy incline with trees and shrubs that suddenly ends—at the cliff. I had been to The Rocks before, and I usually spent my time hopping around the small ones, crawling through tight crevices between the larger few, or playing King of the Rock with other campers—nothing potentially fatal. That year, sadly, I was suffering from the Invincibility Fallacy. Please do not be overly concerned by this diagnosis. As I learned in my college psychology classes, this is a normal occurrence in adolescents.
The Invincibility Fallacy can be blamed for just about every stupid thing a young adult does.
To be frank, the Invincibility Fallacy is the reason people take unreasonable risks. This is why some teenagers free-climb thirty-five feet up the side of a sandstone cliff. In almost every human brain there is a voice whispering, “You are not making a wise decision. You need to rethink this. You could get in some real trouble here!” But while this is whispered, another voice comes along—a loud, friendly voice, a voice so powerful that the pesky Whisper of Caution is pounded to the dust. This second voice is the manifestation of the Invincibility Fallacy.
If you’ve ever heard it, you know. You may be familiar with it. It’s the one that simply states: Yes, but it won’t happen to me!!
The honest truth is that sometimes it does happen to you, and those are the times you remember for the rest of your life. So let’s say you fall off the cliff. Do you learn your lesson? The Lesson? The don’t-ever-do-stupid-things-again-because-you-could-die lesson? Does the little Whisper of Caution dust himself off, pick his hat out of the gutter and grow strong enough to keep you out of trouble next time? Ehhhh…. Well, that’s not really the point of this story. So we’ll just skip over that and move on.
Have you been snatched from the fire?
I ponder my existence here on earth because of the cliff event, and I now have a psychological fear of heights. Verdict: I will no longer ride roller coasters. And this aversion isn’t, “Oh, I don’t care for roller coasters. They make me nauseous.” No, no, child. For me it’s akin to Death. I rode Tower of Terror at Disney World the year after my cliff-falling incident. This is the ride that goes up and then drops you, and takes you up again, and drops …. up… drop… and up… Death.
Hot News: Sleeping Beauty on Tower Doesn’t Wake
The instant the ride began to drop I felt this rush of, (wait for it…) terror that I had only ever felt once before in my life. The difference is the ride kept going. I didn’t happily blackout before slamming the ground like the first time I had this feeling. Screaming did not help. Tears filled my eyes, and I knew, I knew, that if this ride did not stop in the next three seconds, I would be dead when I got off. Rather, I wouldn’t get off, because I’d be dead. The eleven other passengers in the haunted hotel elevator ride would think I had fainted. Perhaps they’d snicker and comment, “Wow! She must have been really scared,” and perhaps, “How beautiful she is now she’s not screaming anymore.” My boyfriend, having the time of his life I might add, never noticing that his sweet and adorable girlfriend was about to seriously die, would never have become my husband. Geez Louise, the event would hit every major news outlet in America. Nay, the world! “TERROR KILLS WEAKLING ON TOWER” Weellll, good news for you. The ride must have stopped in the next three seconds, because I did not die.
So, back to pondering my existence and when I didn’t die…
I ponder this because I have a fall-off-the-cliff story. It isn’t being told by someone else. I fell off a cliff and I’m here to tell it. You’re probably wriggling in your chair with anticipation, “So tell us already!” Right? Okay, I’m getting there. … camp, the rocks, Invincibility Fallacy…
So I looked up the side of the cliff and thought to myself, “I could climb that.” So I did. I scaled at an astounding rate, racing myself to the top. Perhaps that cautionary whisper I ignored was at least urging me to get to the top as quickly as possible to escape the reprimand of the group leaders or fellow, wiser, campers. But I could almost see over the top, I was that close! At this point I was already self-congratulating myself. You know, basic things any average eighteen-year-old-sandstone-cliff-climbing-camper might think. Then it happened.
Sandstone is a tricky thing.
Sandstone can be found all over the world. It is formed by the compression of tiny grains of sand, held together by other common earth substances like silica, calcium carbonate, iron, etc. It’s basically earth smashed together. Sandstone has been used in the past for building materials, but was found not to be durable and needed more frequent repairs than other stone. Because of its composition and the way it’s formed, it has a habit of breaking apart. And this is what it decided to do while I was depending on it.
Coincidentally, I knew all about sandstone, but not Wisconsin sandstone. Growing up in Kentucky, we had tan, multi-colored, yellow-orangy sandstone that popped up into the yard every spring—like wild flowers. If you can imagine needing to harvest the flowers from the yard before mowing. Over winter, the ground froze and thawed, magically pushing rocks into our Kentucky yard in the middle of a forest. Having lived there for many years, I wasn’t aware of the trickiness of climbing sandstone. My little brain had not made the connection that fantastic gray cliffs made of sandstone would have the same qualities as the small rocks that appeared and broke from each other in my Kentucky yard.
Even though I didn’t die, sandstone cliffs should not be scaled foolheartedly.
When the rock broke off in my right hand, I was reaching up with my other one. This left me flailing, grabbing the air around me, frantically reaching for anything and everything that might save me. Uh, hint: There was nothing. I was clearly falling.
Instinctively I kicked my feet in the air to keep myself upright. The last thing I needed was to land on my head! Early in childhood, I remember watching an old episode of Tarzan with Mom. I remember Mom’s soft and wavy brown hair that came past her shoulders. Tarzan was tan, and strong. I remember he was flying through the jungle, fleeing from something, when he came to the edge of a cliff he simply leaped without a second thought. As a young child, I remember thinking he looked so funny kicking his legs around in the air while he fell. Mom explained he did this to keep his head upright. He resembled a man walking in the air. He splashed harmlessly into the water at the base of the cliff and swam gracefully to safety, I’m sure. Maybe it was this old TV episode that saved my life, or maybe it was an inborn human life-saving technique, but I kept my head upright as I fell from that cliff.
Flashes of my surroundings are ingrained into my memory from that fall.
The sun was bright as I frantically turned my head, searching for help—I tried to grasp the foliage of a skinny tree nearby, the leaves silhouetted against the bright white sky. My thoughts at the time were as follows: This isn’t really happening. This can’t really be happening. It’s not happening to me. It’s not really happening. I knew that it must not be happening, for if it was, I was dying. There was not going to be any surviving this. Reality hit me. Okay, it is. It is really happening to me.*Panic* *Panic * God save me. Those were my thoughts, and in that order. Intelligible words aren’t available to me to describe this, so I will not try at this point in my writing career.
It’s not as easy as it looks.
Did you know I wanted to grow up to be a novelist, a writer, perhaps a poet? I was twelve and three-quarters when I started my first novel. When I was simply twelve, I wanted to be a Marine Biologist. Then we went to the ocean. I was attacked thrice by the Jellyfish Infantry off the coast of Florida. I decided I’d rather not be a Marine Biologist after all.
Please understand I waited until the third attack on the same day before I surrendered my dream. And I really meant it; I did not plant a pinky into that ocean. Marine Biology was out, the next best was writing. I was already in the habit of journaling. I figured anyone could do it. Write, that is. So I began. I wrote frantically for two months, completing seven chapters of a fantasy novel starring Jessica and Tony who ran off into a field of daisies, thereby entering the world of fantasy. They met a kid named Jasper who told them about the prophecy concerning their arrival and henceforth set off on their quest. It would have been the next best seller, but alas, I never finished. Apparently twelve year olds get bored of things like writing novels.
My mom decided we should read poetry aloud to each other once a week as part of some homeschooling activity. I jumped at this chance and asked to go first and I picked, The Raven by Poe. Remember, I was twelve. I knew Poe was famous and his poems were good or something… and this one sounded great and the Nevermore bit was cool. That’s all I knew. I read this poem in its entirety to my family and I will admit they sat quietly, but for some reason we did not continue this trend. I guess I was just that good. For the most part I stuck to reading novels and I left the writing about boys in my journal.
When I am rich and famous, I will attempt to put words to the overwhelming emotion that can now only be described as *Panic.* The last thought I had before hitting the ground was, “God save me.” And he did, because I am here now at 9:30 pm sitting at my desk, in my home in Nebraska with my husband loading the dishwasher and my four children sleeping in their rooms.
I do not remember hitting the ground, just the falling and then being on the ground with nothing but my consciousness. The world was black, I could feel nothing. It did not hurt, at first. All I knew is I could think, therefore I was… but I could not breathe. I’ll have you know, when air rushes into the lungs after the muscles around the chest cavity force it out, it wants to come back in, but when all of the air has been dramatically smashed out of your chest, it is extremely difficult to get air back into them.
No pain, movement, or light.
I knew I was dead, and I, whatever was left of me, was just stuck somewhere dark, and scary… because of the dark and the nothing. This was my world. Then I realized I could feel my chest and I could move it and the air came back and I began to breathe. This made me very happy when I rationalized I was not dead! I had broken my neck!
A few seconds went by and I could feel everything, and everything hurt. Recalculating, I decided I had not broken my neck, but only every other bone in my body. Soon I opened my eyes and saw the face of my friend John. He was talking to me, and whatever it was made me feel better. He was calm. But his face was scared. A face of true fear like I had never seen before.
John was scared because he had just seen me topple like a tower of Jenga blocks. I found out later that it took him at least half a minute to climb around to the base of the cliff where I had landed and that I was still unconscious when he arrived. A fellow camper watched me fall from the top of the cliff (he had walked safely up the hill on the other side), and screamed to everyone, “She’s dead!” #fakenews #notdead #ididn’tdie
Yeah, no. I didn’t die.
As the story goes, I landed on my feet, crumpled and rolled before settling on my side like a rag doll tossed out of the crib—one leg curled haphazardly to the side and an arm crushed awkwardly under my back. But when I woke up enough to take note of my surroundings, it was just like the movies. A ring of faces stared down at me.
Aaaaaaand… turns out I was cool. I sat up. Stayed like that for a minute and then walked to the van. Yes, I hurt all over. I had scratches on my face and arms where I demolished an old blackberry bush. My chin sported a bruise where I had pounded it against my sternum. Not even sure how that’s possible. My ankle was sore where I scratched it on a rock. But the camp nurse went all crazy pants on me when I walked into her office and told her that I didn’t feel so good. She called 911 and they strapped me to a board and, listen to this fun fact, rolled my gurney over a gravel parking lot to the ambulance. $7000 of X-Rays and two CT scans later, I was sent home with the diagnosis of Whiplash.
In Conclusion about how I didn’t die:
Just in case any of this is lost on you, let me highlight a few neat facts: I fell 35 feet and didn’t die. I did not land on the pile of rocks to my left, nor the woodpile. My skull didn’t hit the ground first and crack open. I did not break a bone. For some crazy reason I was given a pass at life again.
What about this exciting idea: What if you have no idea how many times your life has been spared? By some miracle of God, people are saved from disaster on earth every day, but what about all the times you don’t see him working for you? Can we give him credit for that too? If you think about how many cars don’t wreck, how many planes don’t crash, how many roller coasters don’t malfunction, it’s phenomenal! You were deliberately formed in your mother’s womb. On purpose. Created, designed, and planned.
You’re supposed to be here.
Four weeks after my cliff incident, I drove myself to college and I went for a ride on the back of a strange kid’s motorcycle; he kissed me two months later and married me two years after that. We’ve been pregnant five times and have four living children.
I get it, not everyone has a fall-off-a-cliff-survival story. But even if you don’t, I can tell you: Your life is not by chance.
Tasha Hackett is a friend of Laura and pretends to be a ballerina in the small space between the sink and stove. Sometimes she writes 3000 word essays when a 600 snippet with a recipe for stir-and-pour-bread will do. Her debut novel is currently being evaluated by a publisher. Even though the story lacks a fantasy world of daisies, she has high hopes it will bring a smile to you anyway.