Excerpt from the book Here At Home, available FREE on Amazon Kindle for a limited time!
I was drowning. One more wave and I would have been done for. Fortunately, my feet touched sand, and I was spared to contemplate my mortality with gasping breath. Someone else died that day, on the same beach, as the twenty-foot waves spared them less mercy.
Everyone has run-ins with mortality, and I am not trying to solicit sympathy for my own. But as I relive those minutes over and over in my mind, I realize that the fact of death is not what plagues me. Rather, it is the fear I felt as I floundered for life, and that gut-wrenching feeling as I surfaced to the absence of my brother, who was getting subaquatically pummeled by the same fatal waves. Death in itself is nothing to fear, because it is not something of which we can form any sort of conception. But fear death we do, simply because it is evolutionarily adaptive for us to do so. And that is okay. No feeling is rational, but each imparts meaning and depth to our experience.
My willingness to return to the ocean comes not from my willingness to face death, but rather to feel the fear in which I was once profoundly submerged. Fear is meant not to deter us from life, but to help us learn from living. Fear prompted me to research the mechanics of the ocean, and how to respond when overwhelmed by powerful breakers (you are supposed to swim toward the wave, rather than away). And while I am certainly more subservient to the mighty sea, I am not afraid to feel the fear in which chest-deep brine immerses me.
What I am trying to say, in too many words, is that death may be nothing to fear, but neither is the ineluctable sensation of fear itself.