Do not be fooled by my accolades! I wingwalked at 700 feet, co-piloted the Goodyear Blimp, swam with sharks, AND managed to obtain paperwork declaring me legally sane - all while racking up national acclaim in publishing, editing, writing and photography.

I’m not sure where to even start. I mean, it’s not every day one has a near-death epiphany.

And what’s with the whole “near-death” thing anyway? Why does a random thought occurring in the middle of an existential crisis bear more consideration than any other random thought at any other time? I really don’t get it. I don’t understand why people are so willing to accept as gospel whatever we think about when we think we’re dying.

(OK, let’s back it up a minute. Actually, let’s back it up a couple of years, to that time I spent a fun-filled week in the neuro-ICU while folks in white coats poked, prodded and studied my brain, which had apparently decided that a series of small strokes qualified as a “nice change of pace.”)

To be honest, I never thought I was dying.

Oh, the doctors made it clear that they thought I was in danger. The looks on the faces of my wife, daughter and close friends made it clear what they were thinking, even if they weren’t saying it. 

Even through the haze of whatever remedy they pumped through my veins during my week-long stay in the ICU, I had a pretty good idea what was happening. 

I just didn’t compute that it was happening to me. (After hearing about the ridiculous things I said, slurred speech and random words included, I concede that it’s possible I didn’t compute much of anything for a few days.)

My white-light-through-the-tunnel experience came midway through my visit to Intensive Care, when doctors sent me down for a full brain MRI. (Ironically, my near-death epiphany came well after I was past the immediate danger.) I lay there on that plastic table, barely hearing the classical music on the white plastic headphones over the deep, resonant pounding of the MRI. At some point that seemed like hours into what was supposed to be a 20-minute scan, I lost track of my breathing – I mean I literally didn’t know if I was supposed to breath in or out – and just for that moment I allowed myself to wonder “is this it?”

Then, oddly enough, I thought about the Fitbit® sitting on my kitchen counter. We’d bought it for a friend’s birthday, but learned too late that she already had one. My visit to the emergency room and subsequent incarceration occurred before we had the chance to return it. (Which reminds me – I probably still owe her something for that birthday. Sheesh.)

Back then, Fitbits were all the rage. Everyone at my office wore them, and everyone took random breaks to walk around the block. These little “activity trackers” primarily focused on how many steps you take. 

At my office, “I’m taking a lap” meant someone was trying to get in their daily 10,000 steps.

I thought about that Fitbit, and i thought about those 10,000 steps.

It really was a random thought whose only meaning was in its timing. It was certainly more interesting (more distracting, anyway) than dwelling on how close I might have come to, well, you know. (Don’t make me say it!) But I wouldn’t qualify it as epiphanic in any way.

Except, as it turns out, it was.

i realized, probably for the first time in my life, that my steps are numbered. Maybe that should have led to the next logical rationale, that I should slow down, take it easy. But no. My next thought was how much I still have planned, how much more I intend to accomplish, how much harder and more deliberate I need to work.

My steps are numbered.

When I thought about my wife and daughter, my friends, my business, when I truly considered all that I hope to see and do in my life, when I finally accepted that I have absolutely no idea whether I have 10 steps or 10,000 steps to go, that’s when the real epiphany showed up.

You have to take each step as if it could be the last. 

When you’ve only got 10,000 steps, you have to make each and every one count.

(I kept the Fitbit for myself.)

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