A thought-provoking free-verse poem about those what-if moments in one's life.
|As a young boy on a vacation at Savannah Beach,
a rare large wave violently knocked me off my feet.
Caught in an outward undertow, underwater
and helpless, being swept out to sea until
a man spotted me, pulled me sputtering and
coughing water, clear of the water into the air.
What if that man hadn’t been there?
Serving in Vietnam, on an inspection tour,
I waited in an Army heliport for two days
during monsoon season for a copter ride
farther north, then got new verbal orders
over the phone to end the tour and fly back
south to Long Binh instead. Arriving at
the heliport I learned a copter ride north
was available that day, but I headed back south
according to my newly issued orders instead,
only to later learn that the copter north
was shot down with loss of all lives aboard.
What if my orders hadn’t been changed?
Also, in Vietnam, landing at Cam Rahn Bay
during a downpour, the small, single-prop,
5-seater airplane suddenly was blown sideways
just as we started to land. The pilot managed to
regain control and circle around before landing.
With shaking hands and quivering voice,
he said after cutting off the engine,
“Gentlemen, you came as close today
as you’ll ever come to flipping in a plane
during a landing. We are all extremely lucky
to walk away from this landing.”
What if the plane had flipped and crashed?
More than once during my life I’ve avoided
a major car wreck by a matter of mere seconds
or a few inches. The most recent was meeting
on a small Louisiana county road a speeding
pick-up truck topping a small hill some three
feet over the center-line, causing me to swerve
onto the shoulder to escape a head-on crash.
Elsewhere along that stretch of road there was
no shoulder, only a sharp drop-off sure to roll
any car that wandered off the pavement.
What if that shoulder hadn’t been there?
Some six or seven times in my life I've had
a narrow escape from possible death … my
what-if moments. I feel fortunate to have
survived to my current age of seventy-one.
Was the good outcome to my what-if moments
due to luck … to fate … to the hand of God?
Whatever one believes, something intervenes
in such moments to allow us to live on.
What are your own what-if moments?
Such moments lurk, waiting to confront us
at any time.
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