Perhaps it was awareness that October and Thanksgiving are not far away.
It may have been the company of my best male friend, or perhaps it was the stunning, idyllic setting of floating peacefully in a canoe on a glassy calm mountain lake with sun shining down on us. It was the perfect day.
Regardless, Curtis and I both verbally broke the gentle silence at the same time as we both softly said, “Are we ever blessed!”
We chuckled at simultaneously saying the same sentence and then went back to our own quiet thoughts as the canoe quietly glided in and out of the shoreline’s shadows.
Sometimes it takes an entire “brakes on, slow down” decision for one to actually remember that life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.
Everyone needs to occasionally take the time to reflect on things, recognize the value of friends, family, life and the world around them.
Time to contemplate what they have or have known — and not what they have lost or never found.
Like a broken record, I’ve pontificated how lucky I am many times to readers, yet it’s a reality I like to share often.
As the serene silence returned to our canoe, I reflected on a key incident almost 30 years ago that impacted my world and attitude towards it. The night of the big promise.
Some might consider it simply reaching the cowardly point, a plea bargain, the begging for one last chance. It matters not what others define it as, it was the night that changed my life.
I found myself sitting in a lonely hospital room in Vancouver with a very bleak scenario facing me.
The tumour in my voice box had been causing me difficulty and the doctors much concern. There were lots of smiley faces all around but no one was fooling anyone.
There was no way of knowing if the tumour was malignant or not (a biopsy was impossible) and the decision had been made to blast it out with laser.
At that time, laser use, especially in the voice box and throat area, was still in its learning stages.
Surgery was set for early in the morning and even if I survived, there were still no guarantees what they’d find. I was pretending to be brave but I was suddenly very afraid and very alone.
Looking back, I now believe being alone that night was probably prudent. I may not have reached out spiritually had there been someone around physically to talk with. But there was not—and I was lost.
As I dangled my legs over the edge of the clinical, uncaring bed, I recognized I was perhaps seeing my last night alive.
So, I did what many folks do at such time. I literally fell out of bed, down on my knees, and prayed like I’d never prayed in my life.
It’s easy to face your faith when you have everything to lose and everything to gain.
Raised Anglican, I was no stranger to conversations with Christ and God, yet like many my belief had waned back and forth over the years.
However, it was back in full force that night and has never left.
I humbly asked for another chance to serve the world and the Lord better. I promised three things: I would never take another day of life for granted, I would never again allow anger to rule my life, and I would truly dedicate my remaining life to making this world a better place.
I never had to write those three promises down. They were burned into my brain and heart that evening.
When I woke up the next day after the operation, the first face I saw was my surgeon. His smile told me everything I needed to know.
By the grace of God and the brilliant hands of a fine surgeon, the world would be stuck with Charlie Hodge a little longer.
My surgeon had successfully blasted the tumour out (which proved benign), and informed me that while I had to wait seven years to be considered clear, I was for the moment a healthy little guy.
Three decades later, I have a unique radio voice (though a little whiny) and a few problems with the throat. Much to the chagrin of many, I learned how to talk again after losing the large majority of my voice box.
Thankfully, it’s had no impact on my ability to drink a cold beer on a hot day. I can honestly count on one hand the number of days that I might have forgotten my promise during the last 30 years.
I have a world of amazing friends and acquaintances, family, a wonderful wife, a house full of animals, and a community full of fine folks. I live in the best country in the world and one of the best cities around.
Yet best of all, it is not by fluke. My luck is largely because of a conscious effort to keep a commitment, precipitated by a promise and a plea bargain some 30 years ago. The rest was simply a choice of keeping the promise and using the knowledge and skills that others have taught.
Life really is all about choices. I have not forgotten mine, and will do my best not to forget for as long as I am fortunate enough to be here.