The highest of highs … the lowest of lows. I’ve had them. I imagine you have too. In the moment, the intensity was breathtaking. Whether I was soaring or plummeting, blood coursed through the body, the mouth dropped open, cells were blasted apart.
1. I played the cello in the huge All-City Orchestra on the square in front of Toronto’s New City Hall. I remember the aged Sir Ernest MacMillan shakily wielding his baton, leading us through “Land of Hope and Glory”.
2. There were four years of weekly swimming classes in high school. Boys only, everybody in the nude. Since I couldn’t swim, and it seemed that adults had given up trying to teach me, I piddled around in the shallow end while my friends did laps.
3. It was a large auditorium in Edmonton, Alberta and I spoke from the heart to hundreds of people. I was in anguish at the coming death of an organization. At the end, they stood.
4. High above a mountain lake, I clung to a cliff, frozen in place, seeing my death falling away. Twenty minutes of terror. Why did I have to die so young?
5. On a Sunday in May, 1986, I crossed the finish line of the Vancouver Marathon. My goal was to break four hours. My time was 4:12. The smile matched the outstretched arms.
6. Two hours later, I lay down on a bench in downtown Vancouver, knowing that the chest pain would soon kill me. A cabbie found me and took me to Emergency at St. Paul’s Hospital. I survived.
7. On the university track, I lined up at the start line with some Grade 6 kids. “Ready, Set, Go!” someone cried, and we blasted off on the 100-metre run. They were 12. I was 68. I finished forty metres behind the slowest kid, smiling all the while.
8. At 3:00 am in the hospital room, I could no longer hear my wife Jody breathing. Soon the nurse nodded that she was gone. I kissed my wife’s lips.
9. On the west coast of Vancouver Island, I climbed a sandy hill, the sound of faraway surf in my ears. As I reached the peak, the glorious waves of Long Beach stretched to the horizon.
10. In January, I was awake for 44 hours as planes took me from Dakar, Senegal to Brussels, Belgium to London, England and to San Francisco, California. After all that, how did I survive the one-hour BART trip to Berkeley?
What’s left now are blurry memories, in the realm of pleasant or unpleasant. I still smile and frown as the images return but the moments feel muted. But I am definitely not muted. I feel alive, surging with promise, my hair blowing in the wind. Somehow the energies of yesteryear have found their way inside me. They’ve settled in the nooks and crannies of my life. And I am the better for it.