Friday, January 13, 2012

Choking: A Reflection on Living

Life is a curious thing, but I find myself continually thankful to have a mini part of life. It is good to breathe and feel my lungs expand with cool air even as it burns past the place where water caught and choked me. Water gives life, but it can take life as well. These things make you think and wonder. Suddenly, even crappy days are worth being thankful for since there is always hope that the next day might be good or at least better.

You see, these thoughts stem from a happenstance that gained significance as the quiet wildness of the absolute need for breath to live seized my entire consciousness. Standing in the hallway outside of a meeting choking on laughter and unable to breathe because of water trapped in my throat, I raised my hands in desperation of appeal to no one in particular – perhaps to God or even in the desire that the prisoned water might trickle away from the knot that it had tied so completely around my throat.

In this moment, realization sent warning through my head. I stood alone in the hallway. If I could not gather air to my lungs, I might collapse. With no one to realize the danger until the sound of my body slamming against the floor alerted them to trouble and without the happy reassurance of the sound of my voice calling that all was well to allay the sudden fear of silence, they would scurry to my inert, un-breathing self. This could not happen.

Everything within screamed “Breathe! Stop laughing and try to breathe!” Try, I did. The knot of water would not loosen. I tried to gasp in air. Nothing. My chest painfully heaved. Air could not pass the wall of water in my throat. Tears clogged my eyes, and my body violently heaved in a last ditch effort to gain the air that suddenly made the difference between breathing and never breathing again.

The convulsion began at my abdomen and pounded through the rest of my body like a tsunami. From my mouth spewed the result of this bodily wave, and the cool necessity of my body’s longing filled my nose and my lungs. And I hoarsely laughed again, this time thankful to be able to laugh but embarrassed to have dumped the contents of my dinner on the hallway floor.

Through laughter and tear, I cleaned up the mess. And my friend said to me, “After this, we’ll either be tight or never be able to look at each other in the eye again.” Although the cause of this almost deathly laughter, she had also been the first to check when I had not returned to the room. She had come asking, “Are you okay?” to see me standing over a splash of puke with arms spread and body shaking as my first breath revitalized me after my recognition of possible death.

For now, I remember to be thankful for each breath because it hurts to breath as the air rasps across my throat – the place where the water knot sat. I want to live. I have every reason to live, to breathe, to laugh, and to spread this thankfulness to Jesus that my time on earth is not over.