I was in the southern San Blas Archipelago, free-diving and spear-fishing, out of breath and struggling toward the ocean’s surface with all my might. I hit an object. No, the object hit me! A blinding impact ripped open my face and upper torso, almost like swimming into a motorboat propeller, but heavier! A freight train? No, a shark, and everything around me a bloody blur. Only a second, and only blood! I knew that a shark had just ripped my head off and nobody could possibly save me. My life was over. The thought calmed me to accept my fate, impossible to change, still twenty feet below the ocean’s surface, like the hare accepting the closing of the fox’s jaws.
A startling image flashed into my mind, from six weeks previously. A woman rushing down the uncovered outside wooden stairs of the stilt-supported, screened buildings that were the living quarters we interns and residents shared at American Gorgas Hospital in the Panama Canal Zone. A sudden burst of tropical rain made her hair stringy and flattened her blouse. She was crying uncontrollably, my wife’s and my next-door neighbor, a good friend. Her husband was a resident in pathology at the hospital. He had just been killed early that morning in a seaplane accident. She clutched only a small suitcase, hysterically running to board the airport limousine carrying her husband’s body. There was no further reason for her to stay in the Canal Zone, but she couldn’t stand leaving him now, accompanying his body back, on the first flight out, to their family’s mid-western home and her torn apart destiny.
Soon, this would be my own wife’s journey, running away from her soul-dreams, not wanting at that moment to acknowledge anyone, or be acknowledged. And her baby never knowing its father.
…Stay tuned for my book Reckless But Lucky, which includes the true account of how I survived.