April 7, 2019 was supposed to be an ordinary day. 18 of us set out to do the longest bike ride I had ever done. The name of the event was “Port to Port.”
I thought that meant going from one bay over many hours to a different bay. Actually, the lighthearted people who started this event eight years ago named it after a local chain called Pizza Port. The goal was to enjoy fellowship, savor the coastline, and finish the trip.
We began at a Pizza Port near the ocean and rode to another Pizza Port. We stopped there for refreshments, used the plumbing facilities, and peddled on to the final Pizza Port
The people who encouraged me to join the trip said, “We ride slowly; we ride really slowly.” Perfect. I’m social security age, I grew up in black and white, with Wille Nelson. I am reasonably fit for my vintage.
I’m usually the slowest triathlete that most people know, but there may be only 10,000 triathletes out of 33 million Californians. I thought my training for triathlons prepared me to ride from “Port to Port.” I had not ridden the distance involved in this trip in my previous year.
Within the first couple of hours it was obvious to me and most of the other riders that I was the not just the oldest but also the slowest sheep in this particular herd. Nobody cared, but me. This riding band looks after each other and they would leave no one behind.
After four hours, five people said goodbye; they completed the two thirds of the trek they planned. The great American philosopher Dirty Harry counseled, “A man has to know his limits.” I should have listened.
The first six hours involved nothing remarkable except the scenery. The views of the coast, the seemingly infinite tranquility of the ocean, and the wonder of the spring growth were amazing. I don’t care if I finish last in events like this. I do like to last until the finish, though.
I was 90% of the way to the finish when gravity attacked me. Actually, gravity didn’t just attack me; it splattered me. The rest of the story is according to my friends, who took care of me.
At the final Pizza Port, the organizer, Carol, began checking on the stray, maybe, lost sheep. She talked with two guys who were sure I had been ahead of them. But they were at the Pizza Port and I wasn’t.
Carol called my cell. I didn’t answer immediately but I called back in a couple of minutes. I don’t remember the call. I was a bit disoriented because I’d made a four-point landing; one of the four points was my helmet. Carol figured out where I was and she dispatched couple of healthy heroes to locate me and sent her husband, Guy, in the sag wagon to collect me. They asked me if I felt good enough to ride further. I respectfully declined. I don’t remember it. Guy collected me and my bike and called my bride who was going to the last Pizza Port to give a couple of us a ride back home.
Whether I wanted to or not, I had earned a trip to urgent care. Six hours later after the standard regime of tests they released me and encouraged me to see a couple of specialists.
My favorite cousins, the hospital administrator and the doctor and the two nurses married to them, tell me that biking accidents are more frequent and more severe than running mishaps and swimming accidents combined. They cause head trauma, broken necks, and other severe injuries. Sometimes they end careers and even lives. According to the CDC, “In 2015 in the United States, over 1,000 bicyclists died and there were almost 467,000 bicycle-related injuries.”
You probably have stories about the time or times when you could just as easily woken up dead. If that’s not true, I’m almost sorry for you. Even if you aspire to live in a low-risk environment, there are still idiots who drive drunk, run red lights, or do other foolish things that endanger you.
Life is a gift. I believe that we should take prudent risks, but not commit folly. The Bible admonishes us to be bold and courageous. Other traditions also encourage people to fully and boldly engage. Don’t just hide and watch throughout your life.
Within 100 years you and I are going to be dead. The question is not, “Will we die? Among the important questions are the following. “Will we have lived a life worth imitating?” “Will we have been a long-lasting beneficial influence on the people around us?” “What legacy will we leave?”
No one who knows me well would claim that I’m eager to die early. Life insurance, health insurance, exercise regime, checkbook, and calendar all testify that I aspire to a long and a healthy lifespan. However, I will depart this mortal coil, as you will. The ancients believed the long slow death was a better then a short tragic one. The ancients may be wiser because a longer life provides more opportunities to repent, apologize, attempt to restore and bless those nearest. Our society exalts a quick and tragic end. We hate boredom. (Thanks, Brian Tallman for that insight.)
You and I don’t know how we’re going to go or when we’re going to go. If I expire while trying to be extra healthy, that would be just fine. A more noble death would be trying to save someone else’s life, but given where I live and what I do, the hero’s death is unlikely.
The headline is “Almost Dying Again.” Here is what “again” means.11 months ago, I fell off the bike during a triathlon; they found me unconscious and not breathing. I could’ve woken up dead. After two days and a night in the hospital I latched onto Psalm 90 verse 12 “Teach us to number our days, so that we might present to You a heart of wisdom.” If I had been unconscious and not breathing, alone on the bike path in the campground, my beloved would be making final arrangements and accepting tuna casseroles today.
A couple of months ago I invited one of my wisest mentors to lunch and asked him how he set priorities. His quoted William Carey, “I’m not afraid of failure. I’m afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”
My hope and prayer is that you will spend some time thinking about what matters.
Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.”