Not Ready to Die? – A Near Fatal Hunting Accident Evokes Critical Life Questions

Not Ready to Die? - A Near Fatal Alaska Mountain Goat Hunting Accident Evokes Critical Life Questions

Nothing will change your life faster than boldly facing, and surviving, a close encounter with certain death. Being a stubborn, hard-headed fellow of German descent, it took three near-fatal events to finally get my attention. The first was surviving the direct path of an F5 tornado during a Good Friday church service in Missouri. The second was coming to within one inch of cutting into an electrical cable that supplies power to the largest Coast Guard base in the US, located on Kodiak Island, Alaska. Both occasions are long stories and absolute, genuine miracles that I did not die…especially the near electrocution. While those experiences inspired a great deal of soul-searching and significant life changes, neither had the lasting impact that my third, and hopefully final, near-fatal accident inspired.

That third event took place on Kodiak as well, during the 2016 archery hunting season. With some room left in the freezer and a dwindling supply of organic meat for the upcoming months, I took to the high country in pursuit of a mountain goat. I’ve successfully hunted goats on previous occasions, but this hunt was to be a little different for one significant reason…I was going solo. Now keep in mind, solo bowhunting trips are usually not that big of a deal. I go solo often. And, in fact, that is how I experience so much of the peace and solitude of nature that I enjoy, and need. However, bowhunting solo in Alaska, on Kodiak Island, in November, for mountain goats, is significantly different than sitting in a cozy tree stand or moseying along through the woods of a Midwestern farm in pursuit of whitetails, which I thoroughly enjoy too.

Doing any kind of extreme Alaskan adventure…completely solo…is greatly discouraged by local authorities. This is especially the case with pursuing goats and sheep, which are among the most dangerous hunts on the planet due to the terrain and weather conditions in which those critters dwell. One should always have a partner on such adventures. I knew this good and well. But for some reason, I felt an irresistible call to do this particular hunt alone. Whether it was the need to spend a couple of days clearing my head in the mountains, or perhaps the desire to take on a supreme challenge, or both, I indeed proceeded in solo fashion.

Mountain Goat Hunting on Kodiak Island, Alaska.
An approaching storm on Kodiak Island, Alaska.

The Ascent

The hunt began with a several hour hike up a trail used by very few people, many blacktail deer, and a good number of Kodiak brown bears. Enormous, big-clawed tracks and fresh scat were evident along the winding path that meandered up the mountain foothills though miles of jungle-like alder thickets. Just a few weeks earlier, one of my hunting buddies was charged by a protective sow with cubs along the same trail. He nearly escaped serious injury, or worse. The bears were extremely hungry and much more aggressive than usual due to a severely low salmon run. I was mindful of such as I made my way through their domain. I moved slowly, keeping my wits ever about me, and every few minutes hollered the customary, “Hey bear! Ho bear! Coming through bear!” Thankfully, I did not have any altercations.

A hungry Kodiak brown bear catches a salmon on a beautiful autumn morning.
A hungry Kodiak brown bear catches a salmon on a beautiful autumn morning.

Upon finally breaking out of the tree line and getting up into the alpine regions of the vast mountaintops, I had to hike yet another hour to get waaaaay up and over to the area where I knew goats would be hanging around. When I reached an ideal glassing area, I hunkered down and spent some quality time examining the landscape for curious, off-white spots. As the afternoon sunshine lit up the surrounding area, I spotted a group of goats who came out in the open to warm themselves in what was turning out to be a beautiful day. They were clear across on the other side of a slightly snow-covered series of mountains, but I knew I could get to them fairly fast, and without too much trouble. So, I quickly got suited up in my snow camo, put on a set of crampons (ice cleats), and carefully began my first series of stalks to close the distance.

After making it across the snow-covered mountain face to an intersecting set of ridges where the goats were bedded down in the warm sun, I hid behind some large rocks about 250 yards away, took off my pack and snow camo, as the goats were not in a snowy area, nocked an arrow, and began to move in for the shot. I stayed behind and slightly below the edge of an ascending ridge that led right to the goats…trying to get above them, which is a key tactic. When I was at 80 yards and at an even elevation with them, I cautiously peeked over the ridge, only to find that they were slowly moving up and away from me to the adjoining mountain pass. I’m not sure if they got my wind, or what spooked them, but they knew they were being pursued.

As I watched the goats disappear, I casually looked over my shoulder and was happy to see another, much larger group of goats at the tippy-top of an enormously steep ridge about a quarter mile away. I thought perhaps they would come down and eventually follow the superhighway goat trail that led from them directly to me, but instead, they just held tight along the ridgeline. The clock was ticking. I had two and a half hours left to hunt before I had to start heading back down the mountain. I had to make something happen…fast! In the meantime, I decided to take another shot at pursuing the goats I had just spooked, as sometimes they don’t go all that far when bumped. So, I headed up and over to the area I last saw them go, and sure enough, they were middling around in a flat, snowy area. Again, I carefully closed the distance to within 80 yards or so, but they were still on to me. The matriarch nanny gave me an aggravated look, and they all took off in a flash, scattering over into the surrounding valleys.

With that deal done, I took a break, had a quick snack, drank some water, and discerned what my next move should be. I gazed up, waaaaay up, at the other large group of goats sitting pretty on that steep mountain, and decided to go for it. I stayed just behind the razor-sharp ridge that led up to them, staying out of their sight, and high-tailed it up there. It was to be the perfect approach! I would be able to get right on top of them…literally! And, that’s exactly what I did. Upon getting to the area of the ridge that I knew they were directly on the other side of, I gently crept over to have a look. There they were!  A big nanny with two kids was looking right at me, no more than 20 yards away. A nanny with young is an illegal animal to harvest, but right down below her was a group of nice sized billies. They were not spooked much at all…at first. But, as the nanny continued to eyeball me, she eventually led her young along the side of the ridge away from me, and the rest of the herd followed.

Mountain goat hunting on Kodiak Island, Alaska.
A heard of goats on a steep ridge-top.

I quickly got back behind the ridgeline and raced down to where I thought they would come out to get back on the main trail. Sure enough, just as I got around the corner, the nanny and kids came out right in front of me at 30 yards. I figured the billies were not far behind. As I again peeked over the ridge, my suspicions were confirmed. I was looking almost eyeball to eyeball with the rest of the herd. This time they got spooked and took off in a frantic dash, almost literally running me right over like a stampede! My instincts took over quickly and I was able to get an arrow in one of the billies who passed directly in front of me at almost point blank range.

In an instant, the herd scattered and the goats vanished behind the rocks and ridges all around me. I got up and headed in the general direction of their escape and spotted them descending deep down into a steep bowl on the other side of the mountain. They were spread out, but all moving up and over to the next pass. I nervously watched, knowing good and well I made a telling shot, but none of the goats seemed phased. Finally, one of them abruptly bedded down in a patch of tall dead grass. I knew that was my goat. He was a couple hundred yards and way down below me, so I watched intently through my binoculars for confirmation of expiration.

I had about an hour to go before I had to start heading out of the mountains, as trying to do so in the dark, with a huge pack full of fresh meat, among very hungry and aggressive bears, would have been a recipe for certain disaster! There was no way I was going to realistically pull off a recovery, field dressing, quartering, and pack-out in that time. I had to make the difficult, but realistic decision to come back first thing in the morning to recover the goat. The temperature was in the mid 30’s and would be dropping overnight, so I was not worried about spoilage. What I was worried about was a bear taking off with the goat. In fact, I almost expected it given the severe hunger of the bears at the moment. Time would tell.

The Descent

As the sun began its fast descent behind the mountains and the temperatures plummeted, I carefully, but quickly got the heck out of there! Down the mountains and through the dense alder thicket hillsides I went, with muscles severely cramping and the first signs of hypothermia starting to manifest itself. By the time I reached my vehicle, I almost collapsed from the physical and mental exhaustion of the day. I was absolutely whooped! However, I also knew that I had it all to do over the next day, plus the added bonus of packing out a backbreaking load of meat!

The next morning I loaded up on lots of carbs, all the water I could drink, and potassium-rich fruits to ward off muscle cramps, and bolted to the trailhead to get back to my goat. My body was beaten down bad and my mind raced with doubts if the goat would even be there. I didn’t know what to expect…but it was my duty and responsibly to find out and finish what I started. I made my way up the trail into the alpine region in record time. However, this day was not so sunny and nice as the previous one. The weather had turned south, big time! A nasty storm had blown in which produced fierce winds, pummeling rain, snow, sleet, and dense clouds which severely limited my visibility. At times I could not see more than a few hundred yards in any direction…if that! There was very little snow on the mountains the previous day, but now everything was covered. I was expecting such, so I again brought along my crampons and all the rest of my foul weather mountain gear. One piece of equipment I didn’t bring was an ice ax. Based on the previous day’s travel routes, I didn’t think it would be necessary, so I opted for my heavy-duty trekking pole instead. A big mistake!

Mountain goat hunting on Kodiak Island, Alaska.
A nasty storm covered the mountains with treacherous snow and ice…fast!

When I was closing in on the area where my goat hopefully was, I temporarily lost my bearings due to an almost total white-out. Suddenly, like a ghost that slowly materialized before my eyes, a huge billy emerged out of the wind-driven snow right before me at 40 yards. It was one of the strangest things I’ve ever experienced. He slowly walked up to me even closer, paused for a moment, and then headed up a trail, as if he was leading me to something. As it turned out, that was the exact trail I needed to take, which at the moment was obscured by the extreme weather. Upon finally reaching my destination, I sat down on the edge of the steep bowl where I last watched my goat the day before and began glassing the area with my binoculars.

Mountain goat hunting on Kodiak Island, Alaska.
The huge Billy mountain goat that materialized out of a snowstorm right in front of me.

I could not see much of anything due to the snow, wind, and fog. So, I had to wait for the weather to clear some to get a good look at things and survey the situation. After twenty minutes or so, the weather let up just enough for me to see down into the bowl. However, the mostly brown terrain where the goat was yesterday, was now completely white, making it all the more difficult to find him. At last, I spotted a strange looking mound that looked very odd…and goat-like! That had to be him, I thought. I needed to get just a little closer to confirm before I headed around to the other side of the bowl where it was not nearly as steep. So, I visually mapped out a route in which I could quickly switchback down into the bowl for a better look.

I began my descent, one careful, fully anchored step at a time. Then, it happened. Without the slightest warning, I suddenly lost my footing and began sliding down into the bowl. It started off as no big deal. I thought I’d regain my footing in a moment or two, recover, and continue. However, I instead found myself rapidly gaining speed. And, despite my increasingly desperate clawing with hands, feet, and trekking pole to slow down my slide, I began going faster and faster, careening out of control like an Olympic bobsledder gone off the tracks. It all happened in a matter of seconds, but now, instead of simply going down into the steep bowl in sleigh ride fashion, my direction shifted and I was now veering away from the rim of the bowl to the right, headed directly to the edge of a sheer cliff, with a several hundred feet straight down drop!

I was closing the distance fast, truly now speeding to my certain death! With my other two near-fatal experiences, I could not see the impending doom, as it remained hidden in the dark clouds of the night sky and under several feet of concrete. But this was different. My life flashed before my eyes. I was totally aware of and possessed by each nanosecond of time before my life ended. Every story that I have ever heard about such accidents raced through my mind. I frantically shouted to myself, “How can this be happening to me!?  It can’t end like this!” I thought of my family, my friends, my God, and the many things in life left unfinished. Again, it all happened in a matter of seconds, but I realized fast that it was over. There was simply no stopping what was about to happen. I began preparing myself for the unthinkable feeling of my body being crushed, my bones snapping, and my life ending violently. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and prepared for the few seconds of freefall before the impact.

Miraculous Save

Suddenly, right before the expected explosion of blood and guts upon the jagged rocks below, I came to a powerful, spine-jarring halt! I paused, and slowly opened my eyes to find that I was essentially curled in a fetal position and tucked up tight against a small, lone hump in the terrain, which acted like a big, miraculous speedbump. It was the only slight obstacle in my path before I went over the edge. My heart was pounding, my breathing on the verge of hyperventilation. I stayed put until settling down enough to think rationally. I only had one way to get up and out of there, and that was to try to follow a tiny, narrow goat trail which was directly on the edge of the cliff I was about to go over. Still obviously rattled, any mere glance over that edge would send me into a near panic attack. I had to calm down and stay completely focused on my hands and feet. I drove my crampon cleats in as deep as I could with every step, and did not take that step until both hands and both feet were 100% anchored. In super-slow motion, inch by inch, I worked my way up the trail of doom until I was at last back up on a flat, safe part of the mountaintop. Totally emotionally and physically exhausted, I laid down flat, sprawled out on my back for quite some time, breathing heavy sighs of relief and thanking God for that one, small hump in the terrain that saved my life.

After regaining my composure, I found that most of the fog had blown out of the area…at least for the moment. I surveyed the bowl one final time, only to confirm that my goat was nowhere to be found. The strange white hump that lured me almost to my death was simply a snow-covered mound of dirt or rocks. Whether a bear drug off the goat and feasted on it or the billy recovered enough to head elsewhere, I’ll never know. Goats are incredibly tough animals and even have an evolved coagulant agent in their blood which enables them to sometimes survive and recover from wounds that would easily kill other game animals. The fate of that goat will always remain a mystery, one in which I almost died trying to solve.

That hunt will no doubt forever haunt me. I get a sick feeling in my stomach every time I think about it all. I had cheated death once more…and I was not looking forward to the chance to do so again…ever. That experience inspired a great deal of soul searching and positive change that continues to be a part of my daily life. Naturally, I learned that exercising the will with super-charged determination can indeed at times become a foolish, prideful dance with death! One does not always make the wisest decisions or fully evaluate the risk VS reward of a situation while in the heat of the pursuit, or numb from exhaustion. I’ve been given the chance to hunt again, and you can bet I’ll be sharing those more extreme, dangerous hunts with a friend instead of going solo.

(As a footnote to the first half of this article, I started to film a video documentary of that particular hunt, which I never finished when things got crazy! You can watch some of the video here)

Critical Life Lessons from Death and the Dying

Along with receiving a hard reminder about hunting and wilderness safety from that unforgettable experience, it also inspired me, forced me, actually, to have an in-depth look at those big and often buried issues and questions that one does not generally face until later in life when death, serious illness, or some other major crisis comes pounding on the door. Throughout my years of ministry work (past and present), I have spent a great deal of time with the dying, and I can tell you that one profoundly learns much about life…fast…from the intimate and brutally honest conversations that one has with individuals who are terminally ill. Critical, unresolved issues of one’s life boil to the surface, almost instantaneously, when one is faced with the impending reality of death…something I certainly experienced for myself while sliding down that icy mountainside. The unresolved issues that the dying face primarily include matters of regret, unfinished business, the need for closure, forgiveness/reconciliation, anger, fears and uncertainty about the afterlife, concerns regarding surviving family members, etc. For the dying person, these issues are commonly experienced and outwardly manifested in the form of anxiety and physical pain, sometimes to an extreme level. For those who are not dying, but are grappling with these issues during some other crisis in life, they can be manifested in a wide variety of ways from addiction, depression, debilitating stress, or a litany of other behaviors.

Dame Cicely Saunders, the founder of the modern-day hospice movement/model, developed and taught the concept of “total pain,” which recognizes and seeks to alleviate a dying patient’s physical, psychological, social, and spiritual pain. Saunders regularly stressed that of all these sources of pain, a patient’s spiritual suffering is often the greatest…which can be broken down further into four distinct categories: the spiritual pain of meaning, forgiveness, relatedness, and hopelessness. As Saunders noted, and those who work in hospice can attest to, patients sometimes experience tremendous restlessness, anxiety, and torment, desperately trying to resolve something before they can let go and die in peace. The source of an unresolved issue is not always easy (or even possible) to identify and address in cases with patients who cannot communicate and are actively dying, but it’s quite obvious when this inner turmoil is happening. In patients who are still lucid and can communicate, recognizing those outward manifestations of spiritual pain can be a powerful opportunity for healing and peace. What’s more, for those of us who are not sick or dying, who (hopefully) have many healthy, happy years of life ahead of us, dealing with these issues NOW can foster a powerfully positive transformation in one’s life. What follows is an overview of each category of spiritual pain, which again, can torment all of humanity at any stage or circumstance of life.

The Spiritual Pain of Meaning

 The spiritual pain of meaning is experienced when one loses their identity, sense of purpose, and no longer finds meaning in the things that were once fulfilling. Again, while people of any age or circumstance in life can experience this, it is quite common in the sick and dying…resulting in great depression, lethargy, and a hurriedness to die.

As we journey through our lives, we naturally gravitate to, embrace, and identify with a variety of interests and characteristics that we ultimately use to define ourselves. One’s sense of meaning and identity could be rooted in their profession, a particular religious affiliation, their life-long pursuits and passions, the community and geographical location of the place they call home, the role they play in the lives of family members, etc. All such elements of one’s life fit together like a puzzle that has been carefully and solidly put together over the years. And, when a piece, or several pieces, of that puzzle, suddenly become dislodged, misplaced, or permanently lost, it can indeed create a crisis!

When one experiences the loss of meaning and identity in their lives due to sickness or any other circumstance, it’s imperative to revisit and reconnect to the unchanging foundation and core components of one’s self…those God-given characteristics of who and what we are that nothing can take away. These are not to be confused with the mere cultural labels or titles that we often embrace, which in many cases only restrict us and cause division in our lives and in our world. From the time of our conception, we are all created with certain personality traits, talents, and unique gifts that grow and develop throughout the years. Those defining characteristics evolve and find expression in a variety of ways at various stages of our lives. For example, one may be born with a strong sense of compassion and a desire to care for others. As a child, one may share and express that gift by making it a point to be kind to one’s siblings, classmates, etc. As that child grows into adulthood, he or she may channel that natural gift of compassion and care into a medical profession as a nurse, doctor, etc. And, when that person retires from their work, though they are no longer caring for others professionally for a paycheck, he or she will instinctively continue to be a loving and caring person…as that quality is simply at the core of who they are…it is their identity and meaning. No doubt that person will find new avenues of sharing their gifts and caring for others. But, if they don’t, an “identity crisis” or crisis of meaning many occur.

While the environment, context, and specific ways that we express the core components of our identity and sense of meaning will always change and evolve…sometimes quite dramatically…those core components in and of themselves…the foundation of who we are as a human being…does not change. Thus, the challenge for addressing the spiritual pain of meaning is to first realize that the dignity of who we are at the center of our being will always remain and cannot be taken away by sickness or any other circumstance of life. The challenge is to adapt and find new ways, however limited or difficult, to express and share our God-given identity with those around us…no matter the environment, context, or current state of one’s life, as again, those things change and evolve continually. Of course, it’s easier said than done, and it’s often a long journey, but it’s a journey that can indeed revitalize one’s sense of meaning and breathe new life into one’s soul.

The Spiritual Pain of Forgiveness

For those who are facing death, the spiritual pain of forgiveness is often the most critical and profound source of suffering. All of humanity has emotional/spiritual wounds that have never healed, some of which may have been inflicted decades ago. Coming to terms with that pain and being healed of its enslaving effect is often one of the most freeing, joyful experiences of one’s life. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, many never ask for forgiveness, or, offer to forgive those they have hurt. Reconciliation with God, others, or one’s self can RADICALLY and in many cases almost instantly remedy a wounded soul.

I once heard a story about a Nazi concentration camp survivor who after many years was reunited with his best friend and fellow survivor. At one point during their long-awaited conversation, one friend asked the other, “So, have you forgiven them yet?” The response was, “No! Of course not! I will forever be consumed with hatred and anger for them. I will never forgive them for the atrocities they inflicted on us and our people!” His friend responded, “Then they still have you in prison, don’t they?” The moral of the story: when we refuse to forgive, we keep ourselves in a prison. We keep ourselves forever chained to the injustice we’ve experienced. Our pain from that experience comes to hold us hostage and dominate our lives. Healing and liberation from that pain only comes by means of forgiveness. Forgiveness brings about true and lasting peace of mind and well-being, as it heals the separation between us, God and others.

Obviously, forgiving someone or asking to be forgiven is not an easy thing to do. It may be an emotionally exhausting, lengthy process. And, even after forgiveness has been offered or received, the scars from the original wound may remain. But, as it’s often said, “to forgive is to love,” and it is ultimately the power of love that we experience through forgiveness. Mark Twain summed it beautifully when he said, “Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” Indeed, wonderful things can come out of not-so-wonderful events in our lives, and forgiveness is that which initiates the transformation of healing, peace, and life-altering liberation.

As I’ve experienced in my ministry work with the dying, it’s not uncommon for these individuals to subtly (or not so subtly) reference issues in their lives that are obvious signs of the spiritual pain of forgiveness. When that happens, I gently inquire further if they have any unresolved forgiveness issues: if they need to forgive or be forgiven by God, others, or themselves. I likewise gently and respectfully encourage them to begin that process and I offer to be of assistance. If an in-person visit with the person they have an unresolved issue with is not possible, I might suggest a phone conversation, a letter, email, or any other means of communication that they are comfortable with. If the issue is with God or someone who is deceased, I suggest (when applicable) prayer, sacraments, or other means of expressing and experiencing forgiveness. If it’s an issue that is out of my field of expertise, I might recommend a counselor, a minister from their denomination, etc. Such intervention is not only the work of ministers though, we can all be instruments of the power of reconciliation and love by recognizing those red flags of forgiveness pain and offering to help in whatever way we can. Of course, we also need to take the time and the courage to address our own personal needs for forgiveness as a first step. Perhaps today is a good day to start?

spiritual pain
Forgiveness can set a soul free and end suffering almost instantly!

The Spiritual Pain of Relatedness

The spiritual pain of relatedness is essentially the pain that stems from one’s relationships. This source of pain can be caused by a strong sense of separation, isolation, and alienation from a loved one. At the heart of that separation, isolation, and/or alienation are often those deeper, unresolved issues which can include matters of regret, unfinished business, the need for closure, forgiveness/reconciliation, anger, fears, and concerns regarding surviving family members, etc. The pain that we can experience from our relationships, or lack thereof, can cut deep and haunt one until the final moments of life.

I’ll never forget the things that raced through my mind during those unimaginable few moments as I slid down the side of that mountain to what I thought was certain death. Along with the surreal feeling of everything happening in slow motion and a sense of denial that this just can’t be happening to me, the thoughts that instantly materialized, as if being shouted out loud, were those of my relationships…especially matters of unfinished business in regard to those relationships. There were people I hurt and needed to ask for forgiveness. There were those I was still very angry with and needed to forgive. There were those that I never told how much I loved and appreciated them. There were those who I didn’t want to leave, who I wanted to love and spend many more years with. There were those that still owed me a big steak dinner and a beer from a bet they lost with me! The list went on and on. There were so many people that were so important to me that I had taken for granted, and I was not ready to leave them behind. I realized, in an instant, the separation, isolation, and alienation that was present to varying degrees in many of my relationships.

Thankfully, I lived to tell about it and do something about those unresolved relationship issues. And that is essentially the only remedy for healing the spiritual pain of relatedness…to do something instead of nothing in regard to addressing those issues; to make the first move ourselves, instead of waiting on the other, as the waiting very well may be in vain. As a preliminary first step to resolve the pain of relatedness, it’s necessary to do an inventory and examination of our relationships. It’s usually quite obvious which ones are in need of attention, but there are often others that perhaps we have taken for granted, ignored for a long time, or simply buried for one reason or another. Taking the time to thoroughly inspect the relationships of our lives, past and present, and then willfully resolve any issues that need attention or closure can be a tremendous source of emotional relief, healing, peace, and fulfillment. It’s vitally important, however, to do so will we still can. Don’t wait until it’s too late!

Spiritual Pain of Hopelessness

 The spiritual pain of hopelessness is pretty self-explanatory, and along with the pain of forgiveness, it is often the most profound, debilitating, and paralyzing of the four sources of spiritual and emotional suffering. We place our hope in many things throughout our lives as it is an extremely powerful, motivating force. Even a tiny glimmer of hope in the midst of difficult circumstances can give one the will to carry on. However, when catastrophic loss, radical (unwanted) change or a devastating crisis of one kind or another comes along, it can eradicate the hope that we have invested in ourselves, others, a belief system or ideology, etc. The foundation of our being can be shaken to the core and sometimes be completely destroyed when we lose the guiding sense of confidence, resiliency, and positivity that hope instills in us.

While there can be many reasons that one loses hope, renowned psychologist C.R. Snyder boils it down to four major causes: First, we can be predisposed to quickly give up and lose hope prematurely on things in life due to previous negative experiences, as well as how we psychologically developed as a child. If one lacks a healthy and lasting sense of confidence, positivity, and resiliency, and instead has been subjected to constant, overwhelmingly pessimistic thinking, that mindset will naturally dominate when confronted with challenging situations: one will always expect a worst case scenario outcome. Secondly, we can lose hope due to loss. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, a job, divorce, one’s health or abilities, etc., losing something that has been greatly valued can usher in tremendous grief and negatively alter one’s sense of identity, purpose, and worth. Third, victimization is another major means of being robbed of hope. When one is betrayed and/or abused by an individual, group of people or organization that one has previously placed great trust and faith in, one’s confidence can be shattered almost instantly, resulting in a traumatic emotional upheaval. Finally, burnout is another catalyst for losing hope. When we get stressed out, exhausted, and overwhelmed with things in life, we tend to develop a jaded, negative, hopeless view of the world and life in general.

I once heard an analogy that the loss and renewal of hope are like trampling a beautiful, delicate rose underfoot. When the flower is destroyed, there is simply no repairing it…a new one must be grown. No matter the initial cause (or combination of causes), the loss of hope ultimately results in unmet expectations or goals as well as a sense of injustice. In order to restore hope, one must set and pursue new goals, new expectations, and just resolutions in regard to whatever stole it away. It’s also important that the goals we set for ourselves and apply to any life circumstance be S-M-A-R-T goals, that is, goals that are specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time bound. Setting realistic goals that we can realistically achieve is key to successfully attaining them, as well as nourishing the spirit of confidence, positivity, and resiliency that is at the heart of hope. No matter what happens in life, there is always hope…if one seeks it. When one journey ends, a new one begins. Hope is that which helps us find the trailhead and take those first steps which can lead to a fulfilling new adventure.

Get Busy Living!

One of my favorite movie quotes of all time is from the film Shawshank Redemption. As a falsely accused inmate comes to grips with the reality of forever being behind bars, he comes to a point where he willfully, consciously makes the decision to plan and carry out his justified deliverance. As the process of his redemption begins, he utters the words of his newfound modus operandi to a trusted friend, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” Those are wise words for all and a call to action…the living part that is! What I’ve learned and taken to heart from the many conversations I’ve had with the dying, as well as from my own brush with death, is that every second of life is a priceless gift from God…with great potential for great good. It’s so very easy to utterly waste that gift of time and energy on silly nonsense, stupid grudges, prideful anger, fleeting, shallow material pursuits, etc., wasted on things that don’t amount to a hill of beans, which turn to dust and dirt in the end, missed opportunities to love and live life to the fullest and experience the immense peace and joy that God desires for us…instead of the division and stressful chaos we create for ourselves.

Many live life as if they are already dead…mindlessly coasting through each day as if on autopilot, going through the same, numb routine, allowing all the wind to be taken out of their sails…sometimes to the point that they stop moving forward and start to drown in a vast, stormy sea of tribulation, lethargy, apathy, and mediocrity. Don’t wait until it’s too late to remedy those unresolved, painful issues in your life. Don’t allow yourself to be held hostage by the scars of the past. Don’t allow the joy and passion of life to be diminished by anything or anyone! Don’t wait until you are about to die to start truly living! Get busy!

Mark Twain Twenty years from now


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