Cheat the nursing home. Die on your LASER.
That's the line that's been in the title box of this blog for a while now. It's what the bumper sticker on my car says. And I even wrote a post last year about how the phrase originated.
Here's a story I found about someone who came perilously close to making the joke slogan come true... and how it affected him. The author is Fatty Goodlander and the story originally appeared in the April 2005 issued of Cruising World.
A decade or so ago, I was racing Lasers at the St. Thomas Yacht Club when it felt like an elephant stepped on my chest. The pain was so intense that it jackknifed me off the boat and into the water. One foot tangled in my hiking strap, I was underwater, I couldn't breathe, and my eyes were open. Time floated. Two thoughts danced slowly through my brain: One of them was "I'm dying." The other was "Damn, there goes my boat speed!"
I forced myself to relax. I untangled my foot, surfaced, and crawled back on the boat. I stayed facedown for a long, long time and shook like a leaf. I was terrified. But in all my life, I've never failed to finish a race. Finishing is important to me. I'm goal oriented. I slowly sat up, sheeted in, and continued on.
Back at the yacht club, Henry Menin--who'll sit as a juror at the 2007 America's Cup in Spain--came up to me and asked, "Are you OK, Fatty?"
"Yeah. I had a little problem out there on the racecourse, but I think I'll be more competitive at the bar!"
Silly me. A few days later, I was evacuated by air to a cardiac unit in Puerto Rico. As they wheeled me down the corridor, I thought, "This can't be happening. I can't be dying. I haven't sailed around the world yet, and I haven't written the big book!"
I'd never realized it before, but those were the two givens in my life: I'd circumnavigate, and someday I'd write a book worth reading. (I've written five books, but alas, I reckon only one, Chasing the Horizon, merits serious attention.)
Things looked bleak at that point. For the first time in my life, my horizons were shrinking. But just before dawn is always the darkest time. The test results were surprisingly good: I hadn't had a major heart attack--just a severe cardiac wake-up call. I'd have to radically change my lifestyle, but with proper diet, regular exercise, and the right medication, I'd survive.
"How are you?" Carolyn asked nervously as I tied up my dinghy painter to Wild Card, our 38-foot S&S-designed Hughes 38.
"I'm OK. And I want to sail around the world ASAP."