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10 Lessons I Learned From the Day I Almost Died

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I almost died on a playground. It was a hot, sunny Georgia summer day in 1993. I was 11 years old. One minute I was running a foot race with a friend and the next, I was on the ground fighting for my life. Someone called 911, a family friend dragged my parents out of work, and I was rushed to the hospital, where I spent the next 17 days in and out of surgery, ICU, and recovery. My simple fall had resulted in a lacerated liver—a freak accident that became a critical moment for my family—and a few near-death experience lessons.

I can’t even imagine what my parents went through during those days, but I do know this: We made it through stronger and with more faith and love for each other than ever before. And at the ripe old age of 11, I learned a thing or two about life. Now that I’m a parent myself, these near-death experience lessons are ones I want to pass on to my own children, too, for whatever comes their way in life. Here are 10 lessons I learned from the day I almost died.

1. You have to let go of guilt.

Bad things that are outside your control are going to happen from time to time. It doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong or that something is wrong with you. Moms harbor guilt for so much. Let it go and enjoy your family.

2. Keep moving forward.

Baby steps add up over time. Today, you may not be able to clearly see forward progress. Step forward anyway.

3. It will get better.

Look for glimpses for better days ahead. When I was in the hospital, I got a glimpse when my family wrote to my favorite baseball player, who responded and said he had overcome struggles too and was looking forward to the next few baseball games—and hoped I could come to one when I was better. Suddenly, getting better became real. Despite the pain I was feeling in the moment, I knew I’d get better.

4. Prayer is our lifeline.

When no one else is there, God is. That near-death experience taught my parents how to pray. I’ll never forget watching them reach out to God.

5. You have to be willing to ask for and accept help.

We all need help from time to time. Learning how to ask for help and accept it when it’s offered can be difficult, but it’s just as important as knowing how to give it.

6. Look for small blessings.

A small blessing for me was my principal showing up at the hospital that summer in my favorite tie of his—a Christmas one. It made me smile big.

7. Let struggles become part of your bigger story instead of your whole story.

Past experiences don’t define us unless we let them. These days I don’t often think about almost dying on that playground. I reminisce when I notice my belly scar in the mirror, but it doesn’t impact other parts of my life. The same can be true of whatever obstacle we face. We can move past it.

8. Listen to your gut.

The doctors initially wanted to send me home, but my parents said no. Overnight, the internal bleeding surfaced. Their intuition saved me.

9. Take time to grieve what was.

Our family had to put life on hold that summer. Instead of ignoring that, we acknowledged it, made new plans, and let it be part of our healing.

10. Celebrate small wins.

When I recovered, my parents took me to see the baseball player who had written me the letter. In that moment, I remember feeling like such a winner.

I’m thankful it doesn’t take something traumatic like this for most of us to learn these near-death experience lessons and pass them on to our kids. Being able to give that to the world makes me thankful for the day I almost died—and tremendously thankful I didn’t.

Have you ever experienced a traumatic event? What’s a big lesson from it that you want to pass on to your children?

ASK YOUR CHILD...

Think back to a time when you had to do something hard. What’s one lesson you learned?

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