Two weeks ago, my father was on a holiday cruise in the
Mediterranean when he suffered a coronary, i.e. a heart attack.
The ship happened to be docked at Tripoli, Libya, and he was
rushed to the main hospital there.
The doctors there declared that he would have to remain there for
several days, and so the ship set sail without him. And there he
was – a 73 year old man, stranded in Libya with a serious heart
Now, having a heart attack anywhere is not a pleasant thing. But
being stranded in a country like Libya only compounded the
problems many times over.
The story has a fairly happy ending though. Thanks to the
extremely high quality of medical attention he received at the
hospital, and through the the tireless efforts of the tour
company representatives, he was flown back to the UK a week and a
half after the incident under the medical escort of a UK doctor
who had flown out to get him. Now he is recuperating in his
brother’s house and is apparently doing very well.
Anyway, the reason I mention this story is just to point out a
couple of matters to ponder…
The first is that, in life, things happen. And they may not
always be things that we like or want. It doesn’t matter who you
are, you will face challenges. There is no escaping it. The more
I view life, the more I tend to side with the Buddhist view;
namely, that the unenlightened life IS suffering. All is in a
change and a flux, and though we might like to keep some things
just the way they are – our health, for example – we cannot.
Sad things are going to happen to us, and sad things are going to
happen to our relatives and friends. Don’t let this catch you by
surprise, or wonder “Why me?”. It happens to us all. If you have
no problems or challenges in your life, then chances are that
you’re already dead. If you really have no problems in your life
right now… then just wait awhile. They’ll show up soon enough.
That’s for sure.
A philosophical approach to this stark reality really helps.
Maintaining the truth in your mind that the essence of life IS
Change, and that Suffering IS a constant (and not merely an
unwanted intrusion from the outside) may make such experiences
easier to deal with when they do take place.
Another aspect of this story is its unlikely nature. Low
probability events DO occur, occur quite frequently, and have
changed lives and even history itself on many occasions.
My father’s first attack took place by the Pyramids in Egypt. Not
realizing that it was a heart attack, he did nothing about it
that day. The ship set sail and arrived in Libya. Next morning,
he was taken ashore when the second incident occurred. The ship
then sailed on.
Now, if the matter had been attended to in Egypt, or else the
second incident had occurred after the ship had left Tripoli, he
would not have been left stranded in such an unlikely and
However, circumstances conspired to create this extremely
unlikely and difficult turn of events. I am reminded of how the
entire Aztec empire collapsed because they were expecting the
return of their departed blue-eyed fair-skinned God,
Quetzalcoatl, in the year 1519. That same year, a comet appeared
in the sky.
And in that same year, the Spanish Conquistadors arrived.
Extremely unlikely things DO happen, and happen often. So, you
would do well to factor this into your thinking, at least to some
extent. When traveling abroad, it always makes sense to take
travel insurance. My father did, and it made all the difference
in what might otherwise have been a total nightmare for us, i.e.
ten times worse than the one that actually occurred. In our own
lives, we should plan for the unlikely but possible.
This is not a mandate for jumping at the rustling of leaves in
the wind. All I am saying is that it does make sense to be aware
of what is within the realms of possibility in your life.
Wherever possible, you should prepare for it.