Contest RecapMidlife Collage sponsors a weekly contest of midlife short stories. U.S. citizens and legal residents age 40 and older may enter. The Editor selects five stories for publication on our website each week. Readers leave comments and Facebook thumbs-up likes urging the panel of Judges to choose a contest winner. Readers also send the Judges their opinions of the best story on our Closing Arguments page. The contest period is Monday through Sunday noon PT. The first-place story enters the Winner’s Circle and receives a cash prize of $50. Winners of a $50 cash prize are eliglble for a $100 contest, which we run quarterly. See the Submissions Page for the Contest Rules for details. ANYONE, worldwide, age 18 or older can comment on the stories in a contest.
This is my story of how life unfolds after tragedy strikes. It was a life-altering event, the longest day, I’ll never forget.
My husband, Ben, and I were enjoying a day together on our boat. We beat the summer heat by taking a leisurely cruise on a Sunday afternoon. This lovely day had only a hint of a breeze. The Intracoastal Waterway was delightful with the beauty of the sparkling blue water, the feel of the salt air and the sights of birds, sea turtles and flying fish. All seemed right with the world.
As we started our journey back home on the water, black storms clouds were beginning to form. We knew the sun and fun would be over until the impending isolated shower passed. We were halfway home as we headed into the storm cell. The wind picked up and then I heard a rumble along with pounding rain. I hate to get wet, so on this twenty-nine foot, center console without a tee-top, I sought shelter below. Down below was a cubbyhole area behind the gauges with wiring, two boat batteries and a shelf for supplies. I searched for raingear to protect Ben.
Then out of nowhere cracked a sound from hell that seemed to shake the planet. I saw stars. I was anxious to share this deafening experience with my husband and ran up onto the deck. You can imagine my horror when I found him slumped at the wheel. Still not realizing what had happened, I yelled his name. He fell backwards and dropped down onto the deck floor. When I saw his ashen skin and smoke coming from his head, I knew what had happened. The headline would read “Man Struck by Lightning.”
Nature had betrayed us.
In those seconds, my life flashed in front of me, and I wondered what to do first, besides panic. By then, the boat was doing donuts. I was afraid to touch the steering wheel or even him because I did not know if the electricity was still surging; the gauges were fizzing.
The storm was still violent but my memories rerun in slow motion. For the rest of my life, I’ll never erase that mental picture. I thought my beloved husband was dead. “Oh, my God, help, help me, help us!”
A near-by resident in the canal-front home must have seen or heard what had happened and called 911. In a matter of moments, the boat ended up against the sea wall, so the rescue team was able come aboard. The rescuers got to Ben, tearing me away from his lifeless, injured body.
I trusted the responsibility of our boat to a stranger, as I walked away from it. Not caring about it or any possessions left on board for that matter.
I then rode in the police cruiser to the closest ER, which was only five minutes away. The police scanner radio was blaring that there was a victim in the boating accident. Were they referring to my Ben? It was as if it was happening to someone else. How could my life change in a fraction of a second?
I never got to say good-bye. I never felt so alone in my life.
I had it all. Now, a widow? Would I be able to comprehend this? My head felt as if it was going to explode.
The police car drove me to the emergency entrance and let me out. The staff guided me inside. I thought they were taking me to the morgue to identify Ben’s body. I asked myself, “What will he look like?” What a horrible moment I had expected to happen next; everything was happening too fast for me to process. I literally stood there with my legs braced and my head hunched over. I didn’t know which end my entire insides were going to come out.
Then a doctor approached me and said I could see Ben and say my good-byes.
I said, “He’s alive?”
They had resuscitated him twice. He was still too critical for the facility and was being moved to a trauma unit. Ben had severe head trauma, burns and other internal injuries. I discovered Ben was not dead, but very critical. I was left helpless and so vulnerable.
The ER team needed time to prepare and stabilize Ben for transfer by chopper. Doctors and nurses examined me. I was in one cubicle and my husband lay close to death on the other side of the curtain.
I was so scared, cold and trembling. I had not changed into dry clothes. I can be superstitious and I believed “don’t change anything to tempt fate.” Ben was alive, so if that means staying in wet clothes, I would. It is what I needed to do. I was fragile and clung onto any idea that may work.
Before my husband was moved, I saw him alone. I was unprepared for the sight I was about to see. Machines, tubes, bottles, hoses, blood everywhere surrounding his body lying flat and helpless on the table. I could barely squeeze in to get close. His clothing was cut off. His body bloated and the burns were now starting to appear. His body was still shaking and his fingers and lips were blue.
It was surreal, like nothing I’ve ever experienced. “Pinch me, wake me up!”
This nightmare was real and I shared just a few hours of my story. Life can change in an instant.