Second Chance

The moment that changed my life more than any other, is a moment I can’t even remember.

It’s not often a piece like this begins with ‘Once upon a time’, but sometimes when a story begins on a day like any other, ‘Once upon a time’ seems to be the best way to start,

So here goes…

Once upon a time there was a man and a woman,

An ordinary, everyday married couple in their early thirties, who lived an ordinary, everyday suburban existence.

It was a hot summers day on a long weekend, and with two of their three children visiting their grandparents, the pair had a day to relax and catch-up on all the things around the house that an ordinary man and woman catch-up on.

He was painting the new picket fence in their front yard,

And she was hanging out the washing in the backyard, whilst her baby slept inside.

With the baby monitor in the washing basket, she’d heard her newborn cry, then self-settle.

It was a moment just like any other, yet to her, something felt different.

Something stopped her, and drew her to her child’s room, for just one quick look.

What she found in that room was every parent’s nightmare,

Walking in and looking down at her child, she saw his skin was tinged with blue.

She rolled the baby over, and screamed.

Her child wasn’t breathing.

I wasn’t breathing.

On Saturday the 25th of January 1992 my mum commenced giving me emergency CPR, and saved my life.

That was the day that life awarded me a second chance.

“I’ll never forget that scream” my dad says, sitting at the dinner table twenty-seven years later, in a family home filled to the brim with memories and photos of our lives since that day.

“I don’t remember a lot of about that day, but I can still remember that scream” he says, “I’d never heard her scream like that before, and she hasn’t screamed like that since”.

What was it that compelled a mother to check on her silent child?

For any parent, the sound of a baby silent in their cot is music to their ears,

A sleeping baby makes for a happy baby, and a happy baby makes for happy parents too.

But for whatever reason, my mum decided at that moment to walk into the room where I slept.

Something about the ‘silence’ was different that day.

Was it was sheer luck or divine intervention? We’ll never know.

A fluke or a predetermined plan that I was born the son of a woman who had worked in the ER and taught CPR at some of Australia’s biggest companies?

Whatever it is, whatever it was, I am lucky to be alive today, and I am lucky that I had (and have) the mum that I do.

Because there were forces at play that day that had planned for it to be my last day on earth,

But there were others that were stronger.

If it wasn’t for her actions, a tombstone reading Michael Charles Winn 29/11/1991 – 25/01/1992 would have sat atop cold, hard earth, buried beneath it, a coffin no more than two feet long.

When thinking about what could have been, there’s often a feeling of ‘survivors guilt’ that comes with knowing that I was one of the ones able to be pulled back from the edge.

A sense of guilt in wondering if there really was a power at play which decided I should have a second chance,

And in wondering whether or not I am making the most of that chance.

Wondering if I am really making the most of each of these precious extra days I have been afforded,

Or whiling them away as we so often do, focusing too much on the negativity of minor things, and not making the most of simply just being here.

Living my life for those who weren’t so lucky.

They say that age is a gift denied to many, and there’s no doubt that there are people who have died young that are more worthy of taking up a place on this earth than me,

People who worked their fingers to the bone day-in, day-out,

Who made the world a safer, happier, kinder, more generous place with their every action.

People who inspired hundreds, thousands, millions with their talents and their messages,

Who cherished the opportunities they have been given, and used them to change the world.

People who, in the middle of making a positive, lasting change to better our world, were snatched away from us.

Lennon, Diana, MLK couldn’t be revived – but I could?

The world needs these people, their voices and their messages more than ever before,

Their words, their touch, their power.

But their stories, abrupt as their endings may have been, teach us to make the change while you can,

Because tomorrow is never promised, no matter who you are.

I have been afforded all too generously a second chance at life, and with that, another shot at love and opportunities that I don’t always deserve,

But you don’t need a wakeup call to jolt you into living your one life to the fullest.

No-one expects their eight-week old baby to stop breathing. And even now, in our 20s, 30s or 40s we don’t expect our hearts to stop beating.

Yet we all know of someone who has been snatched away from life,

Whether they saw it coming or not.

It is human nature not to think too much about the end while we’re still here,

Dwelling too much on the end leaves us no time to enjoy the story as it happens.

Which is often why we never seem to know what we have until it’s gone.

We give the most heartfelt eulogies for those who can no longer hear them,

We celebrate people more when they’re gone than we ever do when they’re here.

We all expect to live until we’re ready, and so we leave things until ‘later’.

We leave things left unsaid,

Or worse, we inflict wounds with our words that we don’t attempt to heal.

Thinking too much of ourselves to wonder how we are impacting the lives of others.

But if we all lived as if today was our last day, perhaps then we’d think more about those around us.

Perhaps we’d love more,

We’d be kinder,

And give to those who need it,

Working to leave this place a little better than when we found it.

All the possessions in the world are rendered entirely useless when we – inevitably – drop dead.

A few commas and zeros in a bank account won’t extend the countdown timer we all have hanging above our heads.

So is the goal in life to live until your heart gives out, or give your heart out until you no longer live?

No matter who we are, where we live, or how much we have,

We all have the ability and the power to impact the lives of people we know, and of people we don’t.

The choice as to whether we impact our world in a positive or a negative way is entirely in our hands.

Whether it’s biting your tongue, or speaking out.

Whether it’s giving out, or letting in.

Whether it’s sharing a smile, or sharing strength.

We’ve all beaten the odds to get here, and we continue to beat them every day that we remain here.

No-one deserves to be put here, and no-one is more deserving of life than another.

It’s all just a game of chance that we’ve already won.

Because it really is a gift to be here, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.

So maybe we’ll try and earn our spot here instead.

“The measure of life is not its duration, but its donation”

This story is one that I don’t remember, but one I’m glad to have been told.

So this August, I’ll be donning a red nose, to ensure that every child has the ability to grow up and grow old – just like I did. 

August 9th is Red Nose Day.

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