The Only Certainty in Life Seems to Be Death, Taxes and Hard Questions


The Only Certainty in Life Seems to Be Death, Taxes and Hard Questions

Reader discretion advised: Medical trauma discussed.

Writing this, part 2 of this three-part series on Death, Taxes and Hard Questions was particularly difficult.

I’d rather just avoid dealing with its reality. But when we dilute the truth of a mistake made, we dilute our ability to learn, take action and become a better version of ourselves.

It happened in my own backyard.

One misty winters morning as the grass crackled underfoot and the frost began to lift, my Beekeeper friend arrived early to add a new second level to the beehive at the bottom of my garden. Wearing his bee safety suit and waving his smouldering smoke machine (designed to calm the bees during their forced relocation), the bottom of my yard soon looked like a low budget movie set of The Zombie Bee Apocalypse.

As I didn’t have the necessary safety gear to wear, I stood some 40 metres away at my back door watching while the hive lid was prized open for the first time. I listened to the growing growl of angry bees beginning to swarm as their hive was invaded and their precious honey removed. Usually, the smoke would keep them docile; I was told. Usually, they would follow the queen bee into the new section of their hive; I was told.

A group of scout bees emerged from the smoke zone looking for something. In a scene, only Stephen King the horror writer could craft, I suddenly felt something crawling on my back, and then onto my neck, and then, it sounded like there were bees caught in the back of my hair. I realised bees had climbed up inside my shirt sleeve and I was stung in my armpit. My immediate reaction was to pull my shirt off over my head to see the sting site. This action of course then angered the bees caught in my hair who then stung the back of my head.

Within seconds I was completely drenched in sweat. My vision began to fracture. I dizzied and stumbled backwards groping for a chair. The attacking bees’ pheromones signalled the surrounding bees escaping the smoke; I was the hive predator. Bees now began to repeatedly sting the back of my neck. When I instinctively put my hand to my neck, the bees now trapped in my sweat soaked hair stung me. I was now gripped by the life-changing effects of bee poisoning while my beekeeper, oblivious to my plight worked with his back towards me. My eyesight now fragmented into black and white shards and I had fallen onto my back.

My next memory was of the Beekeeper shouting into his mobile phone speaking in deliberate bullet points for the benefit of the emergency telephone operator, “Anaphylactic shock, multiple bee stings, airways closing, hurry.”

I remember the odd sensation of the woollen carpet pushing against my body as I lay on the floor. I remember my mind deliberately trying to be calm and sensible and resist my bodies nagging urge to panic. My hands and face felt oddly puffy, and the tightness of stretching skin on my fingertips made the carpet feel strange; its pile less dense than before. I remember the remaining breaths of air and thinking slow, deliberate breathing was needed in case the same slow, deliberate breaths became unavailable.

My eyes had swelled closed, but somehow there was flickering light in the darkness. As the sounds around me muffled, a strange hissing sound now filled my ears from within. I tried to focus on breathing deliberately but found my mind interrupted by the appearance of images in my mind’s eye of the comforting faces of my chosen family.

I remember my mind immediately wanted to be with those who I loved at this time.

First, I saw their smiling faces, then came the gentle inquiring thoughts about my connection with them and whether I’d been the good protector and provider I wanted to be. Initially, I think I smiled in agreement.

But then came my minds aggressive demand for proof.

My quiet mind now shouted as my body fought for air demanding an immediate answer as if my life depended upon it. Like a frightened and disoriented bank robber holding a hostage while barking demands for immediate answers; my mind was threatening imminent and dire consequences if the right answer was not received.

In this moment of crystal clear realisation, I nervously began to go through a mental checklist to appease this unstable captor who frightened me. Surely if I told him the details of my back up plan already in place, all would be alright?

The comforting faces of those I loved frighteningly vanished from my mind’s eye as if waiting for the permission to reappear and smile at me again. It was dark; in my mind and everywhere else. Urgently I began to work through my mental list of the backup plan in place for my family. Surely, I was to be exonerated? Surely, all would be well. Until I had a realisation; I was missing a piece of the plan.

Now, I couldn’t let go. My partner deserved better.

This terrifying realisation was rudely interrupted by a sharp, deep sting in my thigh. A burning rush of white light ran through my chest as an adrenaline pen punctured my skin and my thoughts.

In the seconds that followed an immediate cramp in my stomach brought a violent expulsion of the morning’s breakfast, to the swearing frustration of the ambulance crew caught off guard without a vomit bag.

Later I awoke from unconsciousness to the distinctive smell of the hospital emergency room, and the careless comments of nearby nurses heard to whisper, “That’s a very bad heart scan.”  Multiple bee stings had been removed from my armpit, my neck and the back of my head. These same type of bee stings killed eight people just like me the year before.

There are some things in life you can always count on; death, taxes and hard questions.

Nobody really likes to talk about the uncomfortable parts of life and particularly those moments before it might end. We all begrudgingly accept our mortality. But the one thing we shouldn’t accept is refusing to learn from the experience of others just because the opportunity asks a hard question. I discussed this in Part 1 – Talking about the hard questions can break their power over you of this series Death, Taxes and Hard Questions.

In the third and final piece of this three-part series, I’ll share the final mental checklist I went through and let you hear the question that caught me totally off guard and made me fight for life again.

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