What My Father Taught Me About Split-Second Life or Death Decisions

What My Father Taught Me: The Frame We Choose In that Split Second Can Change Everything

what my father taught me

If you look very carefully at this photograph, you can see my father’s head near the crown of the tree. At an age when many men sit around watching TV, my dad climbs trees and picks apples :)

“Every great mistake has a halfway moment, a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied.”

– Pearl Buck

Those of you who know me, know I am not much of a pop culture buff. What my father taught me about television is that it’s not really worth watching lol. Every so often though, the concept of a classic movie captures me. And so in the waiting room of the veterinarian a month ago, I thought of the movie Sliding Doors.

If you haven’t seen the movie Sliding Doors, the premise is very simple. The movie shows us two entirely different scripts for the same female character. In one version of the story, she catches her subway train and gets home on time. In the other version of the story, the sliding doors of the train close in her face, and she misses the train. The outcome of her life is entirely different depending whether she makes the train or not. Another way of thinking of this concept is parallel universes.

I was sitting in the reception room of the vet, waiting for my turn to go back to the hospital to visit Harvey the Cat. As I shared in our last blog post, Harvey the Cat had experienced some catastrophic health problems. And the first few vets I saw all recommended immediate euthanasia. I actually had to tell them that I would no longer be attending appointments if we were going to be talking about euthanasia.

As I sat there, feeling very scared still about Harvey the Cat’s health … I saw a tall blonde woman emerge from one of the examination rooms. She had no pet in her arms, and she was crying her eyes out. She went to the reception desk and nearly collapsed with grief. She had to hold on to the counter to keep herself stable.

“May I help you?” asked the sweet woman at the front desk.

The tall blonde woman grimaced, and could barely get the words out. “I need to check out.”

Checking out with no pet in her arms. I knew what that meant. As she tried to give the receptionist her information, she doubled over with grief. I barely suppressed the urge to go over to her and hold her in my arms. Instead I asked the angels to surround her with love and light. And at that moment, she straightened up a bit. Perhaps some kind of positive thought came to her mind.

I knew what she was doing. She was paying the $245 euthanasia fee after killing her pet. The same fee they would have charged me.

Sliding doors. She was in exactly the same place I would have been, had I listened to the horrible things the veterinarians had all told me when Harvey first got paralyzed. She left the vet still crying. And I would imagine that she is still stricken with grief all these weeks later. I still feel sad for her.

Some people say that time heals all wounds. I don’t really believe that is true. My Facebook News Feed is full on a daily basis of posts from people who are still mourning losses from decades ago.

In my experience, the only thing that heals all wounds is forgiveness. Not the false “forgiveness” of this world. Rather, the forgiveness that overlooks mistakes and sees they were never real. Only getting her pet back is ever really going to heal that wound. Only resurrection is going to heal that wound.

Ah, but it’s so much easier if we do not make the mistake in the first place … which leads us to today’s story about what my father taught me … about split-second life or death decisions.

What My Father Taught Me About Split-Second Life or Death Decisions

what my father taught me

My dad looking spry with his motherlode of apples destined for hard cider.

You would love my dad. Everyone does. At an age when most men are barely getting around anymore, my dad is traveling the world, climbing mountains, and scaling fruit trees to toss apples down to my brother.

For years in my 15-Week Miracle Coaching program, I have been teaching the art of re-framing. I have taught people how they can turn their whole life around by changing the way they perceive situations.

Right before I left for the Middle East, my dad was visiting me in Tahoe. And he told me a story about his youth that drives home in the most powerful way how utterly important our interpretations are.

What My Father Taught Me About Split-Second Life or Death Decisions

What my father taught me with this story is that, even in the most devastating-seeming circumstances, we still have a choice about what is going to happen to us. That choice depends on us being non-reactive, centered, present, and willing to see the interpretation that will help us … rather than hurt us.

My father was hitch-hiking back in his youth. This was before he married my mother. If the story had turned out differently, I would not be here now.

Two men stopped their car by the side of the road, and picked my dad up. My dad said they had been driving for maybe 20 minutes when the man in the front passenger seat turned around and pointed a gun straight at my dad’s face. My dad was staring into the barrel of a gun.

Yeah, take a deep breath and imagine yourself in that situation, staring down the barrel of a gun in a car moving at high speed down the freeway. What would you have done?

If my father had panicked, and chosen the wrong interpretation … it is very likely that I would not be here now.

Instead, somehow, my father must have reached deep into his core … and he said casually “Hey, isn’t that a .36?”

My father said the man turned the gun sideways, looked at it more closely, and said, “Yea, I think it is a .36.”

Then they started talking about guns. The drive continued without incident, and my dad was dropped off safely at his destination. After which, he became my father.

What My Father Taught Me About Split-Second Life or Death Decisions

When I look back on my life, I see many times that I had a split-second decision to make. Everything depended on how powerfully I could hold my frame. I can see that I avoided being raped several times by exercising this level of presence.

And I can also see many times in my life, that I look at with regret, when I made the wrong choice and lost something that was precious to me.

When I sat in that examination room two months ago, being pressured to kill my cat, I had a choice. I could accept the devastating frame that was being offered to me, and I could become that devastated tall, blonde woman in the reception area.

Or I could choose another interpretation. I could explore the possibility that this situation had been given to me by God not for death and devastation, but for empowerment and Life.

I could explore the possibility that I was not meant to kill my cat, but rather to heal him. And I chose Life.

I chose life even though it meant spending $6000 instead of $245. Could any amount of money compensate that woman for her grief?

I chose life even though it meant barely sleeping for the next two months. Would I have slept “better” after losing my cat? I doubt it.

I chose life even though a whole series of veterinarians gave me no reason to hope.

I put my faith in God, and I chose life.

Sliding Doors.

Sometimes everything turns on how much presence we can muster in a split second of time. It may be one of the most valuable lessons my father ever taught me.

Choose Love. Choose Life. Choose Wisely.

Erika Awakening

About the Author:

Erika Awakening is a Harvard Law School graduate and former practicing attorney. She left the rat race to become a location-independent entrepreneur, holistic life coach, blogger, speaker, healer, and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT tapping) expert. Erika Awakening is one of the world's foremost experts on eradicating limiting beliefs and lifestyle design on your own terms. Learn more about Erika Awakening

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  1. Your dad sounds like a particularly clever fellow. I would NOT have reacted by asking what type of gun was staring at me in the face. That is terrifying. And now I think I need to see Sliding Doors.

  2. It’s always tough to deal with spilt second decisions especially when their are emotional. I am glad that you listened to your instincts. I has to put a cat down a few years ago it was tough. At the time I just didn’t have the money to figure out what was wrong. The vet thought he has a terminal illness of some sort.

  3. Ultimately, it’s our decision, I feel that will get us to where we’re supposed to go. Sometimes I feel like we are predestined to make good or bad choices to reach the outcome of growth and learning we need to move another step ahead. Sometimes you have to go with your own heart and not the choices that others make for you or that they feel. Even professionals make mistakes, is what I always think. So I take their advice, but ultimately, I like to make my own choices. Good for you for listening to your heart.

  4. Wow it’s amazing that your father managed to react to the situation calmly. It’s awesome that you were able to learn from his experience.

  5. Elizabeth O. says:

    What a powerful message. It’s true, we all have a choice regardless of how much time we have to make that decision.

  6. Wow@! What a story and your Dad is a lucky man. Thanks for shairng

  7. Your story with Harvey is so compelling. We always have a choice, yet sometimes, we can’t see that choice. I find that stepping back to look at the situation more objectively is always a good choice. For me, that also includes praying, listening for God’s guidance, and surrounding myself with friends who speak truth into my life. We treat too many decisions as crises without taking the time to explore the options.

    • Yes Karen, thank you … that stepping back to take a deep breath, pray, get ourselves centered, is so important. I feel pretty horrified that vets are recommending euthanasia to people in this moment of crisis. Without the training I’ve had, it would have been very easy to succumb to that pressure … and I would never have seen how well Harvey could recover. Thanks for commenting.

  8. WOW.. just wow.
    The whole gun story could have gone such a different way.. kuddos to your dad for having a cool head. I can tell you story after story of how everything changed because we followed our gut and went with that spilt decision.
    So glad you chose a different route for your cat.. I have been that bawling woman twice and it’s horrific.

    • Hi Heather, thanks for commenting. I bet you have some great stories about following your gut. It blows me away how powerful intuition is, if we actually listen to it. Yea it was imagining myself as that woman bawling in the reception that motivated me to hunker down and do the energy healing even when it meant not sleeping and putting everything in my life aside.

  9. I am a very firm believer in “You are the creator of your own destiny.” You choose the path you will take and only you can take responsibility for your actions.

    • Yes Amanda, my coaching method would go so far to say, you are responsible for everything you see because it is all projection. And therefore it can all be changed by changing our minds.

  10. When I was in my late 20’s I had a similar experience to your dad’s. I was confronted my two young thugs in the early evening (I won’t say their race but in this case, no, they weren’t black) who turned around and came at me saying some threatening words, when I was getting out of my car at an apartment complex. I was more afraid of a knife at that split second and luckily had not locked my car door. As soon as I saw them turn around and come at me, I raced back into my car and locked the door. I was safe, for the moment, but was unprepared for what soon faced me. One guy on the driver’s side window pointing a shiny blue revolver at me and the other on the passenger side pointing some sort of rifle at me. It was Friday and I had just gotten paid and had a wallet full of cash… and I was pissed off about losing all my money to these punk kids (they weren’t more than 20) but I did not panic as they kept asking for my wallet through the window. I humored them a little stalling for time, hoping a car would drive by in the large parking lot, but none came by. I don’t know what exactly propelled me to do it, but I said a silent prayer, and in the middle of asking them some inane question the gun and saying, “okay..” I swiftly turned the ignition on (I had put the keys in the ignition already before they stationed themselves on each side of me.) and gunned the car in reverse turning the wheel as I did and forcing the guy with the rifle to move out of the way. I think I shocked the other guy with the revolver, because he just stood there for a moment, and by that time I had already put the car in drive and was gunning the engine and starting to move forward… and was expecting any second to get shot, and sure enough, I heard two shots as I was pulling away… and I felt something flying around down by my legs, but the car kept moving… and I was not hit, and I kept going… and I was ALIVE!! I couldn’t believe it.. I was still alive! Was this a foolish split second decision? It had worked, I had “luckily” got away… but it wasn’t until later I found out how smart it had been…

    Come to find out later, one bullet had penetrated the door post between the back and front doors of my 4-door Volvo, which was the one I felt flying around by my legs, and it had hit the heavy interlocking metal hinge of the seat, bounced off and made a small tear on the door panel landing harmlessly on the floor by my feet.. (yes, I know, believe me… inches from hitting me in my hip!) and later, I discovered the other shot from the rifle shot had pierced the area exactly between the my left front tire and the rim… NOT puncturing the tire, but landing inside the tire! And the shell casing itself was wedged between the tire and the rim, as the guy has used the wrong caliber bullet for the rifle and the whole thing had shot out of the rifle, but it completely missed puncturing the tire! Obviously, God and my guardian angel were watching over me at that moment, but the sheer incredible chance of a bullet going between the rim and the tire, without the tire being blown out…. and being able to drive away with both bullets being recovered and the shell casing from the rifle still stuck between ther tire and rim… infinity chance of that ever happening !!

    The end of the story is even crazier! So both bullets were recoved, I was able to exactly identify the two guys in a photo lineup… they were arrested and I never had to testify as they both pled guilty to attempted murder. Later, I found out they were gang members and suspects in the murder of a man who’s body had been found about 2 blocks away behind a gas station. These guys were not playing around, but they did not expect to meet someone who kept his head, made a split second decision to live… and had a higher power behind him to believe in. I chose life that evening (and I know, you could say money over safety)… but who’s to say they wouldn’t have taken my wallet and shot me dead anyway??? It probably would have happened, because I guarentee you, they KNEW I could identify them! And now like you Erica, I have two great daughters that would not be here today if I hadn’t. Thanks for your Dad’s story. It brought back those memories, and looking at the pointed barrel of a gun is no fun… but talk about adenaline!! But it’s funny how adrenaline can also make you think so totally clear and lucid at the most frightening of moments.

    • Hey David,

      Thank you so much for sharing your amazing story! Wow what are the chances? I feel so grateful you said that little prayer. Amazing what power we can harness when we call upon the Name of God. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Reminds me of a recent incident 10 Christian’s had with ISIS…..they lined them up to kill them but one Christian shot was not a fatal shot to the head. This Christian had to make the split second decision whether to play dead with the agony of being shot or squirm in pain only to be shot again. This person chose to accept the pain and after being left to decompose got away. This is why I spend most of my time in the space between the end of one thought and the beginning of another…..speak Life and Live speak death and miss Life.

    • Amen James … I had not heard about this incident but yes we see this over and over again, these split second decisions … and yes we are probably more equipped to make the right decision if we spend a lot of time in that space between thoughts. I had stopped meditating and picked it up again during this ordeal with Harvey the Cat. He started stabilizing the very day I started meditating again.

  12. Kim klebine says:

    All I can say is WOW! What a very loving and profoundly moving blog post. With God All Things Are Possible. :-)

    • Thank you Kim. Yes, it felt good to write it. As thyroid issues involve the fifth chakra and communication … I would imagine the healing I am doing for Harvey the Cat’s thyroid is helping … so glad you stopped by to comment :)

  13. Erika,

    Your dad nailed it in the gun situation =) Years ago, I learned about the power of being non-reactive from taking classes on the Kabbalah. To this day, I keep their non-reactive formula in my wallet. It truly is amazing how we have the choice to choose in the moment and how what we choose has such a big impact. And I’m glad you chose life for Harvey, despite what you were being told =)

    • Hi Namaste,

      Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving us a comment. I feel intrigued by what you learned from the Kabbalah. And what their non-reactive formula is, if you are free to share?

      Yea I can look at many other moments where I wish I had made a different decision. My dad definitely nailed it, thank goodness for me ;)

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