My mind wanders to Nell and Jim Hamm, who in 2007 celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. A month before this milestone the couple decided to take a hike in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park situated in Northern California. There, on this walk, just days before their 50th wedding anniversary, Jim was attacked by a 200 pound, eight foot long mountain lion.
This lion, pouncing seemingly from the sky, pinned Jim to the ground. Nell, age 65, didn’t even hear the animal. She turned to find Jim, 70 years young, underneath the lion with his head partially in the animal’s mouth. “He didn’t scream,” Nell later said. “It was a different, horrible plea for help.”
The next few minutes were a fight for life. It was seeing everything important to the couple flashing before their eyes. It was pain and blood and sweat but most of all, love. Nell could have run. She could have gone for help, but she didn’t. There, before her was the most important thing in her life, something worth dying for.
With that in mind she reacted, grabbing a log and begun beating the animal. When that didn’t work, she took a pen from Jim’s pocket and tried to stab one of the eyes of the mountain lion. She poked until the pen was bent and unusable.then she picked up the log again and beat. She beat and beat.
It worked, the lion finally backed off. He looked at Nell one last time and disappeared into the foliage. Nell was afraid to leave her bleeding and dazed husband. She was able to move him about a quarter of a mile to a trail head where she covered him with branches, to protect against another attack then waited for help.
“She saved his life, there’s no doubt about that” said a spokesman for the Department of Fish and Game. When asked if she was a hero however, Nell shook her head no. “You hear remarks of hero. It wasn’t that. We love each other very much.”
In that moment, Nell found one thing in her life worth dying for.she was willing to go toe to toe with a powerful animal and risk her own life for her husband and for their life together. And some do lay down their lives for powerful and positive purposes; some of these purposes are saving another, for our freedom, for a child.But dying for most of us isn’t about literally wrestling mountain lions to free a loved one. Instead, dying might be confronting our fears and anxieties to help our loved one. Dying might be doing something we don’t like, because he/she does. Or, dying might simply be biting our tongue instead of speaking out and hurting another’s feelings.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. may have said it best, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Die a little today for something powerful and positive that is worth dying for.and in so doing save your life and another’s along the way.Happy Valentine’s week!
Matt Forck, CSP & JLW
Matt Forck is a keynote speaker, author and columnist. Matt and his family reside in Columbia MO.