See the Miracle

See the Miracle

From Chicken Soup for the Soul 20th Anniversary Edition

See the Miracle

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

~Albert Einstein

It happened in an instant.

One small instant held everything — my life, her life, my family — in its clenched fists.

Beads broke in a rush of terror across my forehead as I bolted around the deck and down the stairs. My legs were moving but I couldn’t feel them, couldn’t register anything, or feel anything except for the fear closing in. All I wanted to know in that moment was that my daughter Jolie was alive.

It was one of those events that happened in a split-second and yet it held the potential to shift everything in my life. How I would wake up in the morning. How I would fall asleep at night. How I would kiss my two daughters as I tucked them in and watched them turn their heads to sleep.

My family and I were vacationing on a small private island in Fiji this past summer. When I say small, I mean so small that there is no way to get on or off the island unless it is pre-arranged. We were staying with friends in a beautiful house with a wrap-around balcony. The house was so high up that the drop below the balcony was nearly twenty feet.

The island has this amazing energy that I find hard to put into

words. It’s occupied by the indigenous people of Fiji, most of them whom have never left the island. Fiji is their home and they’re very connected to the earth, the community, and each other.

There were seven or eight local Fijians who worked at the house we stayed in as caretakers and helpers. It was easy to connect with them. They were warm and engaging and had an instinct for getting to know the hearts of people. At one point, the women stopped and told us, “Your youngest daughter Jolie, she’s special. There’s something about her. She’s an old soul and she’s really here for a special purpose.”

One night after dinner, our older daughter, Jemma, rushed in from the balcony after dinner screaming, “JOLIE FELL OFF THE DECK! JOLIE FELL OFF THE DECK!” I could see the terror in her eyes.

We rushed toward the screams to find our Jolie on the ground twenty feet below. She wasn’t moving. My thoughts ran wild: She’s dead. She’s dead. She’s dead. Please God, don’t let her be dead.

In the seconds that followed I could not run fast enough, could not get there soon enough to scoop my daughter into my arms and hold her tight. The fears stacked on one another: How will we get her off the island? How will we get her to a hospital? What will happen to my Jolie?

I was trying to hold it together but inside I felt like I was going to pass out. There was blood coming from her head but we couldn’t tell exactly how bad the injuries might be. All I knew was that she started moving and crying. Thankfully, she was alive and with us.

People gathered around her. Others started inspecting her body for injuries. Since there was no doctors or hospital on the island, one nurse that lived there got to us within twenty minutes. Everyone came together for little Jolie and my family in a remarkable way.

Racked and sucked dry from a fear I’d never known before, I still felt a strange sense of peace drop upon me. I suddenly knew things would be okay.

As we carried Jolie inside to the bedroom, the Fijian women asked if they could pray. They gathered around us holding hands.

The nurse started praying in English and then, in a rhythm like a song, the Fijian women started chanting at the top of their lungs in their native tongue. Each chanted her own prayer but the voices all flowed together in a surreal harmony. Tears stained their cheeks. Tears stained my cheeks. The room felt like it was trembling, like a power was sweeping over it and all I could do was cry and be thankful that my daughter was alive.

Hand in hand with relief came this overwhelming angst and worry that was all-consuming. I became obsessed with fear in the days ahead. The feelings were paralyzing. I could not stop analyzing the situation and asking myself: What went wrong? How could we have prevented the accident?

One afternoon, I called my dear friend and teacher, Guru Singh, and began bawling my eyes out as I retold him the story. He stopped me and said, “Eric, you’re focusing on what didn’t happen. What didn’t happen is an illusion. Stop focusing on that.”

“Start focusing on what did happen,” he continued. “What did happen is a miracle. Just meditate on that and constantly put yourself in that space. You witnessed a miracle. You experienced a miracle. Your daughter lived through a miracle. Your daughter is a miracle.”

His words shifted me into a new space of thinking. He was absolutely right. My daughter lived by the grace of a miracle and my only response from that point forward needed to be gratitude and appreciation for the sacred seconds that make up every moment we share together.

My daughter had only gone to get a glass of water and sixty seconds later she was on the ground, holding with her all of my heart and every dream I had for her. She was inches away from death but by such sacred grace she dropped twenty feet and walked away with barely a scratch.

Today my daughter Jolie is like any other three-year-old. She plays, goes to school, giggles with her sister and snuggles into our arms as if nothing ever happened. But it did and I will never forget it.

Not a day goes by that I don’t look at her and am reminded by the miracle of life she represents. I know now, more than ever before, how precious every second of life is. I know with every breath I take how blessed each soul, young and old, is to have these moments.

Just as the Fijians said, I am convinced that my Jolie is here for such a special reason. We all are. And in embracing the miracle moments of our lives, we find more meaning, more purpose and appreciation, more conscious cosmic calling, gratitude and joy in all we do.

Life is so very fragile and yet we are here and I’m not taking one second for granted. My Jolie taught me that with her angelic spirit. She is my pure joy.

~Eric Handler

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