When a couple say their marriage vows, part of it consists of the words – “For better or for worst..” but you know, I don’t think it really talks about how you will give yourself selflessly for your partner, without a thought, without a hesitation. And I truly want to share this amazing albeit heart stopping true story that happened.
Our four friends V, Mo, A and M headed up to Iceland for a holiday and I guess it is true when people say expect the unexpected to happen and because life is always fragile, to always hold on to it tightly and treasure it close to your heart. V text T early this morning but T wasn’t by his phone and he missed the few messages. I found out about the incident through FB and immediately called T and went, “OMG. Did you hear what just happened?!! I’m so glad everyone is okay!”
So here is the story, from V and Mo as they witnessed everything first hand.
V’s version –
It’s astounding how simple things can turn complicated in a blink of an eye. And inversely, how everything can become starkingly simple again just as quick. Yesterday, I was shown that yet again.
Mo, M, A and I were hiking up a glacier to witness the quiet beauty and amazing formation of lady winter. The scenery is filled with the beautiful glistening blue of the ice, the white surrounding snow, and the black ash from still on the ground and in frozen black ribbons in the ice from the volcano eruption 2 years ago.
Geared up with traction-grabbing crampons and ice axes, we stroll up the face of a block of sheer ice the size of Manhattan, marveling at the beauty, cameras snapping away in an effort to keep the memory of the day, taking pictures like the one you see here. As we ascend, the guide stop to show us an innocent patch of fresh snow, making us aware that there is danger everywhere and that beneath the snow is an ice funnel over 3 stories deep and for the 4 years that he’s been guiding on the glacier, he has never been able to see the bottom. We all mutter the same ‘whoa’ and try to grasp the seriousness at hand. That was our first reminder of the danger that belies the serenity we see.
We then hike up to a section of several large crevasses in the ice, the guide pointing out that with each subsequent day the crevasses get deeper and deeper as the melt water carves away the ice on it’s way to the see. We peer over edge to gawk at how the colors change from the white at the top, to a magnificent striations of turquoise blue in the middle, to black when the light can no longer reach through the deep. Then it happens.
Our crampons gave us sure footing and allowed us to ignore the pitch of the ice. A camera is dropped and slides by her (A’s) feet and A simply kneels down to pick it up, not realizing that the moment you let go of the ice, it grabs on to you. Still on her knees she begins to slide over the edge into the crevasse. I see Mo reach out her hand and I hold her back. M dives after A, grabbing her foot as she goes over. I drop to my knees and reach out to grab M feet. But M not only has his forward momentum in addition to the pitch, he’s also coupled with the momentum from grabbing A’s foot as she goes over. M disappears faster than A. 4 seconds. Simple just became very complicated.
There is a deafening silence. No one can believe what they’ve just witnessed. I’m still on my knees as the guides yell out to everyone to get back. I worried about them landing on one another, about how large the crampon spikes are and that they would tenderize any body part if landed upon. Then their ice axes that came tumbling after they did, I prayed that no one got hit by them.
Mo is as white as a ghost as we stand there while the guides spring into action. Some of the women start to cry as they talk about how he dove after her without hesitation. Then everything and everyone disappears as Mo and I want nothing more than to see our friends’ faces. To hear them joke and laugh again. Just like that, everything complicated became simple again.
Everyone erupts in applause as the guides yell out that they’re ok. Mo and I hug each other and thank our lucky stars that our friends are safe. As they emerge, M appears, blood on his face, with A in his arms. She looks over to us and gives us a little wave, letting us know that she’s ok. We both breathe a sigh of relief.
When we get to them, we ask 100 questions about their well being, M simply looks at A, squeezes her hand, and cracks a joke while he hugs her. Putting us all at ease in true M form.
As beautiful as mother nature is, the most beautiful thing I’ve ever witnessed is an act of selfless love. Beyond anything man has ever invented with his hands, it is the love that he gives freely from his heart that will always triumph all.
Mo’s version –
Today I am grateful for my friends A and M. V and I along with a few dozen tourists got to witness the fragility of life and the great magnitude of true selfless love.
I went to Iceland in search of natural phenomenons but what I witness today on the Sólheimajökull glacier was amazing beyond words. We were hiking up the glacier, a massive sheet of pure blue ice beneath our feet. We stopped at the edge of a 20 feet (6m) high glacier crevasse to admire and capture its majestic beauty, a camera fell. As it hits the ground, my friend, Abends down to pick it up … Not realizing that the cleats that held her firmly to the ice would released its grip once she bent to her knees … As she reaches for the camera, she starts to slide over the cliff….
I started to scream, before the scream even left my lips, without thought or hesitation her husband jumps down to grab hold of her. Before the scream “NNNNN……OOOOO!!! ” could escape from my lips…., they were nowhere in sight. It happen faster than a flash of light. They were both gone.
Then there was silent. Dead silence.
My heart sank, my body froze. I have never felt so paralyzed by so much fear in my life. Everyone around us was in shock and disbelief. The next 10 minutes seem a lifetime as all the team guides push the crowds back and make their way down the crevasse to find our friends. As the clock ticked, the crowd was a-buzzed with awe and amazement that he had jumped in after her. Everyone had witness that he had forgo his own safety for her in the blink of an eye. And as he emerge from the glacier crevasse, bloody and wounded with her in his arms unscathed, the crowds erupted in applause.
There was no doubt that he was a hero, not only in the eyes of the woman he loved, but it was reflected in the eyes of every man and woman that had the privilege to witness this beauty of true love … A love that you would die for without hesitation – that is true love beyond a doubt. I hope not all of us has to experience this to know that we have found true love. I just know that true love is worth finding and (for those of you who have not found it yet), it is definitely worth waiting for!!
T was with V at the exact same spot some 2 years back and tells me that yes, it’s an accurate account and the glacier is more dangerous than it seems with sharp drops.
As I read both accounts, my heart almost stopped. And I was just so so glad that no one was badly injured. And at the same time, I asked myself, and in fact, posted the same question on Twitter – the act was so selfless and most will say, I’ll do the same. BUT, when the time itself comes, would you? In that mere split second. When natural instincts take over, when your body reacts naturally to protect yourself because that is how nature created us to protect ourselves. Where the ‘hope’ to save your loved one (husband, boyfriend, fiance, father, mother, sibling) remains just a hope?
My Dad once told my sister and I – The front passenger seat of a vehicle is the most dangerous. Because during an accident when the driver is about to crash and hit the obstacle, nature takes over. The natural instinct will be to swerve, so as to save and protect yourself. Regardless of whether it is your wife, child, husband, sitting next to you, that mostly happens. Rarely, does a driver drive straight into the obstacle. My Dad was speaking from experience having worked in hospitals all his work life and seeing A&E road accidents coming in. It’s not about one being selfish or not loving whoever is sitting beside them, it’s just the way nature works. It’s natural instinct. And at that split second, instinct takes over. By the time you regain composure or think of what you hope and want to do i.e. to selflessly save your loved one’s life, that critical decision moment is over and the deed done. I do believe that in the instances where a mother faces the situation with her child involve, the chance of her risking her life is a lot higher and probably due to innate maternal instinct.
And so that’s why most people would instantly say and declare, without much of a thought, that “YES! I would risk my life to save him/her! Because I love him/her!” But until that happens, you don’t really know how you’ll react in that split second. And the truth is, how many actually do go through that situation to verify that? It’s not that you are ‘bad’ if you don’t say that but rather, for those that do, there might come a day where the situation does happen and you hate yourself for not doing what you’d hope to do. But don’t. Because it’s just nature doing its work..
What M did today wasn’t just a heroic act or romantic gesture. Sure. It sounds very romantic after it all but I don’t think that was going through his mind at all. The whole thing happened in FOUR seconds and in that split moment, his natural instinct wasn’t about me but about A. And that’s why V and Mo both said, it was indeed a true act of love. It wasn’t just a hope for him that he would save her but he acted on it in time to save her.
So what will my answer be if I’m asked? Honest truth? Yes. I do hope I can save my loved one. But reality isn’t Hollywood or what you see on TV shows but reality is a lot harsher and quicker and it doesn’t give you time to think. You won’t know it. Until it kicks in when it really happens. And I can’t even say for sure, how I’ll react. But I hope. And I also hope such a day won’t come where that is tested.
*Image courtesy of V. Story details taken from V and Mo’s Facebook.