As a child, we had a swing made out of a long length of fraying rope tied to the Plain tree on our front pavement, with an old car tyre attached to it. I spent hours in it, swinging higher and higher into the bright blue sky that I could see through the leaves, flying through the air to places in my head.
One day, however, the frayed rope finally gave in, slamming me into the pavement, knocking the wind completely out of me. I remember lying there in the dappled shade of that beautiful, big tree, trying to take in a breath and not being able to, wondering if I was going to die.
I didn’t (obviously). My mother, most fortunately, happened to come out of the front door (I wonder how mothers somehow just manage to do that?) She rushed over, sat me up, and rubbed my back to calm me, coaxing the breath back in, there on that grassy pavement in small town South Africa in the ’80’s. Having got my breath back, I sobbed uncontrollably into her chest.
That was my first glimpse of my own mortality, and it made me cry.