The Church of Devout Cowardice

Early in life I became a charter member of the Church of Devout Cowardice.  Physical pain and I were not friends.  As a child, I had no desire to climb trees, jump from roofs, or do anything else that had the slightest potential for injury.

This devotion was reinforced in my late twenties when some friends urged me to join them on a ski trip. Though one friend teased me unmercifully about being such a wus,  I was completely shameless about my compulsion for pain avoidance. The fact that this friend broke her leg getting off the ski lift on her first trip up the mountain definitely confirmed for me that  “Avoid all risks” should be the first commandment of all true believers of the Church of Devout Cowardice.

Ironically, being so inclined to imagine worst case scenarios all my life led to a stress related illness that not only caused me a lot of pain, but also put me into a wheelchair  in my late fifties and early sixties.   During this challenging time of life,  a son’s job with an airline gave us the marvelous blessing of thirteen years of free air travel to Europe.

Tourist sites in Europe are not known for their accessibility.  Though I could walk short distances, hills and stairs were often too much for me.  My son suggested a catapult for accessing castles and fortresses, but wus that I was, I demurred.

However, while we were on an innocuous Sound of Music day trip in Austria, the bus stopped to allow the foolhardy to ride down the side of a mountain on a sled with wheels in a  very long shallow metal  luge.  My twenty-something son, obviously having inherited none of my antipathy to pain genes, decided to try it.   I sat in my wheel chair on the loading dock as he began to get onto a sled built for two.  Out of the blue, a wild thought occurred to me.

“I’m already in pain and in a wheelchair, what have I got to lose?”

Before my wus self could talk me out of it, I stood up and said, “Wait, I’m going with you.”  My son and my husband were too stunned to respond, so I climbed on as the worker began to start the sled down the luge.  I was in the front where there was a hand brake.  As we began to hurtle down the mountain, my instinct for survival kicked in, and I tugged desperately on the brake.  To my relief, we began to slow.

At that point, a nine or ten year old boy luging behind us began to tail gate  and my son took charge of the brake.    I scrunched my eyes shut as we suddenly seemed airborne.  As much as I wanted to scream in terror, I couldn’t risk it, since either my heart or my lunch was in my throat.

I offered God my first born son, (not the one with airline privileges), if He would save me from certain excruciating pain.  When we came around the last curve and began leveling out and slowing down, I peeked out with one eye.  There was my husband waiting at the bottom  looking as terror stricken as I felt.  When he helped me out and into my wheelchair, he asked anxiously, “Are you all right? How was it?”

“Piece of cake,” I replied through gritted teeth.  I never told him I meant my dessert from lunch.


About Eileen

Mother of five, grandmother of eleven, great-grandmother of five. 1955 -1959 Rice University in Houston, TX. Taught primary grades; Was Associate Post Director of Religious Education at Ft. Campbell, KY; Consultant on the Myers/Briggs Type Indicator; Presently part time Administrative Assistant/Bookkeeper for Architect husband of fifty-nine years.

Posted on February 22, 2013, in Answered Prayer, Gifts of Age, Humor, Personality and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Molly Norman

    Too funny! Both the story and the mental picture!

  2. I can commiserate with you. I too have to force myself to do daring things that will be fun but may cause bodily harm. That said, I will never, never go ziplining with you 🙂

  3. Betty Harper

    Maybe I should consider discontinuing my five days a week at the gym. Nothing is broken, but a lot of things hurt….

  4. That was nothing compared to the time Tuffy and I tried to get you up Mont St Michel in the wheelchair until the rubber tire rim fell off!

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