I was on a family vacation the first time I witnessed the fragility of the human body.
My father had taken us to Cyprus for a few weeks. We went on a guided tour along with other visitors. The tour lasted several days, during which my family befriended an Egyptian family whose children were the same age as my sister and me.
The son was so funny. He would make me laugh till I teared up. He made the long bus rides more tolerable. His parents were easygoing, and his sister was friends with mine, so it was a great setup.
One day while on a bus break to stretch our legs, we all went playing near a tree, and the boy climbed it quite quickly.
The tree wasn’t tall; the brand he stood on was just about higher than his father’s head.
But then he slipped.
I don’t know how these things happen and I never will. In the blink of an eye, the boy had landed head-first on the ground below and wasn’t moving.
My parents rushed us away from the scene so we wouldn’t witness what was happening. I could hear his mother screaming and I could see his father waiting anxiously for the ambulance to arrive.
The ambulance got there and took him away, along with his family. We never saw them again. I prayed he would survive, and I believe he did.
Meanwhile, I have never climbed a tree since. And when my boys started climbing trees, my heart freezes with fear every time I see them.
A few years later, life would show me how resilient humans can be. I would save my brother from certain death by electrocution, and he, only two years old back then, would fight back the sparks with his baby fingers until I arrived.
I like to believe that Cyprus Boy survived that fall. That his parents and sister were by his bedside when he opened his eyes.
And that he is now as old as I am, with a family of his own, with children who climb trees, and with a story to tell them about fearlessness and the fight for life.