Several years ago, Captain Fabuloso came to me with a sore on his shin, asking me what I thought it was. I had no idea, and it didn't look too serious, either. When he suggested that maybe it was a spider bite, I agreed with him, dismissed the worry and went climbing with him and our climbing friends. The next day, I left for a weekend trip to St. George.
The night I came back to Provo, I was getting together with all my friends to climb again (we all had memberships to the Quarry). I got a ride with a close friend, who we'll call Dr. Tact, PhD (she'll have her PhD in a couple years...). She was a microbiology major and was fascinated by a number of things that were beyond me as an English major. As we pulled into the parking lot of the Quarry, she turned to me and said, "Isn't that crazy how Captain Fabuloso almost died this weekend?"
I was confused, then scared, then confused. I said, "Almost died?"
"Yes!" she said, putting the car in park and turning off the ignition. "Didn't you know?"
"About his leg!"
"I know that he had a sore on it and wondered if it was a spider bite..."
"Oh, Cicada! He had a flesh-eating bacteria! It kept getting worse and worse and then he went to the hospital and they told him that if he had gone in one day later, he probably would have died, and they were mad that he had waited as long as he did to go into the hospital!"
I know that she kept on talking, shifting the subject of the conversation from Captain Fabuloso almost dying to the exact details of what a staph infection is down to the minutest level, but as her intellectual babble became fuzzy and distant, all my mind could process was almost died.
I knew that he was okay. I knew that he was joining us that evening for climbing. Yet uncontrollably, I started to sob. It was one of the strangest experiences of my life. Crying has never come upon me so suddenly and so uncontrollably. Dr. Tact stared at me wide-eyed as I almost hyperventilated between my staccato sobs.
And all the while, I kept thinking, "Everything's okay, so I can stop crying. Nothing's wrong; I can stop crying. It's okay. STOP CRYING!" But I couldn't. Instead of stopping, I just breathed out to Dr. Tact, "It's---sob---okay---sob---I'm---sob---okay!"
I was slightly shaken for the rest of the evening, but Dr. Tact at least learned a great lesson. First, it was to approach the subject gently when talking about the almost-death of a family member. Second, it was to not go into the exact biological details of how that person almost died and would have died. Valuable lessons, indeed.
(And I know for a fact that she told this story during a Relief Society lesson about four years after it happened, so I promise, she did learn the lesson!)