1) MARY NEAL
It was January 14, 1999, and Mary Neal, an orthopedic surgeon from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, had surprised her husband, Bill, with a week-long kayaking trip with friends in the Los Rios Region of Chile.
It had been a good trip. The couple spent the week enjoying people, the food and the culture.
But that morning, Neal’s husband wasn’t feeling well. So he stayed behind while she joined their friends on a section of river well known for its waterfalls and drops of 10 to 15 feet.
“When I first put (afloat) on the river, I didn’t feel quite right,” she said.
Neal crested at the top of the first big drop in the river. She looked down into what she later described as a bottomless pit.
2) ANITA MOORJANI
On February 2, 2006, Anita Moorjani was in a coma. With her body riddled with cancer, doctors told her husband that her organs were shutting down and she likely would not make it beyond the next 36 hours.
“I was just so tired of fighting to try to stay alive,” she said.
Moorjani knew what cancer could do to the body. She had seen it ravage her best friend, Soni, eventually killing her.
So when she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2002, she was afraid.
In a way, Moorjani had always been afraid — of living and of dying.
3) BENJAMIN BREEDLOVE
It was December 18, 2011, a week before Christmas, and 18-year-old Benjamin Breedlove went to his bedroom.
He had spent the day with his family. They had held church at their home in Austin, Texas, because the teenager was ill. Since childhood he had battled hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a heart condition that posed a constant risk of sudden death.
In his short life, Benjamin — Ben as he was known to family and friends — had suffered three heart attacks, including an episode the night before.
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