When our daughters were much younger, we went on a family “adventure” to the Fantasyland Hotel in West Edmonton Mall and took in a ride in the submarine. After boarding, the hatch closed, and as we “descended,” the guide began safety instructions. The moment she said, “if any of you get claustrophobic…” I immediately started hyperventilating. My heart was racing and felt like it would explode. I was nauseous and dizzy. My lifelong fear of closed spaces took over and I went into a full-blown anxiety attack.
My family knew what was happening. Chandra got the guide’s attention who helped me ascend through the safety hatch. I climbed out the escape trunk, got into a row boat in the middle of a mall in six feet of water, and was escorted to back to pier.
We’ve had lots of good laughs about it all over the years. But underneath the humor, there is a deep respect for each other in our family. We all understand that anxiety is no laughing matter.
A few years after the submarine incident, we went caving in Northern Utah. We all knew this would be a challenge for me. I sweated it for weeks before we got there.
At Timpanogos Cave, I learned we would be 90 minutes in a confined space. “You don’t have to do this, Dad,” my young girls kindly said. The first thing I did was tell the guide, Royce, about my claustrophobia. He looked me right in the eyes with kindness and care that I’ll never forget. He gave me the flashlight and said, “Come right up front, right beside me. We’ll get you through this. You aren’t alone.”
I did get through it. One step at a time. With the love and support of my family and Royce, who guided me, not just through the cave, but to a newfound bravery and courage.
At the end of a tour, Royce shares his passion and love for these magnificent caves and offers a challenge:
“Most of us will never discover a cave, but each of us has an opportunity to discover something that we truly care about, something that we love. It might be music, mathematics, art, dance, languages, science, athletics, neighborhood parks, or a million other things. Just as our lives are better today because of the Timpanogos Cave Committee, the challenge is for us to use our energies and talents so that one-hundred years from now, life will be better for people and for this planet because we were here.”