A year ago, on one of the scariest days of my life, I sat helpless and watched as a team of medical professionals vaulted into action. That pinched nerve in my neck? The problem I hadn’t sought help for in three days? And the tingling fingers?

Another day of rest wasn’t going to heal what ailed me.

I’d had a stroke. Well, three strokes, if you want to be precise about it. I just hadn’t sought any medical attention after the first two.

So a year ago, I sat in a hospital bed for a few days as a steady parade of professionals stopped by to tell me how things were going to change. How they needed to change.

And then they left it to my wife and friends to convince me that no matter what, things were going to be just fine.

Today, a year removed from that ordeal, I’m happy to be able to tell you that my wife was right.

Things are just fine. More importantly, I think, is this: Today, I’m more apt to recognize just how fortunate I am.

Earlier this year, I had the chance to meet up with a group of guys and share stories on the river that runs through our community. Each of us had been through a few challenges since we’d last been together, and on a sunny spring day, we gathered on the banks of the Penobscot and shared stories.

A year earlier, I may have viewed that day as just another fishing outing, one of many that I’d enjoy over the course of the year.

But this time, it felt different. Better. More special. Worth remembering.

Because this year, I took the time to realize that there’s no guarantee we’d ever be able to relive that moment. Any future reunion of our small group would be a gift worth savoring.

And that’s how I’ve chosen to move forward throughout the year. I’ve tried to move a bit more slowly, stopped to take in the scenes that present themselves on a daily basis, and truly appreciate what’s in front of me.

Of course, that’s not the sort of thing a guy can really blather on about at the dinner table at moose camp.

Ah, moose camp.

Again this year, my buddies and I had the chance to make some memories while spending a week trying to fill my tag. We eventually succeeded, in more ways than one. We’ve got plenty of tales to relive in the coming years, and we certainly learned a lot. And, I recognize that after winning two permits in 11 years, I’ve been more fortunate than most.

That’s not to say that I don’t want to moose hunt again, mind you. I’d just love for one of my buddies who hasn’t been drawn to be the lucky one next time around. I’ll be happy to pitch in as needed.

Over the past year, I’ve discovered that I get fatigued a bit more than I did before my health woes, and that my body reacts differently to exertion and weather extremes. I’ve learned (after 15 years of living otherwise) that doctors aren’t to be avoided, and regular appointments can save your life.

I’ve savored sunrises over moosey-looking clearcuts, and sunsets on a tropical beach.

I’ve especially enjoyed watching my stepchildren at their plays and athletic events.

I’ve enjoyed sharing stories with BDN readers … and listening to stories that I don’t get to tell.

And I’ve made an effort to appreciate each and every trip afield as it unfolds, rather than months or years later.

As we enjoy this holiday season with our families and friends, I hope you’ll join me in taking special care to appreciate those moments.

Thanks for the last year, and all of the kind words you’ve shared with me and mine when things weren’t going so great.

Here’s to many happy years ahead.

John Holyoke can be reached at jholyoke@bangordailynews.com or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke

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John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...