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18-meter fall with Erica Tait

Episode #51
English Level: intermediate
Accent: Unitied States (New Jersey)

About the story

Erica shares a story of falling off an 18-meter cliff. Find out what she saw in those moments between life and death, and learn about the amazing power of our minds. 

If you’re here, it means you’re listening to our podcast Into the Story, and you’re ready to take your English to the next level while you learn something else about life! Below, you’ll discover incredibly valuable learning materials to make the most of this episode to improve your English. 

Quote of the episode

“I am not my body. Like there’s something inside of me that is separate than my physical body”


[00:00:00] Bree: Hello, hello! Welcome to Into the Story. If you are a new listener, then welcome. And if you’re already a listener, then welcome back. I am your host, Bree. And today we are going to travel to the southwest of England. Now, if you were to imagine the map of the UK, it kind of looks like a person sitting down in a chair. Now way down there at the feet. This is a place called Cornwall.

[00:00:32] Cornwall is like a gorgeous painting of countryside with green fields and Hills and tall cliffs along the Atlantic Ocean. The villages are like scenes from a storybook, with cute little houses and gardens full of beautiful flowers and friendly residents. Now today’s storyteller. Michael Laver’s is from Cornwall.

[00:00:57] And he lived there for the first 20 years of his life, but he was a restless kid and teenager, he wanted change. He wanted big things for his life. And he tried 16 different jobs. He was looking for something. He felt lost. He just didn’t know where life was going.

[00:01:19] Michael: All of the people around me, friends and family, of had this more town countryside mindset. And for me, I always wanted something a bit maybe a bit bigger, exploring the world, seeing what’s out there. I wasn’t happy to just sit in the same town for my whole life.

[00:01:34] Bree: Today, Michael tells us the story of the day that everything changed and he decided to leave Cornwall and search for something more.

[00:01:42] Just one more thing, if you haven’t already then follow Into the Story in your podcast app so that you never miss a new episode, it also helps other listeners find it. So thanks for supporting the show.

[00:01:58] Okay. It’s time for five words and expressions that Michael uses in today’s story. The first.

[00:02:11] Something that sticks. So in today’s story, you’ll hear Michael say to see what sticks. So something that sticks actually sticks onto it becomes attached to. So when we use this metaphorically, it means to try different options or ideas to see which ones are successful. And we can use this and our personal lives. To say, trying different things to see what works for us or to see what makes us happy. For example, I have been trying different hobbies to see what sticks.

[00:02:58] Or a company could say that they have been trying different ad campaigns to see what sticks with their audience.

[00:03:07] Something that sticks.

[00:03:10] The next one is to let loose. To let loose means to release control, to relax, to allow yourself to enjoy and have fun. So we often use to let loose to talk about taking a break and enjoying some leisure time.

[00:03:36] For example, after a really busy week at work, Sarah decided to let loose and have a fun weekend at the beach.

[00:03:46] Or the team let loose at the office party celebrating the successful project. To let loose.

[00:03:56] Next to see something coming or to not see something coming. So if we see something coming, it means we are aware of it. We anticipated.

[00:04:13] And if we don’t see something coming, then we’re not aware of it. We don’t anticipate it.

[00:04:19] For example, the weather forecast warned residents of the winter storm, so they could see it coming and had everything prepared.

[00:04:28] To see or not to see something coming.

[00:04:33] Next to have a word. To have a word means to talk briefly or have a conversation with someone, usually in private. For example, the manager wanted to have a word with the employee and give them some feedback on their performance.

[00:04:55] Or he asked his friend, if he could have a word about something. To have a word. And finally to have something lined up. So when you talk about having something lined up, it means that you have something plant. And usually refers to having an alternative or backup plan ready?

[00:05:24] Before she decided to leave her current job, she made sure to have something lined up. Or he wouldn’t move to a new city and less, he had an apartment lined up beforehand. To have something lined up.

[00:05:43] As always, you have an extended vocabulary list, the transcript, and a listening comprehension quiz on our website. I will leave you a link in the show notes. Okay. It’s that time, let’s get Into the Story.

[00:06:02] Michael: I am from Cornwall, which is in the southwest of the UK. Not far from France across the, across the sea. So it’s a very rural place. Lots of countryside, not really any big cities, anything like that. Yeah, it’s really nice in some sense because it’s nice to be surrounded by countryside. But also, it kind of left me wondering what, what else was out there, you know? One interesting thing about me in terms of jobs that surprises a lot of people is I had 16 different jobs between the ages of 16 and 21. So my very first job was when I was 16 and I. Changed, several times a year

[00:06:43] Bree: During this time in his life, Michael did lots of different types of jobs.

[00:06:49] The first one was delivering newspapers in the mornings. A job that he didn’t like very much, he got chased by dogs and he got paid five pounds a week. So he left that job and tried many, many others.

[00:07:06] Michael: I did things like, uh, working in the kitchen of a pub, which was very stressful, very busy pub. Uh, I did an overnight shift in a factory 12-hour night shift, which was soul-destroying. Really hated that. Uh, I also worked in toy shops. I also started my own business where I sold plants online at one point, like selling flowers and stuff online. I think this just kind of goes to show you that I really couldn’t decide on what I wanted to do. I couldn’t pin one thing down because I was always finding that next thing and trying to see what stuck, because I just felt so lost at the time. I, I didn’t know where my life was going.

[00:07:48] Bree: After trying all of these jobs, Michael really felt lost. He was searching for something. But one thing that he did know was that he loved gardening. He loved being outside. He loved having his hands in the dirt and the sun on his face. And then he saw a job being advertised.

[00:08:10] Michael: So I saw a gardening position open up, uh, at a crematorium, which is a facility or a place that—it might be a bit morbid to talk about—but essentially it burns dead bodies, so people who have passed away, it turns their bodies into ashes. And yeah, I thought, why not? It,

[00:08:32] Bree: Michael applied and he got the gardening job. Which meant that he would be taking care of the gardens outside of the crematorium and the funeral home.

[00:08:44] Michael: I loved being out in nature, planting flowers, uh, just being out in the sun, getting my hands in the earth. I really loved that. Uh, it was quite a large area with a little gravestones that we had to take care of and make, make sure everything look nice. It was challenging in, in some sense, dealing with, the, the people mourning there, mourning meaning, you know, grieving, crying, uh, that at the beginning it was a bit strange, being around, death so much. But as time went by, I feel like I, it became more normal for me. And then I started to see it more like a natural part of life, like rather than something to be afraid of. Uh, when you’re around it all the time, it kind of becomes more…just more natural, more normal.

[00:09:30] Bree: Michael was enjoying being a gardener at the crematorium. Even though it was a little bit strange at first being around death all the time, he eventually got used to it and he was doing a good job. Then, kind of unexpectedly, he was promoted, from gardener to head gardener.

[00:09:51] Michael: On an average day working, when I was a head gardener, we’d get in quite early. I would get very organized, write out all the jobs in the garden, on the whiteboard, in our little, uh, kind of shed office, our outside office room. And I would kind of organize the jobs. So I would, I would, uh, delegate the jobs to the different gardeners. Say, okay, you are gonna do this job, you’re gonna do this job. And it most days went quite well. A lot of it was just planting flowers and tidying up some neglected gravestones, that kind of stuff. Um, occasionally there was a day where we had to build a little grave ourselves with cement it in and stuff like that.

But the downside —it depends how you look at it— but perhaps the downside of that title of head gardener is when the main cremation technician was on holiday. That’s the person who works inside the crematorium. I had to do his job, I had to take over for that, uh, with the deceased people. So that’s very different from gardening.

[00:10:59] It’s not exactly what I signed up for,

[00:11:01] Bree: Indeed, working inside the crematorium wasn’t exactly what Michael had in mind. Now as a head gardener, he was working very hard. Sometimes 10-hour days. There were days when he was outside. And then there were some days when he was inside being the cremation technician.

[00:11:23] Michael: So there are two parts of the building where there is a kind of Funeral room where the services do take place. And it is, uh, it looks fairly fancy and it is got like a huge window overlooking the countryside at the end. So it’s quite beautiful, actually. It’s quite a beautiful way to say goodbye to your loved ones. And then the adjacent room, the next room is the cremation room, which

[00:11:50] Uh, you’ve only got this like fluorescent light on the ceiling to work under and, and yeah, there are kind of like steel tables and computers around where you can change the settings of all the equipment you need. Yeah, overall I’d say it’s quite a dull place to work in. And of course it is a high risk job.

[00:12:07] Uh, there are very high, uh, temperatures you’re dealing with there. Uh, the fires in the crematorium can go up to like 900 degrees Celsius, incredibly hot.

[00:12:17] So there’s of course a risk of, of burning down the building if something goes wrong. 

[00:12:26] Bree: Working as the cremation technician is really high stress and high risk. Michael’s mindset at the time was kind of a continuation of how he had been feeling this past five years. He’s had 16 jobs now and he still can’t stop thinking: Where am I going? Is this all there is for me. What’s next.

[00:12:50] Michael: All of the people around me, friends and family, uh, kind of had this more town countryside mindset. Again, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but for me, I always wanted something a bit different, maybe a bit bigger, exploring the world, seeing what’s out there.

[00:13:06] I wasn’t happy to just sit. In the same town for my whole life. And I suppose getting promoted at a fairly young age, I kind of felt I should be proud of that, I should be content, but it just wasn’t enough for me. I wasn’t happy to do that for the rest of my life. So

[00:13:26] There was one day in particular where I would say my life took a whole new path. So, I. This was a cremation day for me while I was working inside, and I was working with the cremation technician.

[00:13:41] He was like training me and we were working together. But as a result of all that, I had said before, uh, the stress, the long hours, uh, my relationship with my girlfriend at the time had been struggling, you know, for, for some time there. Nothing too unusual, nothing too surprising, but just things like arguments, we weren’t able to spend enough time together and it caused a lot of problems like that. And in addition to that,

[00:14:10] because of that job, because of the long hours. I was also going out on the weekend and going partying. You know, I was in my early twenties. So I think there’s that kind of vicious cycle there of stress during the week on the weekday and then letting loose and having fun on the weekend, And I suppose if I’m being honest with myself, I was taking out a lot of my stress from the work from her, which really wasn’t fair, her at all. So I was kind of beginning to see how it was affecting our relationship and also affecting her, and it didn’t feel great. That I was doing that, and there was one specific moment where I had to push a coffin in.

[00:14:54] And the tables, they have like a, a, mechanism that helps roll the coffin forward so you’re not pushing it all yourself. Because I think that would be incredibly hard, but kind of pushing the table so you are using your strength to push it in and the kind of wheels on the table do the rest of the work.So it is possible if you don’t push hard enough, uh, it could not go in all the way.

[00:15:16] And that’s, that’s a really big problem. So there is some stress there. It’s not as simple as just pushing a button. 

[00:15:21] And actually on that specific day, just by chance there was like a inspector, someone from higher up, coming in to like inspect the building and, uh, inspecting the machines, and I kind of wanted to impress him right at that moment. I probably shouldn’t have been on my phone, but for some reason I was, and I received a text that kind of suggested, splitting up. It was from my girlfriend and it was like, maybe we shouldn’t be together anymore. And this was a culmination of all

[00:15:51] of the stress and arguments that we’d been having, and I just didn’t see it coming. It really took me by surprise. I didn’t know what to think at that point. And it just happened to be right before it was my turn to Uh, load the coffin.

[00:16:05] Bree: Michael is standing in this dark, dull room with fluorescent lights. He can feel the heat of the fire. He’s standing in front of the coffin Uh, coffin is the place where we put the body of a dead person.

[00:16:20] And after seeing this message from his girlfriend.

[00:16:24] Saying that she doesn’t want to be with him anymore, something inside of him breaks.

[00:16:31] Michael: my heart sunk that I could feel like in my chest just a sinking, because And I started to shake, like my whole body was shaking. And, you know, perhaps this is partly because when you’re younger, relationships seem so important and serious, and especially when you’re young, you kind of think it’s gonna last forever.

[00:16:51]  You know, when I was that age, I thought, okay, this is, this is what’s gonna happen. I’m gonna be with this person forever. And that was set in my mind. That was one, that was perhaps the one thing in my life that was sure, it was constant.

[00:17:02] And then when it all came crashing down with that text, I kind of had that realization that, perhaps my life isn’t going the way I thought it was going, and it was very shocking.

[00:17:13] Bree: He’s in complete shock, and he knows that there’s no way that he can do the task. He can’t push the coffin. His hands are physically shaking.

[00:17:25] So he looks up at his boss. The person who’s training him and says that he’s really sorry. He’s just got some bad news, and he has to go.

[00:17:33] Michael: So at that point I just went outside. I stood behind the building, kind of overlooking the garden, uh, looked at the sky and I just like burst into tears. I couldn’t control my emotions. I’m not usually a very emotional person, but in this instance it just came flowing out and, uh, I guess it wasn’t just The fact that I might be breaking up with my partner, but it was just all of everything at once. It was the stress, the lack of, direction in my life. It all just kind of came and hit me in that moment, and I, I think I stood there with tears coming down. It felt like hours.

[00:18:12] So after I had calmed down there for a bit, I spoke to my boss, like the big boss of the, of the, of the crematorium and said, can we have a word? I, I wanna talk to you about something. And she had heard what happened with me, so I think she was curious. So we went into the office and we had a talk about it, and I, I could have knew right then, like what I wanted to do,

[00:18:36] so I just said, I think I need to leave. I need to quit. Um, it’s not working for me. I explained the reason was because of my relationship possibly breaking down and I don’t think I want to jeopardize that and damage that anymore. And she was really, really understanding. She was really sweet. She said It’s totally fine.

[00:18:56] Yeah, you can, you’re welcome back anytime. And I kind of lied and said, yeah, I want to come back. I think I just need a break for a, a little while. But inside I knew that I wasn’t coming back. Uh, So that was the last day I ever worked inside the crematorium.

[00:19:12] I felt some sense of relief that I was perhaps for the first time, taking some control in my life and doing something. Uh, a little bit drastic, you know, quitting my job when I didn’t have another job lined up. But during that time I was deciding what to do next, and I decided just to travel, because travel was the only thing that I really felt like could fix me. I had this kind of obsession with leaving the country, seeing the world, and I knew when I did that I would be fixed. Everything would be fine. And I kind of spontaneously, a trip to Japan for one month. I had never traveled alone before, and for some reason I thought, let’s go to Japan for one month on my own. That will be a great idea.

[00:19:58] So my trip to Japan. Was interesting. You know, it had good stuff and bad stuff. It, it wasn’t, it wasn’t all perfect like I imagined, but one big takeaway from that trip was how difficult it is to talk another language and the struggles that I had to overcome. In terms of overcoming shyness and overcoming these self-limiting beliefs when it comes to learning a language. There’s so much in terms of self-development and about your own skills that come into play.

[00:20:29] Bree: Michael’s trip to Japan didn’t fix everything. But he did become interested in language learning, based on his own experience, learning Japanese. And as soon as he got back, he started working on his own teaching business. And he says that looking back, this moment of quitting his job as the head gardener at the crematorium led him to where he is now. And it was something that did feel really negative and scary, but he can see that it’s led to so much positivity in his life. Michael and I had a really nice chat after he told me his story and we spoke about something that we both enjoy, which is meditation and trying to live in the present moment. So I had to ask him, did he learn anything else from his time working at the crematorium?

[00:21:25] Michael: You know, that there were moments where I would see a coffin and think one day that will be me. You know? And perhaps to some people it can seem negative, but I really think it can be positive because as soon as you realize that life is not forever that you know your life —experiencing the world now is limited—  becomes a lot more beautiful. You appreciate everything a lot more because you feel so lucky to be able to experience it.

[00:21:56] Bree: If you haven’t yet discovered Michael’s podcast level up English, then I recommend that you do. I was lucky enough to be invited on his show and I share my own personal story of exactly what Michael just spoke about now.

[00:22:15] I tell a story about when I lost someone very close to me—when we say lose someone, it means that a person dies—and I lost someone close to me and I realized that life is not forever. And then I went on a mission to live more presently, to live more in the moment. Which led me to a 10-day silent meditation retreat. Anyways, if you would like to hear that story on Michael’s podcast level up English,

[00:22:45] then you can follow the link that I will leave you in the show notes, which is the description of this podcast episode.

[00:22:53] Okay, friends, that is all for this episode of, Into the Story. This week, I got an email from one of our newsletter subscribers. Her name is Laura, and she said that she loves the podcast and she has shared it with two friends. So thank you, Laura. I really, really appreciate it. If you would like to join our newsletter community. Then you can visit and subscribe. It’s absolutely free. And we send a couple of emails a month. You can also follow the podcast on Instagram or YouTube @intothestorypodcast. Or send me an email—

[00:23:36] I would love to hear from you. It is Okay, until we meet again, I hope that you have a good time or at least a good story to tell. 

Episode Vocabulary

In order of appearence in the episode.

* Key vocabulary mentioned in the episode


Appreciating or looking at and enjoying the nice appearance of something.
Example: Samantha stood by the window, taking in the beauty of the sunrise.


To identify someone, something, or in today’s story, a feeling.
Example: I saw a girl at the market today and I couldn’t place her, but after I left I remembered that I know her from work.


The outer or furthest point of a cliff or the boundary of a river.
Example: The couple sat on the edge of the cliff, enjoying the breathtaking view below.


Sliding unexpectedly or being smooth and hard to hold onto, like a wet floor or soap.
Example: Be careful not to slip on the wet floor after it rains. The road is slippery after it rains.


To lose consciousness or memory temporarily. Example: After the intense workout, Sarah pushed herself so hard that she blacked out momentarily.


In a way that suggests the occurrence of a miracle; extraordinarily. Example: Miraculously, the missing cat returned home after being lost for a week.


Experiencing a lack of air or discomfort due to restricted breathing.
Example: The tight scarf felt suffocating, making it hard for her to breathe.


When you get hit on the head, it can hurt your brain temporarily, and that’s called a concussion. Example: After the car crash, she suffered a concussion and needed medical attention.


Something that is not known or experienced before; unprecedented. Example: In our small town, such an act of kindness was unheard of until the stranger paid for everyone’s groceries.

A SENSE OF (SOMETHING): A feeling or perception of something.
Example: Walking through the old bookstore, there was a sense of nostalgia in the air.

In this story, Erica talks about a sense of peace, which means a feeling of tranquility or calmness. Example: Sitting by the ocean at sunset, he felt a profound sense of peace washing over him.


An intense personal experience, often of a spiritual nature, occurring close to the point of death. Example: Surviving the plane crash gave John a near-death experience that changed his outlook on life.

*VAGUE MEMORIES: Not clear memories of things that happened in the past. Example: As she grew older, her childhood became a collection of vague memories.

TO FLASH BEFORE MY EYES: A sudden and vivid recollection or memory, often occurring rapidly. Example: In the accident, moments of her life flashed before her eyes, reminding her of cherished memories. You may also hear someone speak about A memory flashes when talking about a quick recall of something from the past. Example: When asked about his childhood, he had a flash of remembering a favorite toy he used to play with.

*CASTS: Hard coverings, like a strong bandage, that doctors put on a broken arm or leg to help it heal. Example: After breaking his arm, Mark had to wear a cast for several weeks.

WHEELCHAIR: A chair with wheels used by people who cannot walk due to illness, injury, or disability. Example: After the accident, he relied on a wheelchair for mobility.

RUSH OF EMOTION: A sudden and intense surge of feelings. Example: Winning the championship brought a rush of emotion, including joy and pride.

GRATITUDE: The quality of being thankful or appreciative. Example: Expressing gratitude for the small acts of kindness can make a significant impact on someone’s day.

AWE: A feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder. Example: Standing beneath the towering waterfall, they were filled with awe at the sheer power of nature.

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Our guest's images

Episode 51 Into the Story Podcast: Erica Tait in the news. “The luckiest person alive!”

Erica Tait in the news. “The luckiest person alive!”

Episode 51 Into the story podcast:Erica Tait meditation and yoga

Erica Tait has now a therapy center and helps others to heal.

More about Erica Tait

Erica Tait is a psychotherapist who combines spiritual and body-based approaches in her work. Today, she owns a practice with 10 therapists, helping people using both Western psychology and spirituality because she’s learned they’re both important for healing. Find out more at or follow her on Instagram @Quantumtherapynj

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