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This is my first question ever. Sorry for the lack of brevity. What word would describe a life-saving moment?

When my father was taken prisoner in WWII, he was prodded, by a soldier's bayonet in his spine, into a large tent. His arms were high in the air. A young private who looked very stressed was standing 10 feet in front of my father. He suddenly charged towards my captive father with his rifle's bayonet aimed at his abdomen. A sergeant quickly raised his leg and kicked the private's rifle aside so the bayonet missed my father's body by a couple of inches.

Decades later, as he held an infant, his first grandchild in his arms, my father muttered something about, "That sergeant's big boot." If not for that life-saving moment, not my dad, nor his son, nor his grandson would exist.

What word is appropriate for such a life-saving moment? Thanks very much.

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    If you don't mind religious overtones, maybe "moment of grace". – GoldenGremlin Feb 23 '16 at 2:47
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He'll never forget that fateful gesture.

(The word fateful usually refers to bad events, but not always. The event you describe is in fact ominous, even though it turned out OK.)

Another possibility is pivotal, though I'm not sure it's the best fit for this context.

  • +1 to fateful, very appropriate. crucial is also relevant via crux, which I mention because it's a noun and not an adjective. But those nouns, like watershed, crisis, whatever-- they are appropriate if life is part of some dramatic arc. This sort of moment is just fickle fate. – stevesliva Feb 23 '16 at 6:22
  • LOL - That just reminded me of the Fickle Finger of Fate Award from the classic TV comedy "Laugh In." – David Blomstrom Feb 24 '16 at 1:17
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A common idiom for this is brush with death.

brush with death - an instance of nearly dying.

This phrase has the benefit of not necessarily implying that the event is epiphanic or pivotal or character-changing. It's just a mere brush with death, to make of it what you will.

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You could consider using "life-and-death" or "lifr-or-death" to describe the situation. It means:

extremely important and serious especially because your survival or life may depend on success

Your example:

It was my father's life-or-death moment when the sergeant quickly raised his leg and kicked the private's rifle aside so the bayonet missed my father's body by a couple of inches.

[Merriam-Webster]

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providential might fit the bill.

Happening at a good time because of luck M-W

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Salvation: "If not for that salvation, not my dad, nor his son, nor his grandson would exist."

3.a. preservation from destruction or failure

3.b. deliverance from danger or difficulty

[Merriam-Webster]

It's a bit on-the-nose, but then, that's sort of what we're going for...


FWIW, I'd use neither rather than not: "If not for that salvation, neither my dad, nor his son, nor his grandson would exist."

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My sentence: If the sergeant was late by a whisker, my dad, nor his son, nor his grandson would be existing today!

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