Posted by: ritagone | February 10, 2010

The Survivor’s Club

I just finished reading a great book that I highly recommend to anyone out there looking for some fascinating non-fiction reading.  I don’t even know where I got the recommendation or how I wound up owning this book.  It’s called “The Survivors Club,” and it’s by Ben Sherwood.

In the book, Sherwood shares the amazing stories of survivors of all kinds of calamities and situations that would normally kill – and have killed – others in the same situations.  There’s the story of the lady who accidentally fell on her knitting needles, went into the house where her knitting buddies were gathering, only to discover that one of the needles had pierced her heart!  What saved her?  Not pulling the needle out, among other things, which, later, most medical experts said would have resulted in her immediate death.  And in fact they talked about Australian crocodile hunter Steve Irwin and his fatal mistake of yanking out the stinger of a bull ray when he was stung in the chest in 2006.

Or the man who survived a plane crash because he took the time beforehand to see where the exits were and figured out an escape route should he need it.  Which he did.

Or those who survived cataclysmic vehicle crashes: bicyclists, drivers of cars, pedestrians.  What makes the difference between survival and death?  Split-second decisions that turn out to be the right thing to do.

The book is filled with much interesting information, the kind you hope you never need.  For example, did you know that the safest place to have a heart attack is in a casino, where the employees have been trained to administer CPR and have defibrillation machines on hand.  I may gamble more just to be safe.

Cats survive falls from tall buildings because they automatically spread their limbs to evenly distribute the airflow, they lift their heads up and relax.  I’ll remember that the next time I lean out of the skyscraper in New York when I’m there.  And I’m determined to learn to “hug the monster,” which, in the parlance of the Air Force, which means: wrap your arms around your fear, wrestle it under control, and turn it into a driving force in your plan of attack.  That’s the story of many of the people Sherwood interviewed and wrote about in his book.

Then there’s the story of the young woman who was mountain biking  in a very remote area of Southern California when a mountain lion attacked her, ripping off her entire face and nearly ending her life.  How did she survive this attack?  Her girlfriend – rather than running – inserted herself into the fray and helped to drive the murderous cat away.  “Doctors quickly determined that the lion’s fangs had nicked her spinal column and sliced within a hair of her jugular vein, carotid artery, and windpipe.”  Many surgeries later to restore her face, she credits her faith in God for enabling her to survive.

Or the lady who was jogging in Central Park when she was brutally attacked, raped, and left for dead.  Instead, she survived.  She became a member of the Survivor Club.

And what enables some to overcome and recover such horrible happenings in their lives?  Their faith in some instances.  Their desire to live in others.  The feeling that their lives were not over yet, that they still had plenty to do and much to appreciate in life.

Are some people luckier than others?  Are some more resilient than others?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  Is it just that God has a plan for some that involves and includes their lives going on while for others He is ready to call them to eternity?

At the end of the book, Sherwood shares some memories of his grandmother, who was herself a survivor, losing her husband at any early age, raising two children, graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Nebraska, dying at the ripe old age of 98.  When bad things happened or her friends started passing away, she always remarked: “We hang by a thread.”

And that’s a thought from the book that has continued to haunt me: we hang by a thread.  Each one of us could be gone tomorrow.  Or later today.  No one knows how much time he or she has on this earth.  So each breath, each second becomes valuable, precious, rare.

That’s what I want to remember today: that my life is hanging by a thread, and that I’d better breathe and breathe and work and pray and laugh and love and be busy about the Lord’s work.  Because a day is coming when that thread that I’m hanging by will snap…and that’s the end of it, or at least of the life I know now.

So remember today that thread.  Think about these people who survived disasters and who realized afterwards that their lives were spared for a reason.  After all, a second chance is nothing to ignore.

Regards,  Rita


  1. This will probably make you laugh: I told a missionary friend of mine that Survivors Club was a great book, but it turns out there are actually 2 books with that title. Unfortunately, she read the one that was, well, more than a little risque. And she read it the whole way through, she says, because I recommended it. So, the moral is, Rita has great taste in books, if you read the ones she is actually recommending.

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