Author’s Note: As I watched my grandson graduate college last month, I recalled the time we spent together eight years ago. I want to share this post with you again today. ~Ronnie
Tonight I write from a little cottage on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, where I’ve come to visit my daughter. I’ve brought my 13-year old grandson Spencer, with hopes he will put down computer games long enough to witness a few rainbows and sunsets, take in some snorkeling and learn to surf.
Spencer and I have settled into a routine here on the island. Easy going. There is something to be said about a 13-year old boy and 64-year old woman getting along as well as we do. Each night after dinner, we insert a DVD and watch a movie together before going to bed.
Last night, we watched “Castaway” starring Tom Hanks. In the movie, Hanks plays a FedEx manager who is stranded on an uninhabited island after his plane crashes in the South Pacific. The film depicts the hunger, loneliness, and pain he endures. As days turn into years, Hanks grows thinner, more bearded and more desperate, and we learn that he has several times, contemplated suicide.
Hanks endures immense hardship for four years until one day the flat wall of a portable toilet washes up on the island and he uses it to construct a raft to escape. He sails into the open sea, only to encounter more storms and challenges before being picked up by a passing boat. He returns to find that he has been declared dead and the woman he loved has married another.
As I watched the movie, I couldn’t help but think of the similarities between Hanks’ journey and that of survivors of suicide. Survivors are also cast unexpectedly into a challenging and lonely existence that tests their ability to endure, survive and maintain hope. Survivors also sometimes contemplate suicide. And like Hanks, survivors are also forever altered by their experience.
Towards the end of the movie, in a quiet conversation, Hanks described his ordeal and what he learned. I want to share that conversation with you here. I believe his lesson is one that applies to us all.
“ … I was never gonna get off that island. I was gonna die there, totally alone. I mean I was gonna get sick or I was gonna get injured or something. The only choice I had the only thing I could control was when and how and where that was gonna happen. So I made a rope and I went up to a summit to hang myself. But I had to test it, you know?
Of course, you know me. And the weight of the log snapped the limb of the tree. So I couldn’t even kill myself the way I wanted to. I had power over nothing. And that’s when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive.
Somehow, I had to keep breathing, even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that’s what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And then one day that logic was proven all wrong, because the tide came in, gave me a sail.
And now, here I am. I’m back In Memphis, talking to you. I have ice in my glass. … And I now know what I have to do. I gotta keep breathing because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?”