In the Lectionary

As good as dead: Romans 4:13-25; Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26

Aron Ralston knew he would die before the next morning’s sunrise. Five days earlier he’d been walking a trail in a narrow desert canyon in Utah and had climbed down from a large chockstone along his route. A chockstone is a huge boulder that’s wedged between other stones or canyon walls. This one may have been there for hundreds of years, but when Ralston came down, he somehow loosened the boulder, and it fell on him. When it stopped, the stone was wedged against both canyon walls, and his right wrist was between one of those walls and the boulder.

For five days, this experienced climber tried a thousand plans and a thousand variations on a plan to get himself free using the climbing equipment he had brought along. Ralston even considered amputating his arm, but his only available knife was not sharp enough. He had water and food for only a daylong hike, so he tried to ration it. As his struggle continued and the hours passed, Ralston reached into his backpack to get his video camera, and for several days he recorded his thoughts, speaking into the camera and addressing himself to all his loved ones in a farewell. Ralston figured that someone would eventually come across his body and deliver the tape to his family. As the fifth evening of his ordeal approached, he felt certain he would die that night, probably of hypothermia. With his knife he etched a date on the canyon wall to complete an epitaph he had been writing over the past few days:

OCT 75
APR 03

To his surprise, however, he survived the night, and in the morning a new idea came to him—a divine revelation, he felt. He understood what he had to do to cut off his arm. He knew his knife could never cut through his bones, but realized that if he twisted his body enough, the boulder and the canyon wall would function as a vise grip until his forearm bones snapped. After that, he could cut the remaining muscle and nerves. He succeeded. He was able to amputate his arm, went looking for help and encountered the search party that was looking for him.

When a National Public Radio interviewer asked Ralston about his decision, he replied: