Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ten Degrees of Reckoning: A True Story of Survival

(Just read this on AOL and wanted to share the comment at the end, especially, with you.)

Ten Degrees of Reckoning: A True Story of Survival

The Sleavin Family

By Michelle Burford

In 1993, the Sleavin family set out on a dream voyage. Santa Clarita, California, residents Michael and Judith Sleavin, along with their two children, Ben and Annie, loaded up their 47-foot sailboat with plans to circumnavigate the globe in five years. Three years into their journey -- around 2 a.m. on November 24, 1995 -- a South Korean cargo ship altered its course by a mere 10 degrees and barreled into the Sleavins' boat just off the coast of New Zealand.

Ben, then age nine, went down with the sailboat; Michael, Judith and Annie scrambled onto a rubber dinghy. They waved and screamed for help from the colliding ship's crew, but instead of throwing them a lifeline, they left the family to perish in the icy, tumultuous seas of the South Pacific. When Annie, then age seven, was swept away in a wave, Michael attempted to swim out and save her. Both Michael and Annie drowned as Judith -- the lone survivor who'd broken her back and fractured her skull -- watched in horror.

Judith Sleavin has never spoken publicly about the horrendous events of that day -- until now. In "Ten Degrees of Reckoning," she describes the joyful moments she shared with her family on their sailboat; what happened in the 44 hours after she witnessed her family's death; and how she eventually found her way to shore, clinging only to a deflated dinghy and the hope that she'd survive long enough to recount the calamity. Sleavin chose her longtime friend and fellow sailor, Hester Rumberg -- the godmother of Judith's daughter, Annie -- to put her story into writing. AOL Health asked Rumberg to reveal how Judith Sleavin has turned an unthinkable loss into a reason to live her life even more fully and deliberately.

[What follows this is a written interview with Rumberg about Judith Sleavin.  But the lesson for us all, I think, is contained in her final paragraph below -- my bolded parts]

I'm a sailor myself, so I've been out at sea, 30,000 or 40,000 miles, and I know that it can be treacherous. I also know that the day-to-day challenges can be just as treacherous. Our little moments, those little celebrations -- they're not so little. When you have a conversation with someone, and the connection fills you with glee, that's not a small thing. I don't know why we're so infatuated with the thought that we have to wait to live well -- wait until we have more time, more money or even a partner. Every day, we can love whoever is in our lives. We can tell people how we feel about them. We can learn to be as hopeful as Judy is. She's one of the most optimistic people I know, even in the face of injustice and tragedy. She has decided that if she doesn't live joyfully, it would be a betrayal to the way she asked her family to live. That's why I think she's a hero for our times.