Become A Moral Compass

“So…I made a rope and I went up to the summit to hang myself. 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–I–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 one day, my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in and 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’ve lost her all over again. I’m so sad that I don’t have Kelly. But I’m so grateful that she was with me on that island.

“And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?”

Treading Water

When I awaken in the hospital on day two, I’m told I will have to stay overnight again. I decide to take my own advice and tread water.

I sit quietly as tests are performed; I smile confidently as a steady parade of family and friends come to see me. I say good night to my wife with a quivering lip as we spend the first nights apart since we were married.

And I wonder if I’ll get any answers as to why this has happened to me.

And then on the third day, a new doctor stops by. He is holding a chart at the foot of my bed, and he is not smiling. I sit up and nod because I suddenly see he is my plastic sail that has just washed ashore. He nods back.

“Your blood pressure is down, and you will be going home today.”

I smile because my sail has caught the wind, but he does not smile back.

“I overheard you talking to your children yesterday,” he says. “It sounded almost poetic the way you told them about a man’s inability to control things.”

I said I am somewhat of a writer and can get creatively carried away occasionally.

He said, “If you don’t start taking better care of yourself, the only thing that’s going to get carried away is you under that sheet.”

I looked at the floor.

“Let’s talk about the things a man can control,” he went on. “I looked up your history. You are supposed to be on blood-pressure medicine, you are supposed to be 25 pounds lighter, you are supposed to be getting bi-annual check-ups. You lost your father at 65 to a sudden heart attack, and you play with these factors? You don’t appear to be a stupid man. How can the medical world help a man who refuses to stand in the place he can be helped? You took yourself off the medicine, you ignored the check-ups, and you have gained weight. Do you think this is some sort of game?”

As the doctor continued his lecture, I realized I had become sloppy about so many things I had stayed on top of for years.

How could I do this to my family? They deserve to have me there for every important moment of their lives.

So in the final analysis, I made a pledge to remain diligent about my duties, even about things I don’t understand; further, I learned it’s unfair for me to expect God’s grace when I’m not exercising a personal control.

In other words, the plastic sail was provided, but I needed to be smart enough to lash it to the raft, steer it into the wind, and chart a course to accomplish the goal. The sail is just a sail–I must find the wind behind it.

Drowning In Reality

Today I am back on my medicine, which has been fine-tuned to meet my needs. I walk the dog a mile each morning and evening, which is good for both of us. My wife joins us most evenings.

Yogurt, cheese, whole wheat, grains, beans, and a great deal of salad have become my mainstays. Folks, I dropped a dozen pounds in no time. This is not a fad–this will be the rest of my life.

We read statistics every day about how unhealthy Americans are, yet we have the power to control this situation.

In other matters–emotional, financial, or social–we endure and seem to find a way to land on our feet. But we fall so short when we have to maintain a healthy lifestyle and set a good example for family and friends.

This isn’t about fad diets, some wacky piece of special gym equipment seen on television, or even counting calories.

It’s about looking inward and finding the strength, understanding that although there is so much that is not in our control in life, we are obliged to keep living before we can expect the grace of dodging bullets as I did last month.

I was lucky and started all over. I invite you to join me.

Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at

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