Grasping for Life

“Grasp my hand!” Mary cried out.

Below her, a man hung precariously on the side of the cliff. His right arm was wrapped tightly around the rock that jutted out from the cliffside. His left hand grasped his right arm to ensure there was no way his stranglehold would come free. His legs dangled precariously into the open air below him. Two hundred feet below pine trees seem to point straight up like many hungry spikes. The stranger refused to look up and only shook his head to Mary’s pleas.

Just four feet above the man Mary laid on the cliff’s edge. Her friend Shelly held her legs in place. Although she could reach the stranger’s head with her fingertips, she knew there was no way she could safely free him from his limbo between life and death.

Mary and Shelly had been walking along when they saw the stranger slip and fall from the edge of the cliff. Although not his fault, it was a careless move. Mary assumed he had grown weary from hiking by the time he reached the parking lot. In a single moment, he stopped paying attention and took a step backward to take a picture of his traveling companion, and now he struggled to stay alive. The young blond who had been with him had rushed off to get help. Now only Mary and Shelly were left to bring hope to a man they did not know.

Mary looked down at the top of the stranger’s black curly hair and asked, “My name is Mary, what’s yours?”

The man continued to look at the cliff, but responded, “Frank, it’s Frank.”

Mary could tell by the strain in his voice that Frank was struggling to hold on. She asked Frank, “What is the name of your friend that was with you?”

“Julie,” was all Frank managed to blurt out.

“It’s going to be okay Frank, Julie went to go get help. They should be here anytime.” Mary could only hope she was right.

“I can’t feel my hand,” Frank said with a tinge of fear in his voice.

“Which hand Frank?”  Mary asked, fearing the worst.

“My right hand and my arm are tingling on this rock. I’m not sure I can hang on.”

Mary knew Frank needed to change his grip, and she feared help would not arrive in time. She laid there panicked, unsure of what to do. What if I try to help him and he falls?  Mary thought to herself while she stared down at Frank. Still, she would not be able to live with herself if she just laid there and watched him fall to his death.

“Frank, listen to me carefully,” Mary began in a confident voice, even though she had no real confidence in her plan. “I want you to give me your left hand.”

“No,” said Frank. You aren’t strong enough to pull me up.

Mary considered arguing the point, but she could already see Frank was easily two-hundred pounds, and her small frame would be unable to pull up that much dead weight by merely holding hands.

Mary pushed her fear away and continued. “I know Frank, but we need to get the blood flowing in your right arm. My friend Shelly is holding my legs, so I’m not going anywhere. ”

From behind her Mary heard Shelly holler, “Hello!”

“I’m not letting go of this rock,” Frank protested.

Mary would not let up. “You have to relax the pressure on your right arm. If you don’t, it’s going to turn numb, and you’ll fall to your death. So, here is what we are going to do to stop that from happening. You’re going to give me your left hand, and we’ll grab each other’s forearms. Then I’m going to take my other hand and grab your same forearm. You’ll release the rock when you comfortable and let your right arm relax until the blood gets flowing. When it feels better, you can grab the rock again and hang on until help arrives.”

Frank looked up, “Okay, my arm is getting numb.”

Mary stretched down, and she could feel Shelly push down harder on her legs. “Whenever you’re ready Frank,” said Mary with as much confidence as she could muster.

Frank moved quickly. Mary’s hand was so far down they nearly gripped elbows. Mary then grabbed Frank’s forearm slightly higher with her left hand. Frank let go of the rock and swung somewhat to the right. Instinctively he grasped Mary’s arm with his right hand.

Without thinking Mary began to pull. Frank’s feet tried to find ground in the open air, but then his right foot found the rock that had been his salvation earlier. From behind Shelly dropped her whole body on top of Mary and reached for Frank’s emerging hands.

Frank’s right foot managed to plant itself firmly on top of the rock and the three of them surged, Frank thrust up and forward, and the two women rolled to their right and backward. The three of them laid there on the dusty ground near the dangerous drop-off. Mary was unsure how they had just accomplished their rescue. She could hear Frank’s shallow breaths and watched him run dirt between his fingers over and over again. Shelly grunted and stood up.

Mary managed to get herself into a seated position when she saw the ranger truck come sliding into the parking lot. Frank got up on his knees and crawled several feet away from the cliff before attempting to sit up. Julie emerged from the truck and ran over to Frank. The two hugged and wept.

The ranger walked over to the two women and asked. “Who saved him?”

Mary smiled, “He saved himself. We just pulled him up. I honestly didn’t think I had it in me. Frank simply hung on to me and then we all started pulling and pushing. The next thing I knew we were pulling him over the edge.”

The ranger nodded and said, “You’d be surprised how often people have had a similar experience. We never know what we’re capable of until we’re put in a situation where we have little control.”

Shelly thought for a moment and nodded. The ladies agreed to stay and make a statement, and the ranger walked over to talk with Frank and Julie. Mary bowed her head and thanked God for putting Frank in her path. In one defining moment Frank had shown her what she was made of, and she would never be the same.



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