Monday, February 25, 2008

A miracle is born

Fernando Parrado was one of the two young rugby players who made the impossible trip out of the heart of the Andes, to find rescue for their teammates left behind at the site where their plane had crashed ten weeks earlier. The story of the crash, the search, and the survivors has been told in book and film. Those of you who have read the book or seen the film will no doubt remember the moment when Nando stood atop the mountain, where he had expected to find a vista of a green valley, and saw nothing but more mountains.

I long wondered: How did he find any hope to go on? How did he not let despair crush him where he stood? What was it that goaded that half-starved, desperate young man off the mountain to save not only himself, but his friends?

In his new new book, excerpted here, Nando shares the answer. It's on the final page of the excerpt (emphasis mine):

In that moment, all my dreams, assumptions, and expectations evaporated into the thin Andean air. I had always thought life was the natural thing, and death was simply the end of living. Now, in this lifeless place, I saw with terrible clarity that death was the constant, and life was only a short, fragile dream. I felt a sharp and sudden longing for my mother and sister, and for my father, whom I was sure I would never see again. But despite the hopelessness of my situation, the memory of him filled me with joy. It staggered me—the mountains could not crush my ability to love. In that moment, I discovered a simple, astounding secret: Death has an opposite, but it is not mere living. It is not courage or faith or will. The opposite of death is love. How had I missed that? How does anyone miss that? My fears lifted, and I knew that I would not let death control me. I would walk through that godforsaken country with love and hope in my heart. I would walk until I'd walked all the life out of me, and when I fell, I would die that much closer to home.

And listen to an interview with Nando here.

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