Lunch with Aron

My best friend Jenny once told me that if she could do it all over again, she would work full-time when her children were young.  Because of her seniority (ha!) and many years of experience, she has decided that the early years are pretty easy, then the older kids become, the more they need you.  Her theory is when children are small, they just need the basics.  Food, hugs, bottles, naps, Tonka trucks.  When they approach middle school, it’s math tutors (since you can’t remember anything above pre-algebra) and rides all over town and makeup and hormones and nasty friends playing junior high head games (which really never quit, at least for girls…).

Now Jen’s wisdom makes total sense to me.

I think about this concept almost every day, and I sense that I’m doomed.  This is because my kids are only 4 and 8 years old, and I feel like they are sucking every spare minute out of my day.  A great example is this post I’m writing…I’ve been thinking about it for over a week three weeks now and have honestly not had thirty minutes to sit down and compose it.  I had to get Beatty off to school this morning and wait until the amazing nanny named Dani arrived to even fire up my computer.

Yes, I am paying someone to play with my child so I can write on my blog.

Speaking of kids and their activities, a few weeks back we were up at Snowbird ski resort playing in the beginner’s area with Beatty and Sloan.  My wrists aren’t quite healed enough to ski, so I was following Sloan up and down the hill over at the magic carpet as Brad was trying to teach Beatty to snowboard on the Chickadee lift.  I sent a text to our friends Dave and Melissa, figuring they would be up there since Dave is one of the grand pubahs at Snowbird and Melissa spends many of her weekends up there so she can catch a glimpse of her husband.

Dave replied back that yes, they were there, and they would be eating lunch with their daughter Meredith and Aron Ralston at about 1pm, so I should come say hi.  Perfect.  A break from Sloan.

The name Aron Ralston didn’t click with me, but it did sound vaguely familiar.  I figured Dave mentioned it because it was someone he and I went to high school with.  Oh, ho ho…WRONG!  So I moseyed over to where they were eating lunch, and Melissa waved to me from their table.  When I sat down, Dave and Aron arrived with their salads from the salad bar, and I looked at Aron and said,

“Your name sounds familiar.  Do I know you from somewhere?”

See how shy I am?

Aron just sort of looks at me, then Dave jumps in and says,

“Yes, it sounds familiar because he’s a celebrity!  He had a movie made all about him!”

That was about the time I noticed his bionic arm, so I got all excited and exclaimed,


*(is that a weird thing to say??  I didn’t look at Melissa, but I got some very strong vibes that I was perhaps embarrassing her a little…)

But then Aron said,

“Yeah!!  I’m the guy who cut off his own arm!!”

Which immediately put me at ease, because I think anyone who has something crazy or different about them makes me think we are kin, brothers-in-arms, long-lost buddies – even though the craziest thing I’ve ever done was fish my own turd out of a toilet at a party because it wouldn’t flush down and I didn’t want my friends to see it floating around all night.

Then as we all talked, I loved him more because it seemed that he was just a dang cool dude.  Easy going.  Friendly.  Open.  It’s good to be an open person, because with me there, you never know what I’m going to say or what I might ask someone.  I promise, I do try my hardest to not make people uncomfortable.  Well, OK.  I try not to make them uncomfortable if they’re not an asshole.  And Aron is NOT an asshole, which was awesome, because it means we got to talk about his ordeal while he had his lunch.  I haven’t seen his movie, nor read his book, so all I know are the basic details from the news about what happened during his climbing ordeal.

My mind immediately started queueing up the questions I wanted to ask him, and I also checked out what he put on his salad for lunch.  Things like this are important when you meet a celebrity.  I think there were some beets on there, as well as something that looked like cottage cheese, because it was white.

Poor Melissa.  I think she might have been nervous.  I’m such a bad friend.

Anyhow, Aron Ralston is the guy that went hiking and climbing alone in Southern Utah and had a boulder fall on his arm, trapping him in a slot canyon.  He was there for days – TOTALLY STUCK MAN – then he cut off his arm right above the wrist, saving his own life and giving him the chance to hike out and get help.  Freaking crazy.  I mean, SERIOUSLY.  Would I have the courage to cut off my own hand??  I really don’t know.  James Franco played his character in the movie “127 Hours“.  Aron was here in Utah and up at Snowbird for a fundraiser/gala for Wasatch Adaptive Sports, in which he was the featured guest speaker, and Dave and Melissa were skiing with him a little before he had to prepare for his speech.

Since all of them were kind of stuck with me sitting at the table, and I wasn’t going anywhere soon, (I mean, I had about a bazillion things I wanted to ask this dude) I started off our lunchtime conversation in the most appropriate way I could muster.  I asked Aron what sort of thing he actually used in that slot canyon to cut his hand off.

And guess what?  He wasn’t offended or anything, which I LOVE, and he told us in detail, which I also LOVE, and that gave me the courage to ask lots of other questions like, were you left-handed before the accident?  And, when you were amputating your arm, did it hurt…bad??  (Yes.  Yes it did.)

Oh, by the way, he used a multi-tool device to perform the amputation.  You know, those things that have like little tiny scissors and a knife and a small screwdriver in them.  No particular brand.  I didn’t ask, he just offered that.  (I guess a lot of people want to know what brand.)  I also had to know which component of the multi-tool actually did the best job of cutting flesh and nerves and stuff.  It was the screwdriver.

THE SCREWDRIVER.  Amazing!  I never would have guessed!

As I was bugging Aron, he wasn’t eating because he is polite and doesn’t shovel food in his mouth while strange women ask him personal questions.  This was impressive because I’m sure the poor guy was hungry.  Dave worked up the guts to ask him what happened with the hand he lost.  YESSSSSSS.  I couldn’t wait to hear!!  The tale is actually quite fascinating.

I guess that when Search and Rescue teams are sent out to retrieve people – or parts of people – their job and duty they’re sworn to is to bring home everything.  Leave nothing behind.  So when Aron was at the hospital in Moab, he told them details about where he had been and where they could find his hand.  He remembered exactly where to go.  They sent their team out and it actually took two days to get his hand out from under the rock, because the boulder was so heavy they had to bring in some sort of winch system to lift it.  Then they retrieved the hand and put it on ice (just in case, which was really nice and all, but the chances of re-attaching it were zilch…) and came back to the hospital and asked Aron what he wanted to do with the hand.

He said this was kind of a tough question for him, because he was like – I DON’T KNOW…WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH THE HAND??

The Search and Rescue people told Aron that some people would bury it, and others would have it cremated.  He chose to have it cremated.  I read on Wikipedia that later he went back to the slot canyon and sprinkled his hand ashes there, since that’s where he felt they belonged.  This makes sense to me.

However, let’s remember that Aron was sitting with Piper Benjamin, the person who likes to discuss things that do not make sense.  This turn in the conversation was getting me really, really excited, because I can think of a dozen things that he could have done with the hand, and I’m pressing my lips together REALLY HARD so I don’t shout them out and make a scene or offend my new friend.  But of course, OF COURSE, I had to ask Aron if he considered keeping the hand, and if he did, what would he have done with it?  I guess he really never considered keeping it, which is fine and all, but I’m pretty crafty and I know that there are a few ways you could shellac or dip it in something in order to preserve it.

Aron humored me a little by playing along with my game, and he said yes, maybe you could keep that hand you cut off yourself and put it on your mantle above the fireplace.  As a conversation item.  A showpiece.  And then I think Dave offered up another pretty safe idea for what could be done with a severed and preserved hand, but I wasn’t really listening because my mind was racing with the possibilities, and then your very appropriate friend Piper shouts out,


And everyone was quiet for a moment.

A bit more quietly, I offered up a weak “like you could slide your rings on the fingers, you know?  …ummmmm, and keep it on your dresser in your bedroom?”.

Then Aron said,

“Now that’s weird.”

Oh.  Yeah.  I guess it is.  So I’m really glad I didn’t tell him that I was also thinking that it could be used as a soap dish in the bathroom or as a way to spank or scare your kids when they are being bad or you could put it on the kitchen counter to lay spoons on while you are stirring stuff on the stove.

Aron, as gracious and kind as he was, broke the awkward moment by telling me that after he had thought about amputating his hand for a couple of days, really figuring out how he could get it done, when the time came to do it, he was actually smiling.  He was smiling as he cut off his own hand because he knew that it would allow him to continue living.  He would be able to see his friends and family again, play dominoes with his dad another time, and be able to hike and spend time in the beautiful outdoors, exploring once more.

This really touched me.

You think I’m kidding, but I’m not.

Because it made me realize that in life, sometimes we go through unimaginable pain.  Times and events that border on hellish that we force ourselves to get through.  Sometimes we have to let go of things that are so dear to us, or people who feel like they are really part of our flesh and bones, and it hurts.  It hurts terribly.  But somehow we let go of that part of us that we before couldn’t imagine living without, and we continue walking forward – sometimes with a smile on our face.

When I realized what Aron had just shared with me, and how it made me think about the incredible spirit of humans, I felt overcome with happiness at his and our own ability to persevere.  We are all so much stronger than we ever can know, and sometimes people cross your path to share a conversation that will remind you of this.

Thanks, Aron.  I totally owe you a salad.











  1. Brenda Sue Cowley says:

    My “door knocker” idea got cut from my comment. That way everyone would have to touch it.

    Aron is lucky to have found that friend in you. Likely he won’t forget about you, and is posting his own blog about the lunch as we speak!!!! :)

  2. Brenda Sue Cowley says:

    BAWLING!!!!!!! And so HAPPY at the same time! And absolute LAUGH OUT LOUD MOMENTS!!!! How I would have adored sitting next to you as your mind started spinning. (We would have been kicking legs under the table.) Piper, honestly, some of your strongest writing to date, as you wrapped this whole thing up with the Things We Must All Remember

  3. Anonymous says:

    The post below was Ali! Not anonymous lol

  4. Anonymous says:

    Love this post. And love the spanking and scaring your kids with the hand idea.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Quite possibly the best blog entry…ever.

  6. That’s a honest to God thrill sister girlfriend! There’s a lunch to remember and tell your kids about! XO

  7. I love this. Especially the last part.

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