Six Times a Survivor – A Memoir

By James C. Ash

 Memoir (noun):

 1. A narcissist’s manuscript written to inflate his/her ego at the expense of his/her unwitting readers.

2.  An insufferable imposition on an author’s captive family and former friends .                                                                                     

Introduction 

The world’s population is largely comprised of inconspicuous people who haven’t the circumstance, opportunity or desire to attract wide attention.  Few are famous or infamous. Sometimes though, extraordinary things happen to ordinary people.

I never expected to find myself at death’s door six different times in my life…so far. I had no warnings, no plans and certainly no desire to be near that mysterious portal. I had no choice.  Like it or not, I experienced six such events, five of which broadened the scope of what I believed life is about.

This memoir is about coincidences and destinies.  It’s about astounding dumb luck and/or divine intervention. It’s about odds and aging. It’s about pain and gratitude and rituals and grief. It’s about fear and love and lessons I took to heart and those I ignored.

This is an ordinary man’s remarkable unfinished story.

Note: the subsequent blog entries of Six Times a Survivor are sorted more or less chapter by chapter and will be posted sequentially, but not regularly, beginning with Chapter 1 below.

Chapter 1 – Truly Extraordinary Luck

Huge helpings of luck have played a prominent role several times in my life, including my birth.  In fact, by virtue of birth everyone has been the beneficiary of monumentally astounding luck. That’s how everyone’s start on life on earth begins.

From a cosmic perspective: We are all lucky to have been born on a planet that is simultaneously far enough away from its sun, and close enough to its sun, to sustain life as we know it. We are riding the rotating Earth in an orbit through a narrow sweet spot between temperature extremes in space.  Life as we know it would be impossible without these circumstances. We have yet to find any other planet that sustains life, but we’re still trying.  In an infinite universe, chances are other planets can support life, but not many. 

From an earthly perspective: There had to be a time when water, carbon, heat, chemicals, gasses, lightning, and other elements and conditions necessary to create life all existed in sufficient supply at the same place and time on Earth.   Divine providence or scientific fantastic phenomenon, the initial creation of life on Earth was an astronomical miracle.  The recipe for combining non-living matter and energy to make living beings has never been published, but it had to be cooked up either by God or insanely ridiculous chance. 

From the human perspective:  It took several doses of the “luck of the draw” in the saga of everyone’s journeys of conception. The human birth process involves a huge and complex chain of potential circumstances and outcomes.   It takes a unique pairing of a man’s sperm cell and a woman’s egg to create a human being. Presuming that the selection of the lucky cell and its hostess is random, the odds are ludicrously slim that a specific, ready egg will meet a specific sperm cell to fertilize and produce a unique human embryo.

Assuming a healthy woman gives birth to four children in her life and produces one egg per month for 35 years (420 eggs), each egg has a less than 1% (0.95%) chance of being fertilized into a human embryo.

The single sperm cell that partners with the egg requires huge multiples more luck than the egg.  According to “Mechanisms of Sperm Motility” by Dr. Charles Lindemann of Oakland University, a healthy man releases an average of 280 million sperm cells each time he ejaculates. https://files.oakland.edu/users/lindeman/web/index.htmlhttps://files.oakland.edu/users/lindeman/web/index.html

Consequently, any pairing of a particular one-in-a hundred egg with a one-among-trillions particular sperm cell is a certifiable miracle. Every one on this planet, alive or dead, beat those nearly impossible odds against being born. Any different egg or any other sperm cell would have created an entirely different person than you. 

In this, everyone is a miracle.

An Extra Helping of Luck

In the high stakes, minuscule chance, Become-a-Baby Mega Trillions Lottery, I needed and got an extra helping of luck.

My parents wanted two children and ultimately that’s what they had (my sister is four years my senior).  So why did I need an extra portion of super miraculous luck?

I was a young man before I learned that my mother had a miscarriage two years after my sister was born.  It was a sad and unfortunate event for my parents, but what an incredibly lucky break for me!

How insane is this? Years before I was conceived, when I was nothing more than the slightest inkling of a minute possibility that didn’t yet exist, I got lucky. Had my parents’ second pregnancy produced a healthy child, it is very unlikely the sperm cell and the egg that both carried my name would ever have met.

A Trojan warrior would have seen to that.

Okay, Now What?

I hope you’re pleased to know how impressively you won the person-to-be competition.  In the realms of possibility and value you are a true champion.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

In the immense realm of non-events, “Every life is precious” is not a platitude.

Without Exception: All Lives Matter, A Lot.

Published by

Jim

Baby Boomer, Born in 1951 in Stamford, CT (Had no choice) Public Schools: Springdale Elementary, Dolan Jr. High, Stamford High - Class of 1969 (Solid public school education) Parents: James Frederick Ash (1921-1965) and Dorothy Johnson Ash (1923 - 2011) (Dad died too soon, Mom suffered too long without him) Attended Virginia Polytechnic Institution - 1969-70 (A big mistake) Graduated Central Connecticut State College (now University) 1970-73 B.S. English Secondary Education and Philosophy (double major) cum laude Fairfield University 1977-80 M.A. Corporate and Political Communications Married 1974 to Doris Mae Plourde, Brunswick, ME (Still married. Who knows, might last after all) English Teacher at Stamford High 1974-79 (In the days of Welcome Back Kotter - my students actually called themselves "sweathogs") Changed Careers and Became a Father in the Same Week, September 1979, Daughter Lauren Diane Father again, February 1983 Son Thomas Carl Client Communications Specialist, Marsh & McLennan, Incorporated, New York 1979-96, left as Managing Director Managing Director Communications - Strategic Account Management (SAM) Aon Risk Services, New York 1996-2005 (Recruited from Marsh) Director Client Communications, Integro Insurance Brokers, New York, 2005-07 (Recruited to help launch start up brokerage company - Fun!) Semi-retired to Orrs Island, Harpswell, ME 2007-15 (My "hermit" period) Grandfather as of December 2014 (The hands-down best job I've ever had!) Co-owner with Doris of the world's most spectacular dog, Charley 2010 (He's the absolute best) Retired, Westport, CT 2015 to date ( Survivor, (so far) Hit by car 1956 Coronary Angioplasty 1998 World Trade Center Disaster 2001 Prostate Cancer 2005 Double By-pass Surgery 2015 Malignant tumor on left kidney - kidney removed, tumor and all 2018 Lifelong Liberal Democrat (One of two in all of Marsh. Fortunately the other one was Chairman) Decent sense of humor (Would be better without the puns I'm told) Blogger (e.g., a writer without any other outlet) Friend of many Enemy of few Not as boring than as this summary might indicate

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