” Man drives, but the Creator holds the reins.” Jewish Proverb
It all began with a near fatal car accident, one which probably should have ended my life and yet here I am, thirty years later, writing about it. Back in those early estate gardener days I used to commute for about an hour, from Chilliwack to Maple Ridge. I was on my way to work that February morning when my Datsun B210 hatchback hit a patch of black ice and started skidding wildly. My car was headed straight for an oncoming vehicle, when suddenly everything seemed to shift into slow motion. Strangely enough, I felt unafraid or at least somehow reassured that I was not going to die as my car seemed to guide itself (I certainly had lost all control) away from oncoming traffic and over the edge of the road – which was a two-storey embankment terminating with railway tracks. Once off the pavement my little Datsun was airborne, barely missing a telephone pole and house on the way down and finally grinding to a halt when it hit a shed, which collapsed on top of it. When I came to a few seconds after crashing, I was laying sideways over the passenger seat with the roof on the driver’s side completely flattened down to the hood – had my seatbelt not failed, I would have definitely died that day. The engine was still running, the windshield had buckled inwards and nicked me on the temple, but other than the four stitches I received later, I came out relatively unscathed. As I crawled out of the passenger-side window and through the shed debris covering the car, I glanced over at the home I had nearly hit and saw children staring back at me from their bedroom windows. When I looked up to the point where my car left the road, I realized that the only way I could have avoided hitting either the telephone pole or the house below was for my Datsun to have literally have been on its side as it sailed between the two. The storage shed that cushioned my crash was advantageously empty at the time, so the impact blew out the four walls and the roof landed perfectly on top of my upside-down vehicle. I ended that day with the distinct feeling that I wasn’t meant to die just then and there, but it also left me pondering about my purpose in life and the possibility of someone upstairs looking out for me.
I took the pittance the insurance company had given me for the wrecked car and decided that I needed a change, so I bought a train ticket to Winnipeg, my childhood home. Eventually I landed a part-time gardening position with St. John Brebeuf parish, where I had gone to school in grade seven. I quickly learned what it was like to be a prairie gardener – I buried my roses in winter, donated a pint of blood to the mosquitoes on the hour in the summer and learned to accept a 4-month gardening season. For the balance of the year I did building maintenance, which was why I was up on the roof that day looking for the source of a small leak. I was walking the two-foot wide flashing that capped the spiraled brick walls of the church and as I approached the cross at the apex, I stepped on something. It was a small metal ornament, obviously Jewish in nature and given the corrosion that surrounded it, it had probably been there since the church was built in 1965. I learned later from a Rabbi that it was a Mezuzah – a decorative case which houses a sacred parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah – often found on the front door posts of Jewish homes. The scroll had long since rotted away, so I was able to keep it as a momento of the man or woman who had left it there. My best guess is that one of the contractors was Jewish and this was his (or possibly her) way of atoning for working on a Christian church. That said, the Mezuzah also serves as a blessing for all those in the building it adorns, so in a better light they were just leaving their version of divine protection. In either case, we can’t all be right – so whether you are Christian, Jewish, Sikh, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Agnostic or anything in between – so long as you are honestly looking for some higher purpose in life, I sincerely wish you the best of luck.