I must admit that I didn’t want to do it. And I had no good reason for not wanting to except a certain selfishness with my time.
I have made an effort to make Sundays my Sabbath. I go to church, I pray, I prepare meals, perhaps read or do some artwork. But it tends to be quiet time for myself in which I try not to let things like work or shopping intrude.
But no one was asking me to work or shop. I was invited to a special fellowship meal at my church after Liturgy, commemorating the one year anniversary of the passing of our late pastor, also my dear friend.
I was asked to help out in serving and cleaning. While I am naturally rather lazy, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to help out as much as I just wanted to go home and do the things I had planned to do. I hadn’t had much time to myself in recent days and felt the need for that.
And I did want to honor and remember our pastor but Liturgy felt like the place for me to do that. Or so I told myself.
However, I also knew that my feelings were generated out of selfishness and that once I got there, it would be fine. I love the others at my church and sometimes have to push past my introvert tendencies to remember that I will enjoy and benefit from their company.
The decision was complicated, however, by one other factor: a major snowstorm that had struck the area the night before. A foot or more of fresh white snow covered my driveway, with the icy crud left at its end by snow plows.
My last regular snow shoveler went off to prison. The one before that disappeared after years of service.
Well, I’ll try, I thought. If I can’t get the car out, then I’ll walk to a closer church but I need to try. I don’t want my selfish/lazy/introvert self to dominate my decisions.
And thus began a saga, not of my planning.
I had backed out no more than 20 feet or so from the garage when the car stopped. I realized then that I was in deeper than I had expected.
Oh well, I thought. I’ll drive back into the garage on the tire tracks I just made. I’ll find someone to shovel for me later. I don’t know who or when, but I’ll find someone.
But the car wouldn’t move forward either. I didn’t like this.
I was stuck.
Having grown up in Minnesota, I learned early on some of the basics about unsticking cars that are stuck in snow. So I tried these steps, gently rocking the car backward and forward, by switching from drive to reverse and back again a few times, trying to get traction without burning snow into ice.
The only problem was that the car wouldn’t budge. Not even a little.
I was really stuck.
I could see that there was a lot of snow under the car, of course, as well as around the tires. I’ll just shovel a bit around the tires until my “rocking” tactic works.
I certainly knew that I couldn’t shovel the whole driveway – or, if I did, I would have to do it in small parts over the course of the day. In the past, I have sometimes found shovelers when someone walking down the street felt sorry for me and offered to help or a person in need came to the door hoping for a job.
So I shoveled a little and tried to move the car. Shoveled a bit more, still no movement. Got the smaller, lighter shovel from my trunk, still a no go. Hmm… getting tired, guess I’ll need to let it go for now.
My first sign that something was amiss was a bit of sparkling light in my visual field. I sat in the car for a couple of minutes to rest. I’ll go in the house, I thought, my hands are cold and I’m not getting anywhere.
Getting out of the car, that odd sparkly sensation in my vision and head came back full force. Taking care, I walked around the car and then rested with my hands on the hood. The door into my house was about 20-30 feet away? Not far.
But then something really strange happened. I found myself lying in the snow in front of my car. I didn’t quite know how I got there. My clothes were wet from the snow. Oh well, I can change into something dry. I got up, brushed myself off and headed for the door again.
The next thing I knew, I found myself lying on the garage floor in front of my door. Hmm… very strange. Drawing my house keys from my pocket, I finally got inside.
Shortly after getting inside, I noticed my glasses were terribly bent out of shape and the right side of my head was beginning to hurt. I must have hit my head but when and on what I did not know. I had no memory of it.
I instinctively took off my coat and sweater to cool down and looked for a chair. The sparkly feeling in my head was gone and I was glad of that. After a few minutes, it occurred to me that I hadn’t locked the car. Oh… I don’t have my car keys. Where could they be?
Putting my coat back on, I ventured out. There they were, in the snow by the hood of the car where I had fallen the first time.
Now to the average person, it would probably seem rather obvious that I should call 911. Something major just happened here. But I come from a stubborn stock, “Oh, I’ll be alright”, we say. “No need to go through all of that.”
So I sat and thought about it for a short while. Finally, common sense won out and suggested that I at least call them. Maybe they wouldn’t think it was necessary to send someone out…
Needless to say, I spent the afternoon in the emergency room being monitored and scanned.
And, of course, not doing any of the things that I had wanted to do instead of serving a meal to my friends at church.
It is now two weeks since all of this happened and I am fine. But I must confess that it took me much longer to recover than I thought it would.
It is interesting how easily we minimize the impact of damage to our bodies. “I should be back to work in a day or two,” I thought. Try a week.
I have a real feel now for people who resist going to the hospital with signs of a heart attack or stroke. While I understood it intellectually before, I now get it. We don’t want to believe that anything is seriously wrong and so we assume that we’re okay.
Thankfully, nothing truly serious was wrong with me. No hematoma in the brain. No abnormalities in my heart. But there could have been.
This is just one of the small lessons learned in this rather fascinating experience of mine.
Allow me share a few of God’s messages that came through to me.
Perhaps the first message to enter my mind came in the form of a vaguely remembered passage from “The Screwtape Letters” by C. S. Lewis. The uncle was instructing the apprentice demon – “Convince them that their time is their own.”
I had fallen into the trap and I knew it. I had been imagining that my time that Sunday afternoon was mine and I didn’t want to give it up or even share it.
I wasn’t thinking about my life belonging to God – or at least not my time, which is basically the same thing.
So God reminded me.
Now, in the past, when praying, I have asked God to knock me in the head if I start wandering away from Him – “never let me be parted from you, O Lord”, I would pray.
Well, He answered my prayer – and quite literally. Since this occurred, I have considered that I may want to reword that prayer a little in the future. 😉
Of course, I’m not suggesting the God caused me to hit my head just to teach me a lesson. But He allowed me to choose foolishness and then taught me through it.
This was just the first of the lessons, the “messages”, if you will, that God has been sending me in the last couple of weeks.
Another, very obvious one, was simply how much I have to be grateful for. Grateful for all that could have happened and didn’t. Had the blow to my head been a couple of inches to the side where the skull’s bony structure is thinner, my temporal artery could have been ruptured and I might not have woken up. I could have broken bones. I could have frozen to death. I could have had a serious heart problem. The list goes on…
In addition to what didn’t occur, there is much cause for gratitude for what did happen. So many people, friends and strangers alike, were so very kind to me. From EMS and ER personnel to Uber drivers and neighbors I’d never met (they shoveled out my driveway the next day without me even noticing).
A friend drove me around and was willing to drive me more, acting as though I was doing her a favor by allowing her to help me. My brother texted me to check on me when he was busy with many things to do. And so on.
I am grateful. I am so very blessed – and I have done nothing to deserve it.
Another wonderful message from God was an increased awareness of what an amazing thing my body is.
While all of the medical procedures will likely cost me thousands of dollars, it occurred to me that none of them (except the ice pack given in the ER) had any role in healing me. They were all performed to make sure that there wasn’t something else wrong.
My body has been healing itself – and it has been fascinating to watch and learn.
You may be wondering, as did I, “Why did you pass out in the first place?” While the final word isn’t in yet, the most likely explanation is vasovagal. I fainted. Standing still after exerting myself caused blood to pool in my lower extremities and away from my brain.
I read online that the very best thing to do if you feel like you are going to faint is to lie down. This restores balance to the blood flow so that the brain isn’t short-changed, thus preventing the brief loss of consciousness we call fainting.
Since I didn’t know to do that, my body did it for me. In passing out, I was left in a prone position so that my brain could get the oxygen it needed. Getting my head whacked… well, that was just an unfortunate side effect to my ignorance.
In addition, for the last two weeks, I have been watching the amazing display of swelling and colors that have moved me from having a “goose egg” sized bump (I now know what they call it that) to a deep purple swollen eye to various shades of yellow, green and blue on various parts of my face.
While it all looked rather gruesome, my body knew what it was doing. Sending blood to aid in the healing at the site of impact, clotting enough so as not to bleed too much, gradually spreading the blood back through nearby tissue to enable it to be reabsorbed. Quite an extraordinary process.
And the healing process made me feel out of it and more easily tired, a sure-fire way to stop me from disregarding the energy demands required by healing.
In the grand scheme of things, this injury was minor but its lessons were powerful.
To have my weakness pointed out to me. To be reminded that I am loved and that God is with me at all times. To be made aware of the value of gratitude for so many things that I take for granted. To be taught a greater empathy for the sick and injured who suffer daily, barely noticed by me. To be shown close up how wonderfully God made this body of mine.
Perhaps I should not change the words of my prayer after all. God, in His wisdom, knows just when I need a knock in the head so that I do not stray too far from Him.
All praise and glory to Him forever. Amen.