26 April 2014

A miracle in my life at 3 years, 11 months

I was told a few times of an incident in my childhood when I was riding my tricycle and following my sister who was going to visit a friend. Then, unable to stop at the main road, I fell off my tricycle as a truck caught it and carried it some distance along the road. I wanted to use this experience in a talk that I am giving, and so decided to check the details. I asked Judy, Tim and Jane what they recalled, and Judy and Tim had no memory of it. I wonder if they might have been at boarding school at the time, so not aware of it.

First reply from Tim said 'Sorry, I know nothing at all of this event.' 

Then Judy said 'I’m sorry to say I have absolutely no recollection of this event! Therefore… I do not think I was involved?'

Then Jane said
Hi Les
I was the sister involved and I remember very little.   We were going down the hill on Havenga Avenue and the intersection next to the old gaol on Goldman Street was the place. I remember a lady who lived opposite the gaol a couple of houses up from Goldman Street taking me into her home and (I think) phoning Mom.  If you were still riding a tricycle you were probably about 4.
I'm sorry that I cannot give you any more information than that apart from Mom and Dad commenting on how you were protected.
Since my father kept a daily diary for as long as I could remember, I decided to search his writings to find what he might have recorded. It was a good guess that if I was on a tricycle and had followed my sister some 1.1 km on a tricycle, I must have been somewhere between two and about 5 years of age, probably closer to 4 years as Jane suggested.

Tim has been scanning Dad's Diaries and putting them online so that his descendants and others can review them, and he had completed 1959 (the year that Ronald was born) and part of 1955, but not the intervening years. So, he brought the diaries for me to look through. After scouring three of them, I found what I was looking for. The entry for 23 January 1958, when I was three years and 11 months old, precisely a year before Ronald was born, and about two and a half months before 13 April 1958 when Dad was 'asked to be Transvaal District President' to which he recorded 'Phil and I could not but accept.' Maybe this miracle was fresh in their minds?

The entry for 23 January 1958:
Misty & cloudy am. Cleared pm late to sunny. Heavy clouds again then steady rain in night.
Travelled in with Rambler. 
Walked down to Lasts for Belladonna lunch time. 
A miracle! Jane & Leslie rode down 7th Avenue on Bike and Trike respectively. Leslie unable to stop at Goldman Street & got hit by a lorry. Rushed off to hospital but nothing but bruises & abrasions. A blessed occasion of the ministering of guardian angels. Thanks be to God. I came home at 4 pm. Elders Wright & Butler came to administer to Leslie with me.
Made fudge evening.
Had a letter from Tim - settling down much better. 
I remember Mom surmising that for some reason the tricycle might have swerved causing me to fall off it just before the truck connected with the tricycle and dragged it off, leaving me lying on the road. Whatever happened, I guess my mission on Earth was not yet complete. I am still alive now 56 years and four months later, so I guess my mission is still not accomplished. I hope that I do not fail the Lord!

These two photos from Google Maps Street View show the intersection where this miracle occurred. The slope seems so much less than I remember it being. Walking or cycling, especially at ages 6 to 12 years may cause one to consider it to be steeper! But because of the terracing to construct the road the slope within about ten metres of the road is somewhat steeper than the general slope.

What a blessing to have such a record faithfully kept by my father. My children are not so fortunate. I keep a professional journal at work, and have Blog entries and keep my talks, and some correspondence, but I hope they do not have to look for something like I did. They might not be as fortunate as I was to be able to find out what happened at some specific point in their lives.

It was fascinating to read what he recorded. Elders Naudé and Park (André and Mack?) had lunch with them 17 Aug 1958. He recorded the first American satellite launched 1 Feb 1958, and the first Russian satellite. He recorded that his basic salary was £10 with EA (whatever that means - Executive Assistant or Employee Allowance?) of £5, and Tim's and Jane's glasses cost around £6 each, so relative to a salary of R15000 that would be about R6000. They paid a gardener 8/, presumably for a day's work, equivalent to about R670 compared to that salary of R15000.

I love seeing Mom's writing in Dad's diary. She would communicate with him, reminding him to do something, asking him to do something, or thanking him.
26 February 1958: Thank you Darling for every time you pump my bike, I really meant to thank you last time. This is to make sure I don't forget again. I love you.
4 July 1958: If I'm 3 months pregnant, m. sickness should stop from now. Otherwise another 4 weeks? Heaven help us!
17 April 1958: Nats in with 103 seats to 53 although in minority of votes, by about 30,000 - Democracy! 
26 May 1958: Mr Eb Wells died in hospital after having received a cut from sheet metal car part at Plant.
7 June 1958: Jane, Leslie, Phil & I off to Potch. 8.45 - got there about 10.15, picked up Judy and Tim then off to Lake for day. Out in boat pm. Left there about 6.15 back about 7.45.
I remember those trips to Potchefstroom to fetch Judy from boarding school, and at this time Tim was also there.
17 July 1958: Crisis in Middle East. British troops land in Jordan. Americans in Lebanon.
11 August 1958: Atomic US Submarine 'Nautilus' sailed across earth under North Pole.
4 September 1958 (the anniversary of their wedding): IC [Louw] phoned am to tell of visit of Apostle Harold B. Lee early October to dedicate chapels. Did church work evening - wrote to British Mission re dedicating of Temple and to Pres. David O. McKay for his birthday Sept. 8. Bed by midnight.
I could not find it again, but he recorded the day that parking meters were first used in Johannesburg.

Fascinating, too, to see names of people and cars that I remember, and many that I had forgotten, but reading them bring them to mind again.

He recorded a very busy trip to England and France 25 October to 1 December 1958. His entry of 24 October says 'A hectic day! Received news am to get moving to Paris. Booked for SAA tomorrow pm 3.30.'

Blessed memories! Blessed heritage! Thanks, Mom and Dad!

I thought I would add another two incidents that I recall to do with not stopping at stop streets. Round about 1965 I was cycling to Florida Primary School on my Fairy Cycle, with 16 inch wheels, as I recall, and back-pedal brakes. I was riding down Havenga Avenue to cross The Highway. 

I did not stop at the stop street, and then suddenly heard screeching brakes to the left. A traffic officer was approaching and I think he stopped primarily to teach me a dramatic lesson. After I mumbled an untrue excuse of my brakes not working properly, and he talked to me, he said that he would possibly send me a summons. Boy! Was I frightened! I knew that I deserved to be reprimanded, and I think I thought at the time that he may summons me, but may also just be threatening me to teach me a lesson. But I felt really bad!

Another incident, about 1981, when I was about 27 years of age, I was on my way from our flat in Vredehoek to work or Church and riding my Lambretta scooter.

I approached the stop street, and did slow down to nearly a stop, but I know that it was a rolling stop. As I went around the bend I saw that there were traffic officers watching, and I stopped properly, but probably some 5 m or 10 m beyond the stop street.

Now I am probably about 95 % complaint, still not 100%, though. I think of the average driver over the past year, and whether they are 50 %, 75 %, or what, but certainly not 100 %. I reckon that I am about 95 % compliant. But when someone goes for a driving license test the examiner is not looking how well the candidate performs relative to the average, or to my performance, but to the K53 standard that involves a complete stop, pulling up the hand brake, letting the car out of gear, checking left and right, mirror, blind spots, putting the car in gear, checking mirror and blind spots and traffic conditions all around, then engaging the gear, and when ascertaining that it is safe to proceed, releasing the handbrake and pulling off without a roll.

I wondered how Jesus Christ would do if He were driving. Would he, knowing all and knowing if there were not a hazard, simply proceed without slowing, or if He would slow, or if He would stop, or do the full K53 routine? We teach our children ‘I’m trying to be like Jesus’, but how do we try to be like Jesus when it comes to stopping at stop streets, or whether drivers or simply pedestrians, if we not jaywalk at pedestrian crossings when the light is not green? Surely we need to try to be like Jesus in all aspects of life, not only in the spiritual things? I am trying to be like Jesus. I know that I am not like Him yet, but I sincerely am trying. Not just in how I treat stop streets, but in all aspects of my life.

Upon reading my journal some time after writing this post I came across the following, written Wednesday 9 July 1980, recalling a miracle in my life.

It is time that I write a little report on my close encounter with the sting of death. When I was about 4 years of age, I guess I was not really thinking about the ‘sting’ of death, or, in fact, even of death. As I think back now, all I recall is that I received a plastic model (about 30 cm long) of a Rambler, and even that is extremely vague.

Mom was probably resting, since she was pregnant with Ronald (hence my calculation of my having been about 4 years old) when Jane wanted to go and visit a friend of hers near the Florida Primary School. She climbed onto her fairy cycle (a small bicycle with about 45 cm wheels) and I decided to follow her on my tricycle. This journey involved our crossing Goldman Street, and there is a steep decline approaching Goldman Street, form our side. Well, a fairy cycle has better brakes than does a tricycle, and Jane stopped, and I did not. The brakes not being there probably did not particularly worry me, as I was probably enjoying the sensation of speed, and this seems to be substantiated by the fact that I turned to look over my left shoulder as I overtook Jane, and I apparently laughed and called to her. This probably saved my life for, as I turned, I caused my tricycle to tip over and deposit me on the ground.

Perhaps it was a careful guardian angel who figured that I could better tolerate a few grazes from the road than a collision with a truck that was hurtling along Goldman Street. I was searching for this word as I described my passing Jane – hurtling past would better describe my activity, while the truck was simply going a regular speed along a main road, hardly expecting a tricycle-mounted lad to cross his path. The driver of this truck brought his vehicle to a halt as quickly as he knew as he thought he had killed me, and indeed that would have been expected as he was dragging my tricycle along with him.

Two gentlemen, following this truck, stopped and took me off to hospital where I was treated for bruises and grazes. Mom needed to get to the hospital and the Dinnies were about to drive her there when Dad arrived home unexpectedly after giving someone a lift home at lunchtime. So Dad and Mom came to fetch me from hospital, and that night I received this gift of my plastic Rambler. I do not know where that model is now, but that serves as my only reminder of this experience. 

The next day the driver of the truck came, distraught, to apologize to Mom, who reassured him that I certainly not be counted as having been his fault, or any reflection on his driving, that I came darting out of a side-street.

Jane, in the meantime, was offered a lift home to come and tell Mom about the accident, but was quite determined that she had received strict instructions to never climb into a stranger’s car. So the kind lady who had offered her a lift had to walk home with Jane to come and tell Mom.

There is a lot in that story, and it was clearly a miracle. What is the mission that I must have in life for which my life has been spared at least two distinct occasions? I recorded the other incident in my entry of 18 June 1980 (the incident with the snake in Kloof Gorge, as a missionary in 1973).