Impossible

Forty years ago, Exhibit A knocked on my door
Four days ago, here came Exhibit B
Who am I to say there’ll never be an Exhibit C?

***

It was 1978 or so. I was the instructor of Project Insight at Lethbridge Community College in Alberta. It was a life skills course for young adults who wanted to get into regular college programs. These folks had seen some tough times, with low self-esteem linking the twelve people together.

I decided to take my students on an outdoor education day trip to the mountains of Waterton Lakes National Park. We’d drive the Red Rock Canyon Road and snowshoe up the trail to Crandell Lake, then back down the other side to the snow-covered Cameron Lake Highway, which was closed to traffic. Then we’d walk back down the road to Waterton townsite, where we’d pick up one of our two vehicles. Adventure!

Some in the group were fit and keen. Others had never been on snowshoes before. We obeyed the good wilderness rule that the faster ones would stop for extended breaks, allowing the slower ones to catch up. Like a caterpillar, we were together.

We were maybe a mile from our vehicle rendezvous when “John”, one of the students, came up to me. “I can’t find my glasses!” John didn’t need them for walking in the wilderness but they were essential for near vision tasks. So many years later, I don’t remember how long it took me to act, but I did. Leaving my friend Cam to be responsible for the other students, I turned around and headed back up the road.

It was irrational. I shouldn’t have been doing that alone. John had no idea when the glasses fell out of his pocket. And what were the chances of finding them? The snow hung well above our snowshoe prints. I could walk right by the glasses as they lay in a snowdrift. And I couldn’t just keep going and going. Darkness would become an issue.

What in heaven’s name possessed me? Good question. In any event – well up the road – I found the glasses.

***

Last Friday was far less dramatic. After two Evolutionary Collective Zoom calls and an afternoon of errands in St. Thomas, I’d returned home for supper. Time was running out to do a blog post since I’d bought a ticket for the James Bond flick Spectre in London. Besides I couldn’t think of anything to write. “That’s okay … mañana.”

It’s a short drive from Belmont to London, and I got in Ruby half-an-hour before showtime. As I was heading north on Westchester-Bourne, and then west on the 401, something strange was building in me. Something non-physical was pulsing. Really weird. I found my seat in the theatre ten minutes before the announced time, and immediately whipped out my phone and the WordPress app. “What are you doing? The movie’s going to start. You sure don’t have time to do a post.”

Someone else was tapping on the keys. The title was “Power” because power was coursing through me. “Where are these words coming from?” I didn’t know, but they kept coming. (I just looked back at the post – it was 219 words long) The theatre had darkened halfway and the future attractions were entering my mind. Undeterred, my lovely brain and lovely fingers kept going. I was proofreading as the manager’s message about Covid precautions came onscreen. It was perhaps a minute away from total darkness and then the surge of Bond action. “Please turn off your phone” reverberated at the back of my head.

I tapped “Publish” in the WordPress app
I tapped “Share” and chose Facebook
I typed “In the middle of …” as a title
I tapped “Post”

And the Bond music began

Jody Orchestrates

My lovely wife is taking care of me.  She is giving me blessed experiences of the moment.  She is bringing loved ones back into my life whom I hadn’t seen for a year or more.  It’s not just serendipity or coincidence.  It’s Jodiette.

I taught a blind child at St. Mary Choir School for three years – 2010-2013.  I’ll call her Julia. Then she decided to go to the provincial school for the blind in Brantford, Ontario for her Grade 8 year.  Fair enough.  For me, though, that meant there was no job left for me at St. Mary’s.  So instead I worked with lots of students with low vision.  During my time with Julia, I had got close to many of her classmates.  When Jody was ill, and after her death, I had occasionally seen a few of those St. Mary’s kids.  But nothing like last night.

Here I go, making up more names.  Yesterday was the final vocal concert of the year at Catholic Central High School.  The students I loved are in Grade 9.  After Jody died, about 20 of them sent me a sweet homemade card, full of caring messages.

I walked into the school, hoping that I would get to say hi to some very special human beings.  After going to the washroom, I could have turned left or right to get to the gym.  Either way was about the same distance.  I chose right, knowing that this route would take me near the Vocal room, where the kids would no doubt be congregating.  I came upon a student that I knew a bit.  As we were talking, a girl walked into my field of vision and stood near me.  It was Brittany.  She had written “You’re in my thoughts as you go through this difficult time.  Knowing Jodie is in a better place, I hope you find peace.”  We hugged and smiled.  “Have you found peace?”  “I’m getting there.”

As I turned away, there was Colette.  She had written “You were always there for us.  Just wanted to let you know that we are here for you!”  We hugged and smiled.  “Hello, Colette.”

Near the entrance of the gym, up strolls Trevor.  He had written “We all love you through this time.”  We hugged and smiled.  “Miss Smith [the secretary of St. Mary’s] told me that last year when Jody was sick, you approached her and asked that she speak on the PA for the school to pray for us.  Is that right?”  “Yes.”  “Thank you, Trevor.”

The concert was stunning.  I got to hear inspired versions of “We Are The World” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”.  The voices were beautiful, yes.  The words were beautiful, yes.  But it was the souls of the kids that filled the room.

After the last notes were sung, I saw Anna standing in the gym with her family.  She had written “I am so very sorry for your loss.  Your family will be in my prayers and I hope that you know that we are here for you.”  We smiled.  “How are you, Mr. Kerr?”  “I’m good and bad.”  We hugged and smiled some more.

I was filling my face in the cafeteria afterwards when a woman came up to me and said, “I’m Amy Jones’ mother.  I want you to know the impact you’ve had on my daughter.  Long ago, you gave her a book for winning a writing contest and she’ll never let it go.”  Gulp.  As we were talking, here comes Amy.  She had written “You were always the kindest and sweetest person I knew at St. Mary’s.”  Gulp again.  We hugged and smiled.  I told Amy and mom that I had written a book about Jody.  I’m not allowed to give it to students.  “I would like one,” said mom.  “How about if you read it, and decide whether it’s appropriate for Amy to read?”  “Sure.”  Amy smiled.  I signed the book.  I wonder when she’s 45 if Amy will still look at it once in awhile.  I hope so.

Chance encounters?  I think not.  My dear Jodiette is walking by my side, hugging and smiling, loving me a whole bunch.  How blessed am I.