Monday, January 23, 2012

The Dim Reaper

My mom passed away seven years ago today.

The news of my mom's passing kicked off the very worst week in my life. And the memories are still quite vivid.

I remember arriving at JFK at midnight on a Sunday, with my entire family in tow. I remember how the Hertz rental car agent had already closed up shop, and we were forced to stand in a taxi line in bitter 5 degree weather. I remember flagging a limousine down and paying the guy $100 to drive us the 1/2 mile to the Hertz rental car lot.

And that was all in the first 30 minutes.

Let's not forget the raging food poisoning we all got at the Outback Steakhouse in Monroe, NY, later in the week. Not to mention our lovely non-smoking motel room that smelled like the bottom of an ash tray. And of course, there was the grizzly business of selecting a casket and making hasty burial decisions to comply with the odd Jewish law that all bodies must be returned to the Earth within 48 hours.

That's convenient. Thanks a lot Maimonides.

But one incident stands out above all others. The day before the funeral I was driving my family in northern New Jersey. The roads were slick from black ice. Suddenly I was  confronted with a sea of brake lights and eased the Chevy Suburban -- carrying my wife, my two daughters, my brother, my sister and her twin daughters -- to a stop. It was a close call. But nowhere near as close as the next one.

Because I looked in my rear view mirror and saw an 18-wheel truck barreling down my backside. I had no escape route, nor did the driver of the truck. He slammed on his air brakes. I can still hear that screeching and I watched in the mirror, knowing full well the Grim Reaper was about to snatch up the entire Siegel clan.

And then he hit us. I opened my eyes and was surprised to find that heaven looked amazingly like Ramsey, NJ.

The truck driver and I convened outside and were amazed that the "collision" did not even leave a scratch on the Suburban (thankfully, because there was a $500 deductible). It truly was The Miracle on Route 17.

This incredulous story was retold over and over again over the course of the next few days. And naturally, those seeking to comfort us would say something like, "that was your mother looking out for you."

I don't buy any of that.

I may be the least spiritual man in the world. I don't believe in God. I don't believe in angels. I don't believe in the supernatural in any way, shape or form. These are things I just don't know.

But I did know my mother. And I know that if my Glasgowian mum could wield any sort of powers from the great beyond, she'd have taken a pass on the whole scare-the-family-with-the-front-end-of-a-truck business and would have instead provided me with the winning numbers to the N.J. Super Lotto.

That much I know.


Ellen November said...

A wonderful touching story. Thanks Rich.

Jeff said...

I believe in God and angels. I also believe it was your mom's way of saying, "It just wouldn't be a funeral without you." By the way, keep your mind open - this doesn't mean she still can't send six numbers your way.

alisha said...

what a brilliant tribute. you know what you know, man, & that's what matters.