Heaven visited me on earth yesterday.
I received a message yesterday afternoon from a dear old friend. It was one of those GIFs circulating social media. The message encouraged women, now that the sun is setting earlier, to get AAA, park in well-lit areas and keep extra chargers with us at all times – among other safety tips. I quickly read over it and said to myself, “I’ve got AAA; I’m good!”
I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was God-sent sign #1.
I think the effects of this pandemic are finally catching up to me. I’ve had to offer pastoral support to far too many community members – adults, children, those with terminal illnesses and some with mental health diagnoses. I just finished a slew of fall holidays. I’ve buried two people in two days. All of this was on top of dealing with (Did I just say dealing with? I mean, experiencing the blessing of…) my children.
I decided I needed to relax last night. Should I call a friend to go out to dinner? Should I meet up with so-and-so at her house? And then I realized: what I really needed was a massage. It’s been about 19 months since I had one – the duration of the pandemic. I called ahead and asked if the massage therapist would wear a mask. Yes. And so I went for it – I would wear one, too. I played some meditative music on my headphones and…
Oh my God. I soooooooo needed that.
After my massage, I walked to my car feeling a lot lighter, freer. It was 9 pm. I would go home, shower, maybe watch a movie.
As I approached my car, I noticed a car parked behind me on the curb that caught my attention. It was a white van and looked eerily like my mother’s parts delivery car she uses to haul engines and other random car parts – part of the family business.
“Is Mom here?” I chuckled to myself. “How did she know where I was?” I looked at the license plate to make sure it wasn’t her. It wasn’t. It still made me feel like my mom was there and that felt nice. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was God-sent sign #2.
I unlocked my car, got inside, and tried to start the car. It wouldn’t start. I immediately started laughing aloud. Of course this would happen to me after trying to relax! But I took it in stride and kept smiling and laughing. As I tried to start the car again, I had a hunch that it was not the battery. Nonetheless, I got out my portable battery pack with jumper cables – a gift from my brother that I keep in my glove box for an occasion like this.
I hooked it up to my battery and attempted to start the engine again.
I kept trying.
A man who was walking by asked if I needed some help.
“It’s not starting,” I said.
I explained to him that I had this battery pack, but it still wasn’t starting the car. Perhaps the battery pack itself wasn’t charged enough? But honestly, I thought that it was the starter.
“Here, let me take a look,” he said. He looked under the hood.
“It’s corroded around your battery, let me clean that off for you.” The man then proceeded to go to the white van. The white van!
He was a man probably in his 60’s. The top of his head was bald, but he had long, gray hair that came below his ears on the sides and a salt-and-pepper mustache.
From his van, he took out some tools, a flashlight and a bottle of water and began cleaning my battery.
“I don’t think it is the battery,” I shared.
“Oh, no, this thing won’t start like this. I’ll clean it up for you and you’ll be going in no time.” He cleaned off the corroded part. “What’s your name?” he asked me.
“Hi, Jen; I’m Gisha.”
“Nice to meet you, Gisha. Thank you so much for helping me. I really appreciate your time, but I can certainly call AAA.”
As I watched Gisha clean off my battery, I was instantly taken back to my father’s garage (May he rest in peace!). I saw – before my eyes – both the love that Gisha and the love that my dad put into my car. Gisha wiped down the corroded part, topped off the fluids, he made sure the connections were all there. Through that love, I began to shed a tear. It was as if my father was helping me.
I remembered how I held a flashlight for my dad while he fixed a car. Soon enough, I was doing that for Gisha, too. After he cleaned it all up, we tried to jump the car again. We realized that maybe the battery pack from my glove box was also low on a charge. He didn’t have normal jumper cables to jump me using his van. He said maybe it was time to call AAA.
And then I confessed to him.
“My phone is dead too.”
Gisha handed me his phone to call. When I finally got hold of a representative, she said I had to choose: Did I want a jump? Or did I need a tow? Seemed like the appropriate metaphor of questions for my day.
My gut told me I needed a tow. I really thought it was the starter.
But Gisha felt like my dad in that moment and so, of course, I asked him what he thought, much like I would always consult with my dad for things like this.
“I really think you just need a jump.”
“I’ll take a jump,” I told the representative reluctantly, never wanting to go against my father’s advice.
While we were waiting for AAA to show up (Gisha insisted on staying with me until they came), he started his white van and began charging both my phone and my portable battery jumper.
“I’d like to give you something for your time. I can’t tell you enough how much this means to me,” I said. “It’s been quite a day. I think I’m being sent a message here.”
He looked at me, refused any payment, and then, as if my father or even God was speaking to me said: “Jen, your car battery is dead, your car jumper battery is dead, your phone is dead. I think you need to slow down and get some rest.”
We shared AAA stories. I told him that I knew this white van was special. He laughed and started giving me more safety tips. “I have daughters,” he said. While a million people would scold me for accepting help from this stranger, I knew he cared. We shared our line of work. I asked if he was a religious man and so I blessed him.
AAA soon showed up, ran some diagnostics and tried to jump the car. Gisha asked what the tech’s name was.
“Joseph,” he said. Didn’t surprise me. Joseph was my grandfather.
At that point, I was cold and searched my car for any random coats that were left behind. I found my scarf and my daughter’s pink hooded sweatshirt. As I tried to zip up her sweatshirt, it clung to my biceps tightly and covered only above my belly button, but it still brought me warmth.
“Think my shoulders could fit in there, too?” Joseph joked with me. He must have been about 250 pounds. “You need a tow,” he said.
Gisha would not leave until he knew I had a plan for getting home safely. And when he did, he handed me a three pronged USB charger and said: “this might come in handy some day.” I told him I would repay him by sharing his kindness with others through a sermon or the like. He shared that we had something in common: “I’m Assyrian and I know Aramaic.” And then he blessed me in Aramaic: “Peace be upon you.”
“And also with you,” I responded.
The truck soon arrived – a Jerr-Dan flatbed – just like my father’s.
I instantly was a 6-year old playing with the levers on the truck. I always called it the “up-and-down truck.”
Travis towed my car to the shop.
And guess who picked me up and took me home? The very person I wanted to see earlier yesterday. Sometimes the stars align perfectly – even on a really difficult day.
Objectively speaking, I had a pretty rough day. But I went to bed feeling so grateful, so spiritual, so lucky to have had the most blessed and inspiring day.
After my shower, I found myself having a conversation with my father, z”l, may his memory be a blessing.
“Okay, dad, I hear you. I promise to start taking better care of myself.” And I laughed. And I cried. And it was a beautiful and sacred day I will never forget.
And when I got a call from the car shop this morning, I heard the very words that confirmed I should always trust my intuition:
“Your starter is dead. You need a new one.”
Heaven visited me on earth.
And my heart could not feel more joyous.