Living a Miracle
“As to me, I know nothing else but miracles.”
- Walt Whitman
On an August Saturday in 1997 that was promising to flirt with triple digits on the thermometer, my husband Don and I, along with my ex-brother-in-law Norman, met up with an old friend. After the death of his wife Harry had moved to Florida, trying to reboot the good life by living on a 55-foot long boat playfully named Tinkertoy. He had come up for the summer to where he had spent his first 50+ years and invited us to join him on a “Circle Line-type” tour of New York City.
An hour in, I was up on the top deck chatting with him and began to feel an increasing pressure on my chest. Thinking it was about the climbing heat index, I asked Harry – all a good 300 pounds of him – if he was experiencing anything. He wasn’t, so I let it pass, not realizing that it was a message.
A half hour later, just as we arrived at the middle of Flushing Bay, the sky suddenly darkened and Harry asked us to secure all the doors and windows because a thunderstorm was approaching and we would be making a run for shelter at the shoreline. Since childhood I have been instinctively terrified by lightning that strikes directly to ground, so I opted to go below deck where I could ride out the storm in what felt like safety, given the options. Don secured and locked the door behind me, staying on deck with Norman and Harry.
Minutes later, there was a horrific thunderclap. The boat shook as if by an earthquake and was literally lifted up like a leaf in the wind, settling back into the water ON ITS SIDE. I was thrown off the couch in the salon and pinned to what had been the floor and become a wall as the couch slid across its surface. To tell the truth, to this day, 25 years later, it is still hard for me to figure out what became what in the chaos, but it is very clear as to what my situation was: I was pinned to a wall by the couch that was covering my legs from toes to thigh, with my right hand trapped by some other piece of furniture, and water at shoulder-level, rising rapidly. About 10 feet away and to my left, the staircase that had led to the upper decks was now running horizontally along its wall.
There was no way out. I simply couldn’t move. This was it. I was about to die.
Here’s what I felt and thought in those moments that I was sure were my last:
I was not afraid. To the contrary, a certain peace and acceptance flowed in with the rising waters. However, there was an absolute fear of how I was going to get to wherever I was going. Should I hold my breath for as long as possible, or just get it over with ASAP and inhale the filthy, diesel-slicked waters of Flushing Bay?
There was only one regret: Not being able to see my girls and Don at least one more time.
With all that was going on – with literally the clock ticking on my life – I took time to ask whatever God is out there: “Why now? I’ve finally told Prudential that I’m absolutely leaving at the end of the year! (I had been renewing a consulting contract for the past four years since formally leaving as an employee). You didn’t have to kill me to get me out of there!!”
Can you believe it? As I write this now, all these years later, I again smell the oil, remember the dark wood paneling of the room, and the exact blue of the couch that was pinning me to the floor/wall, and almost can’t believe it myself: You’d think – I would think – that I could have mustered something with a little more spiritual content, wouldn’t you?
And then: The Miracle…the honest-to-God, “Thank Heavens!” miracle.
It started with an impossible rearrangement of reality. I looked to my left and, as expected, saw the stairs that increased in height as they advanced horizontally toward the left corner of the room where the walls met. The door – the secured, locked door – was still somehow standing vertically, exactly in the middle of the flight of stairs. It didn’t matter that it was locked. My right arm was pinned by the couch, and my left arm could not extend the 10 feet that separated me from that door. But reaching out to me, through the dead center of the door, was Norman’s hand, his forearm visible to about half-way up to his elbow.
Only a split second later, not knowing how I got there, I was floating on the surface of the bay, close to the boat. The three guys were sitting on its side, which was submerged about a foot into the oil-slicked water, oil-slicked themselves, as I was. I swam over and they pulled me to safety.
* * * * * * * * * * *
We were rescued by a fleet of small boats deployed by the members of a recreational fishing club. At least, that’s what they said they were. I knew then, and know now, that they were angels. EMTs were waiting at the dock and brought us to the nearest hospital for evaluation and clean-up. We later learned that something called a water spout – a nautical tornado –
had formed in the storm and caused at least one death on the bay that afternoon.
* * * * * * * * * * *
The astrology for me on that August day was certainly intense. Pluto, the “Great Transformer,” the planet that in classic astrology was associated with physical death itself, was pressuring several planets in my chart, most especially the Sun and Mars. There is no doubt that any tense combination of Pluto/Sun/Mars can result in explosive, chaotic, traumatic disruption, and even death. But here’s why I have never before or since joined those astrologers who predict specific outcomes: Could I have ever foreseen what would actually happen to me that day?
Pluto had done what Pluto does. It broke me open. Not for a single day in the last 25+ years have I ever forgotten that miracles can and do happen. My life, and my understanding of how all our lives fit into a larger context, has never been the same. And at what I was absolutely sure were my final moments, I was embraced by peace and calm, left with enough moxie to chide God about Prudential, and so importantly, with a story to share with those who might benefit from hearing it.
Blessings on your way.