The trajectory of one’s life often involves many twists and turns, some by choice, some accidental, some forced upon you like a freight train at full speed. This is a story about the latter. My life, like many others, has been filled with a wide range of these “twists and turns” and this story is about the second most significant event or life-lesson in my early life – escaping an abusive family environment was the first. This event changed me irrevocably. This event significantly influenced and shaped what I felt was important in life and taught me a lesson that has formed the foundation of my personal, academic, social, moral and spiritual pursuits, with much more focus during the past 20 years. It was an experience which thrust me into the very real, the very tragic, and the very illuminating realities and lessons of life, and the heart of what it means to be a decent human being.
On February 24 1977 when I was 16 years old, I nearly killed a 60+ year old man driving a Yellow Cab when I slammed into the drivers-side door of his cab speeding through a stop sign at 70 mph in Lynn Valley. After the Jaws of Life arrived and cut him out of his cab, they wheeled him in to the ambulance next to me. I busted his body up so badly, bones had pierced his kidneys and lungs causing him to gurgle on the stretcher next to me trying to breath. You cannot imagine what that sounds like.
It is the sound of death coming.
And then there was the catastrophic and crippling realization that this person, this soul who is unable to breath, with his entire left side smashed to pieces, bones slicing through his organs, blood in his lungs and mouth, almost certainly praying to his god as he gurgled “oh my God, oh my God, oh My God”…is about to die because of ME!!!
I tied REALLY HARD to WILL myself to die in that ambulance, until I lost consciousness. I had some serious head injuries, a smashed face and cheeks requiring some wire and plastic surgery.
I could not believe what I had done to another human being as a direct result of my moronic and irresponsible actions. This was the first time in my life that suicide was a very serious and real possibility. To be honest I don’t recall any attempts after I left the hospital, but I have no doubt now that I would have had my first thoughts of suicide.
But there is more to this tragic story. What happened next hit me like a freight train slamming into my face – EXPLODING me into an entirely different realm. What happened next was on the front page, or elsewhere, of all the main Vancouver papers at the time.
What happened next, was that I learned what TRUE compassion and forgiveness LOOKS like.
What happened next, was that I learned what TRUE compassion and forgiveness FEELS like.
Close to Christmas in 1977 on December 14th, the now broken and hobbled old man whom I nearly killed 10 months earlier, stood up slowly and asked the female judge if he could address the court. Assisted by family and a cane, this broken old man slowly but with unwavering courage, determination and self-discipline, made his way through the swinging doors to stand in front of the judge. What he said next, in broken English and a European accent, brought everyone to tears in the courtroom, including the judge. Almost word-for-word (hard to forget such an emotional moment, even 41 years ago), he said…
“Your Honour, this young boy made a boo-boo. Your Honour, I am an old man and I am going to die soon. This young boy has his whole life ahead of him. It is close to Christmas. Your Honour, I plead with you to be lenient on this young man”.
There was not a dry eye in the court room.
I got community hours, I got probation, a lawsuit was dropped. Life carried on, more or less. But I was different in many ways. That day changed my life. But more specifically something changed inside me. My attitude was different in many ways. I was given a second chance at creating a worthwhile life.
I dedicated my Master’s Thesis to this remarkable human being who changed my life, changed ME, by showing me genuine compassion and forgiveness.
I owe this man my life!
In many ways much of my life so far, has been on a trajectory set in motion by that one day. A life filled with self exploration, academic learning, personal, spiritual and moral growth. Culminating with a desire, a commitment, to helping others find their own trajectories in life. Helping others through knowledge, practice, ritual, plant healing and any other actions which can help lead them to health, happiness and well-being. Or helping some cause, some principle, some initiative that helps others on a larger community or even global scale.
I still have a ways to go on my journey. I hope the Universe will allow me enough time to find
the best way to help others goodwill to others or a worthy cause
“Compassion is the basis of morality.”
~ Arthur Schopenhauer