Sunday, October 2, 2011

Making One’s Days Count…


“Death in Teheran”

A rich and mighty Persian once walked in his garden with one of his servants. The servant cried that he had just encountered Death, who had threatened him. He begged his master to give him his fastest horse so that he could make haste and flee to Teheran, which he could reach that same evening. The master consented and the servant galloped off on the horse. On returning to his house the master himself met Death, and questioned him, “Why did you terrify and threaten my servant?” “I did not threaten him; I only showed surprise in still finding him here when I planned to meet him tonight in Teheran,” said Death. (An old Persian tale)

In 1963, at age 24, I had been a travel consultant for a few years, working in a travel agency that handled a commercial account for a large aluminum company, one of the largest in the world at that time. It was close to the end of November when earlier in the week, I’d been asked to reserve a seat on Trans-Canada Airlines (now Air Canada)—on any flight close to the end of the day Friday November 29th for, Mr. Mac….., an executive engineer wishing to return home to Toronto. That made him one of very many who wanted to be on one of the hard-to-get flights from Montreal to Toronto at that time of the week. After checking ANY available flight, I called Executive Services and begged for special consideration, given that his company was such an important customer, blah…blah…blah. Finally, on Wednesday, I managed to get him booked on TCA flight 831 leaving around 6 PM on Friday November 29th. Friday morning, I got a call asking me to cancel Mr. Mac….’s reservation as he would stay in Montreal a bit longer. After all my hard work to get him on that flight, I was a bit mystified since he had been so insistent on leaving on Friday.

Later that night, it came on the news that TCA flight 831 en route to Toronto had crashed a few minutes after take-off near Ste-Thérèse-de-Blainville, killing all 118 on board. The crash was the worst in Canadian history at that time. My thought immediately went to Mr. Mac….. who had escaped death by a few hours.

Monday morning back to work, I was thrilled to mention to my co-workers how Mr. Mac….. had probably had a premonition and cancelled just in time. Around 10 AM, the secretary who had worked so diligently to get him on that flight called me. Those dates and times, I can never forget. She explained that the executive had been invited by some friends--it was the hunting season and game was abundant in the Laurentians--and he’d decided to try his luck. Unfortunately, he’d been killed in the wee hours on Saturday morning by a stray bullet… could I arrange for his body to be transported to Toronto.

I was chilled to the bone and remained in a daze all day long. I had never met the client, but his fate impressed me for the rest of my life. Are our days counted? By mere hours? His flight had left without him around 6 PM on Friday and the bullet had hit him around 5 AM on Saturday…

Later in life, I was struck by similar odd timings. My dad had died on April 22nd, 4 days short of his birthday on April 26th. The same happened to my mom who passed away on January 17th, three days before her birthdate of January 20th. Through the years, I took notice of how often this would prove to be true. That we were allotted a number of years of physical life even if it meant shaving it by a short number of days, even hours. No more. I could hardly reach any other conclusion.

(…to be continued on a later post)

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Anonymous said...

At my friend's funeral, her pastor told about when he was a little boy he lived on a farm and that he and his brothers would be away from the house all day working the fields, etc. He would ask his father when they were going to go home. His father would answer that they could go home when all their work was done. He then went on to tell how my friend was always working at the church morning, noon or night anytime something needed to be done. She was only 50 he said, but he felt like she got to go home early because all her work was done. Thank you again.

Stargazer said...

Amen to that.