This past Shabbos (Sabbath) we sponsored a communal meal in honor of the tenth anniversary of an accident involving my now sixteen year old son. We felt it was important for us to publically thank G-d for all that He has done for us, and I wanted to share here with all of you as well what happened then, and why we continue to be so grateful.
At about this time of year on the Jewish calendar comes a minor holiday called Lag B’omer. It doesn’t even have the status of a minor holiday; it’s more minor than that! But in Israel, where I was living ten years ago, it’s a day celebrated with great fun and celebration. Boys of all ages spend weeks collecting any scrap wood or cardboard boxes they can find for the traditional Lag B’omer bonfires. There are numerous fires that are built in all neighborhoods, where people sing special songs, dance, sometimes roasting potatoes and hot dogs. It’s a lot of fun!
My then six year old son wasn’t immune to the excitement building among his friends, and one day asked for permission to go down the block with a friend and look for some bonfire materials. I have to explain that in the small religious town we were living, it was very normal for young children to go out unsupervised by a parent. It was a very peaceful and quiet area, and my children there could do things that I’d be uncomfortable with them doing here in the US when they were much older. (For example, one day I allowed my ds6 to take dd5 to the major supermarket about a five minute walk away – here in the US my kids don’t leave my sight in the supermarket, let alone go in and buy something by themselves!)
So I agreed that he could go down the block, the distance of about a four minute walk from our small apartment building. A little while later there was a knock on the door, and I opened it to find the 5 year old brother of the friend ds with his 19 year old aunt. He said something rapidly in a mixture of Hebrew and English, but even though I understood the actual words, it didn’t make sense to me, so I told him to repeat himself. He said it again, then his aunt yanked him away as if he was saying nonsense. I closed the door, and tried to figure out what he was talking about – it still didn’t make sense, and it was even more confusing that if something was wrong, why wouldn’t the 19 year old tell me about it?
But it made even less sense that this child would say something so strange to me out of the blue. So a minute later, I decided to just make sure everything was okay. I ran downstairs and looked up and down the block to see if anything had happened involving my ds. No sign of anything. No sign of any people, no noise – everything seemed calm and quiet.
I came back inside, having seen everything looked fine, but feeling inside myself that something was very wrong. Dh was there for his lunch break, and I told him I was going out to look for ds and wanted him to come with me. No explanation. I grabbed the baby, and went back down the block where I had looked already, but this time I went a little further, where the street began to curve, so I hadn’t seen what lay right behind the curve. And as I did, I saw a passenger bus pulled to the side of the street, a crowd of emergency workers, and my ds in the middle of them all.
As I approached, one of them (I think it was my son’s principal, who was also a volunteer EMT), said to me in Hebrew with great emotion, “You have just experienced a miracle.” Having already spoken to the driver of the bus and the passengers on board, he went on to explain what happened.
It seemed my ds had decided to cross the street to get a cardboard box on the other side. Having been taught to carefully look both ways before crossing, he did, and only started crossing when he was sure it was safe. He had no way to know that a bus driving at a high speed was about to bear down on him. The driver was going at full speed, and though he was in a residential neighborhood and children at play were common, rounded the blind curve without slowing down – and then saw ds. The driver tried to brake and swerve away, but there wasn’t enough time. Ds6 was hit by the front corner of the bus and thrown across the street by the force of contact.
The passengers on board who saw what happened thought he had been killed. But after a couple of minutes, he regained consciousness and began crying. That’s how he looked when we saw him. We didn’t know the extent of his injuries – just that he was still alive. Dh went with him to the hospital while I stayed home with the other three kids. I still feel sick when I remember the feeling of fear in my stomach, waiting to know what happened. None of my friends or neighbors came by- they were just learning about it themselves, and I think they were were afraid to be intrusive or say the wrong thing. While it was a lonely feeling, some moments are so intense that maybe it’s best if it’s just between you and G-d.
Hours later a call finally came from the hospital. Unbelievably, the only major injury he experienced was a collarbone fracture (in addition to minor injuries, like large areas of skin on his arms and legs that were rubbed off, bleeding from the ear). They did a brain scan and ascertained that his brain was fine – brain damage had been my main fear. There’s no physical explanation for how my son escaped virtually unscathed from an accident that should have left him dead or brain damaged for life. I felt as if a sword had been hanging over the head of our family, and something pushed it to the side at the last minute. And I (and many others) believe that was it was in the merit of one particular thing that my son was saved.
About eight months before this, the aunt of my best friend had been killed in a tragic accident. She had been waiting to cross a street in Jerusalem, when the Arab driver of a huge tractor/bulldozer indicated to her that she could cross; as she was halfway across, he purposely ran her down. She was a wonderful person, always positive and smiling, the mother of seven young children. It happened the day after Rosh Hashana, the day when the fate of every person is decided for the coming year, and it left me feeling shaken inside.
I felt that I wanted to actively do something as a merit for her soul. (Very simplified explanation: after a person has died, they have no way to do good deeds and earn ‘credit’ for themselves. But those who are living can do good deeds in memory of the person who has died, in order that the deceased has increasing merits to benefit their soul.) After thinking about what I could do, I decided to host a weekly gathering in my home where women could gather and say Psalms together. I got a special set of Psalms that was broken up into a number of booklets; each person would read a different booklet and the idea was that together the entire book of Psalms was said within a 20 – 30 minute period.
This wasn’t an easy thing to get started – you know how it is, everyone is busy! But I persisted and more and more women began to attend. It was about eight months later when the accident happened, eight months in which I thought I was gathering merits for the soul of a person tragically killed in an accident involving a large vehicle. Eight months in which I was actually gathering merits to save my own child from what should have been a tragic accident involving a large vehicle.