On Good Friday, just before I was due to head over to St Hubert’s Catholic Church in Langley for the ecumenical Good Friday worship service, I fell. (None of the pictures in this blog are related to that fall. I figured no one wanted to see those. So I am posting pictures of the people,who surrounded me with care after the fall instead.) I was out for a morning run, and about a mile from home, when my foot caught on something and I went down. As a runner, a farmer, a human being, I have fallen before. But this fall was one of the bad kind, when you think you might be able to stop it, and you’re stumbling, and make it worse. I did not get my hand out to catch my self. That meant it was my face that broke the fall.
I was surprised when I hit the ground how hard I hit. I could tell immediately that I was injured enough that I would not be completing this run. I also would not be reading my assigned Scripture in the Good Friday service. What I couldn’t tell, though, was how much damage had actually been done.
I know there are all kinds of falls we take in life. I also know that sometimes falling, physically or otherwise, can be a life threatening issue. This fall was not one of those. I am very aware that I could have been much more seriously injured than I was. A friend of mine, after hearing about this accident, posted this quote on my Facebook page: “One way to tell If you are old is to fall down. If people laugh, you are still young. If they panic and start running toward you, you are old.”
I am definitely old. As I replied to that post, “The blood would have probably brought them anyway, but the combination of white hair and blood was irresistible.” And indeed two people stopped to help immediately. One was another woman who had been out running too, and was coming toward me as I fell. The other was a man in a truck. The man called out, “Are you OK?”
I answered immediately, and with an enthusiasm born of the conviction that my answer was correct. “No.”
He parked his truck, and quickly came to my side. He handed me a towel which I pretty quickly made unreturnable as I held it to my bleeding face. Then he loaded me into his truck and drove me to the nearby clinic. When they refered me on to the ER he was ready to take me there. Let me make the generosity of his offer clear by noting that the ER is up in Coupeville, about a 45 minute drive from where we were. I told him he could just take me home and I would go from there.
Waiting for me at home were two folks from my congregation. Linda and Tony had to come over for some “farm time.” They were also there to help me get the place ready for Lamb Day, the day my whole congregation is invited to visit the farm for their own “farm time.”. They had arrived while I was out on my run, and were already busy with their projects.
As the good stranger who picked me up pulled up my driveway, we were met by Anna, the other person who was at the farm last Friday. She is a young woman who just finished her PhD work in physics in Sweden. I met her last fall when I was in Scotland, on the island of Iona with a group from the church. Now Anna is traveling around the world before settling down into full-time work back home. As it happened, she was spending a few days on the farm as part of her time in Seattle.
Anna told me that she was surprised when she saw a pick up truck bringing me home from my run. She also saw the cloth up by my face, but thought I was on the phone. When I got out of the truck and explained that I had fallen, she realized her mistake. Tony took one look at me, called Linda, and together they put me in their car and drove me on to Coupeville.
At the ER they confirmed that I had a broken tooth, a split lip, and, thankfully, no concussion. They glued my lip back together (seriously- with superglue, which in the medical world is called “dermabond”), put me on antibiotics, and sent me off with instructions to return if I needed to. And when I got back in the waiting room, there were Tony and Linda, waiting to chauffeur me home.
I had already called an island colleague about not being able to be at the Good Friday service, which was happening while I was getting glued back together. Now I was looking to Easter. Would I still be able to preach? Both of my preaching colleagues had offered to step in if needed.
Friends had plenty of opinions. A few suggested maybe I should skip this Sunday. But most thought that “rising up” from my fall into Easter might make a good sermon illustration. And in spite of how miserable I felt on Friday afternoon, I was pretty sure myself that by Sunday I would feel much better. Although my face was definitely beat up looking, and my lip was glued shut, the truth was my mouth still worked, and I did have my Easter sermon almost done.
By Sunday, indeed I was much better. My lip was still a mess, but I did not get the predicted black eye, and my broken tooth did not show, mostly because my swollen lip made it impossible for me to smile. So I gave a brief explanation of my wounds at the beginning of the worship service, and we all carried on. In fact, we had a wonderful service, full of beautiful music, and hallelujahs, and the joy of resurrection hope.
As it turned out, that personal note at the beginning of worship was the only mention I made of my fall. I did not use it as a sermon illustration. But I still have a few things to say about it, so I am using this moment for some reflection.
On this Easter, I found myself thinking of all the people who surrounded me with care and compassion to bring me to that moment of Easter joy. My congregation, which always leads with love. The medical workers, of course, and my friends who took me to the hospital. My new friend Anna who kept me company over that first night when the doctor had said, “Don’t be alone.”
I am grateful for a congregation that knows how to celebrate Easter. I am grateful for visitors to the farm, who were there just when I needed them. I am grateful for island neighbors and friends who I knew I could call on had I been alone as I usually am. I am grateful for medical folks who are able most of the time to patch things up.
And I am deeply grateful to strangers. Folks who see someone fall and run towards that person to help. I do not know the name of the woman who stopped, or the man who put me in his truck, ready to interrupt whatever plans he had to be sure I was cared for. I have actually thought about putting a sign up on the corner where I fell, offering a “thank you” out to the world in hope that the two strangers will see it.
Two days after Easter, on Tuesday morning, in my Bible study class, we were back into the “everyday” Gospel, and interestingly considering Luke 10. That’s the chapter where the story of the Good Samaritan is told. As that story goes, it was the outsider, the one who was never expected to help, who stops and offers care. I really don’t know anything about the man who stopped for me, except that he stopped, and he helped. We did not talk religion, or politics, or even favorite foods.
He simply asked if I was OK. And when I said no, he responded. That is falling and rising. And that is the gospel truth.