Guardian Angels And Unusual Things
Ockham’s Razor is a 14th Century philosophical axiom, which says, in effect, “All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best.”
There have been a few times in my life when events occurred which can be best explained by the intervention of a guardian angel or some non-natural force. Other attempts to explain them seriously fail Ockham’s test.
The most striking example is the time my friend, Milton, and I were sitting in my Triumph drinking a couple of beers while we waited for my landlady to come home and unlock the door so we could go in. At the time, I didn’t know she was, in fact, at home and had reported to the police that we were drinking in a public place—a big legal faux pas, particularly since Milt was underage and I was his teacher.
We each had a bottle of beer half empty when the police car pulled up directly behind us and two officers surrounded the car. At their request, we both got out of the car. I tried the standard hiding technique of shoving the bottle under my belt and buttoning my jacket over it. However, they were a smart pair, and I was immediately relieved of my bottle.
The unexplained thing is that Milt’s bottle had disappeared, beer and all. He had no explanation of how or where it went, but he and I both knew he had a half-full bottle just before the police pulled up. The Triumph is an open car and the police could see everything inside as they walked up. They search him and the car. After they left, we searched the car. Milt’s bottle never was found—not then, and not later.
You might think it could have just slipped under a seat or into the upholstery, but the Triumph was a Spartan car, unlike modern cars—there are no hiding places. Besides, when I repaired and painted it, it was stripped down to the bare metal—inside and out. No beer bottle.
Another unusual, but more possibly explainable, experience concerns the time after a birthday celebration. Wilma and I took our friend, Fran, out for a birthday dinner in Winnipeg. We met Fran at the restaurant; I ordered a half-liter of wine because none of us was a big wine drinker. When I asked for three glasses, the waitress said we would have to purchase a full liter if we were using three glasses. Under different circumstances, I might have questioned her ruling on the grounds of common sense, but this was a celebration.
We got our wine. Wilma and Fran had a glass each and I drank way more of the remainder than I should have (my Scottish ancestors made me do it). Fran drove herself home and Wilma and I headed out of Winnipeg.
Suddenly, I found we were being funneled off onto an empty lot where there were a lot of police cars. It was a ‘check stop’ to find drivers who had been drinking. That would be me, but there was no way out.
I stopped, rolled down my window and tried not to breathe. The policeman came over, shone his flashlight at me but ignored our little dog, Baby, sleeping peacefully on Wilma’s lap.
“Good evening, sir. Have you been drinking tonight?” the policeman asked.
My brain went into overtime while the question hung in the air, like a bad smell, while he awaited my reply. It wasn’t all that tough a question to answer. I just didn’t care much for the consequences of my answer. Lying would have just meant I would have to take a breathalyzer test and fail it. Saying I had been drinking would have led to the same result. The penalty could have been confiscation of my car, temporarily, but still very inconvenient, and a significant fine.
While I was mulling over my lack of options, Baby jumped off Wilma’s lap and onto my arm, which was resting on the open window. Baby’s face was inches from the officer’s hand. She leaned out the window and licked his hand.
Now, Baby was a sweet little dog but generally just tolerated strangers. She rarely licked stranger’s fingers, even when urged to do so. Her actions that night were very much out of character.
The policeman was entranced with Baby, petted her, and even called for the officers to come and see her.
My inner reaction to that idea was, “Oh, sure. Let’s get some more cops in on this disaster.”
The other officers declined to join our little gathering. The policeman patted Baby for a few moments and then said, “Have a good night, sir.”
Wilma put Baby back on her lap and Baby went back to sleep immediately—her work was done and I didn’t have to answer the policeman’s question. This story may not pass a rigorous examination à la Ockham’s razor, but I think it’s a good story anyway.
One of my friends presented me with an unusual experience—actually several experiences but the others would make up a book all by themselves.
He was living in a basement suite in Regina. He had told me his house was haunted and I should see it. Wilma and I happened to be going through Regina on our way to somewhere west and I decided it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
I set up my visit with rigorous scientific precision. I did not allow him to tell me anything (other than his initial statement that it was haunted, and that’s a pretty wide category). I had him blindfold me before I went in and guided me by voice instruction only—no discussion—no physical contact—no hints.
“There are steps going down. That was the last step. Turn to your left. Stretch out your arms.”
I followed his instructions. It felt cold and the hair on my arms seemed to stand up like on a scared cat, but that could just be a nervous reaction to an unusual situation. Or it could be a static electric charge.
“Put down your arms. Turn right and walk forward. Stop. Turn left and stand still.”
I stood there and waited for something to happen. Without thinking about it, both my hands arms rose, and I leaned forward. My open hands rested against a cold, solid surface.
He removed my blindfold, and said, “Open your eyes.”
I saw then that my hands were on a wall. I was leaning against a wall that was covered with handprints. They weren’t painted on, nor were they clearly defined. They were just smudgy marks but obviously from hundreds of slightly sweaty hands. I had just added mine to the collection. There was no doubt in my mind they were hand marks. It was eerily similar to the worn wall spots in North Battleford, except that in this case the material had not been worn away over a period of decades.
“Everyone I show this to does that,” my friend said. “Do you want me to show you some other things?”
“No thanks, “I answered as calmly as I could. “Wilma is waiting in the car. I’d better go.”
I got out of that place—fast.
I could expand on this story by telling you that my friend became insane (by every imaginable standard) some years later. The last time I saw him he said he was the ‘Black Jesus’, whatever he meant by that.
But I have no logical reason to conclude his mental instability was connected with the house in which he lived for two years. You might say his excessive drug use was the cause of his mental problems. Or was the drug use the result?
I just know I would never have lived there.
One evening Wilma and I went to a fancy Italian restaurant (replete with a gondola) for dinner. We were seated at a table for four with a large red napkin at each place. The waiter seated Wilma at one place and I sat opposite to her. I reached for my napkin and noticed, right in the center of my napkin, a small piece of something that looked like glass. It was shiny. I thought it might be a rhinestone so I picked it off the napkin and put it in my pocket.
A few days later, I examined the object and it seemed to be very shiny. Rather like a zircon. Wilma asked a jeweler and was told it was indeed a diamond worth $500. I phoned the restaurant on the chance it had fallen out of a ring belonging to one of their employees when they set the table.
When no one at the restaurant claimed it, I put a notice in the Winnipeg newspaper under lost and found (without naming the restaurant). When that didn’t elicit any response, we put it in an envelope in our safety deposit box in the bank. Wilma printed the word, ‘DIAMOND’ in large letters on the envelope.
If the story were to end here, it would just be a case of ‘found and lost’.
However, one time when I looked in the safety deposit box, the envelope with the diamond was gone. Wilma and I searched the contents of the box carefully, item by item, several times over a period of months. The diamond really was gone. This could obviously be explained away; it must have been left on the table when we took something out of the box, or had fallen on the floor.
Every time I opened the box after that I would leaf through all the papers just to see if maybe we had missed it somehow—still nothing.
And then, one day, about a year after the diamond had disappeared, I opened the box and there was the envelope, with the diamond in it, right on top of the pile of papers—in plain sight with the printing on top.
I have only three possible explanations (ignoring the diamond’s initial sudden appearance):
1) Someone in the bank had taken it out of the safety deposit box, kept it for a year and then returned it. This is highly unlikely. Those boxes are supposed to be totally secure, and besides, if it had been taken for a year, why would the person return it?
2) Wilma had taken the diamond and later returned it as a joke on me. Knowing Wilma, and how disturbed she was about losing the diamond, this is even less likely.
3) Something supernatural was moving the diamond around as a message to me. If this were the case, then I totally missed the message.
I had the diamond set into a custom designed ring with a ruby on each side of the diamond (Ken and Anita’s birthstone). The diamond still sits peacefully in Wilma’s jewelry box. Maybe all it had wanted was to be loved or to be with other jewelry. Or maybe the setting is now too heavy for the spirit world to move it again.
My paternal grandmother was said to have the ability to foretell the future, although she denied it. She said she just knew things.
She said one time that Cliff’s wife would have red hair, play the piano, and accompany Cliff when he played the violin. This wasn’t a very elaborate prediction, but it did come true.
She was asked many times about my wife. Every time she said she couldn’t see a wife or anything about me.
For many years, I was convinced I would never get married because of here comments. This was disturbing for me when I was in my twenties because one of my dreams was to live in a nice little house with a white picket fence and three children.
My grandmother had given me an additional piece of information, which I had ignored. She said that she had tried several times to have her fortune told, and had been rejected every time because, “I can’t tell your fortune. You are yourself a fortuneteller, so it is impossible for anyone to tell yours.” It seems this is some sort of a psychic rule.
Like my grandmother, I maintain I can’t tell fortunes because I can’t. However, every year or two I get a feeling about something that is so strong it scares me. I usually don’t tell anyone because I don’t think it would help to know the future. If you can’t do anything to change it, how does it help to know it?
When our family was in California for Ken’s July wedding, I was saying goodbye to Henry and Anita (who were living in Montreal) just as we were leaving to come home.
I started out to say to Henry, “I guess I won’t be seeing you again until Christmas.”
I had only got halfway through the sentence when I had a sudden realization that I would see him before Christmas, and it would be at a funeral. I broke off mid-sentence and walked away to recover. I assumed he would be dead the next time I saw him, and I didn’t know what to do or say. I wanted to warn him or Anita, but all that would do was worry them.
I did see Henry 10 days later, but it was at his grandmother’s funeral, not his.
There is a long stretch of highway between Winnipeg and Portage. It is smooth, straight, divided, free of trees that might hide deer wanting to cross, and has limited access. It was a sunny summer day without a single car in sight. My excuse was that I wanted to see how well my Triumph was running. I sped up to a bit over its cruising speed 100 mph (160 km/hr) and enjoyed the way it purred. When I got within a couple of miles of one of the few intersections, I eased off on the gas and let the car coast down to a more reasonable speed.
As I approached the intersection a police car pulled out in front of me and signaled for me to stop.
“Wait here until I get the reading of your speed.”
This was in the early days of radar when the device was mounted on the side of the road using a little tripod. As I waited, and the police car pulled over the other cars as they came by, I wondered how far back the radar might have been. If it were more than a mile back I would be in serious trouble.
In court, the officer read his report, which included an assessment of my attitude when ticketed. He reported me as being ‘cooperative’.
I almost laughed out loud. When he had told me I was clocked at 15 mph over the limit my attitude was more like ‘ecstatic’ or ‘exuberant’. He was lucky I hadn’t kissed him.
Gordon farmed the land around our garden. He was always friendly, happy, and loved to chat. No matter what he was doing he would stop to share a story or find something about which to talk. He was a good friend and always worked the land with loving care.
He was killed suddenly in a freak accident while working alone with machinery in the farmyard.
I bought a September Ruby apple tree that fall and planted it in his memory at the edge of our garden right next to a field where he had farmed. It was a young tree and I expected it would take two or three years to mature enough to bear fruit. When spring came, I noticed the tree was healthy with a nice covering of leaves. The tree also had one, single white, blossom. This was surprising because apple blossoms invariably grow in clusters. This single blossom set fruit, grew through the summer and by fall had produced a small, single, ruby red, apple, which grew to maturity and ripened.
It was as if Gordon’s spirit was using this symbol as his way of saying his last words that he didn’t have a chance to say to us.