I’ve wanted to write this piece for some time. I kept putting it off for whatever reason. Something told me to begin typing.
To most people, 911 signifies either an emergency, or a reference to terrorists striking the World Trade Center in New York City. That infamous number represents something a bit different to me. You see, my mother was born on 9/11. Each September 11th marks her birthday. Whenever I see the number 911 I think of her.
Mom was the type person always wanting to stay in touch. If my wife, Joleen, and I were on a trip I’d best check in each evening or else. She wanted to know that us and the kids were safe before she went to bed. Evidently it was something ingrained in mother and her sisters from an early age. Before cellphones and answering machines, mom and her siblings had a special code arranged to communicate in case of an emergency.
In our early Alaskan years, phone calls from Alabama to the 49th state were very expensive. Should storms strike Birmingham or Mobile where the two sisters lived, they’d dial our house letting the phone ring three times before hanging up. This was a signal to let their younger sister know all was okay. If an earthquake or trembler hit Alaska, mother would do the same their direction. It didn’t cost a dime.
I tried doing stuff for mom but she was a very independent woman until the end. If anyone volunteered she’d generally refuse help. Most times I’d perform things without even asking. I worked on her vehicles on numerous occasions and tried to wash them whenever possible. One thing mom liked was a clean car. What I did for her was nothing compared to what she did for me.
When mom died, I was left with one less person to call whenever I needed help. Mother was great at giving me wisdom especially in areas of finance and spirituality. Dad did the same where money was involved, yet his philosophy was less than conservative,
“Son, nothing ventured, nothing gained!”
Following dad’s financial roadmap got me in trouble several times. Mom’s advice was much more cautious and frugal.
“Always sock money away for a rainy day!”
One of mom’s comments to me whenever I became worried was,
“Things will be okay!”
Often times I called her just to hear those soothing words. My wife has now taken over the job.
On the day of mom’s graveside service I decided our Chevrolet pickup needed cleaning. Even though temperatures were well below zero, and truck door locks can easily freeze with water added to them, I knew doing so was was most appropriate. The vehicle’s white paint was exceedingly dirty with brown mud.
I drove it to one of those automatic touchless washes, waiting patiently for a car in front of me to go through. As I sat there thinking about what was still to come that day, I glanced over seeing a white hearse pull up at an adjoining stall. As it entered the wash bay a coffin could be seen in back. Surprised at this I whispered out,
Making note of the vehicle license plate, LEGCY1, I couldn’t help believe this was more than ironic. Legacy was the name of the funeral home we used. When I exited the carwash the hearse was long gone. Telling Joleen, my brother Jim, and son Gunnar about it, they said we’d know in two hours. The service was being held at Pioneer Cemetery in Palmer some 50 miles away.
We were the first ones to arrive, remaining inside the frosty truck to stay warm. Wind outside was howling making the chill factor -30 degrees or colder. In a matter of minutes a white hearse rolled up. It slowly backed to the recently dug gravesite. I was not surprised at all to see LEGCY1 on its rear license plate. At that point I knew all would be okay.
Since then many interesting events have occurred regarding 911. The number pops up at opportune or inopportune times depending on how you look at it.
Joleen and I were contemplating the purchase of a home in Manhattan, Kansas. The old farm house plus huge limestone barn was unique in it being 110 years old. One thing that mother always chastised me about was my love of old stuff; especially cars and trucks. She called them ‘money pits’.
I definitely wanted that house with Joleen not so keen with the idea. Deciding to drive back out for another look, we were stunned to find the home was located off Kansas County Road – 911. Neither of us had previously noticed this as we’d used a GPS to find the location.
That made our decision easy to make. We decided against buying the place. It was the right choice, because later on we discovered the old limestone dwelling needed thousands of dollars in mechanical and foundation upgrades. Such repairs initially went unnoticed by my eyes.
An antique Chevrolet truck I purchased in Kansas a year later turned out to have 911 connections. After buying the pickup and hauling it to Arizona, I seriously ruptured 3 vertebrae while dismantling the chassis.
Later on I severely cut my head and hand on rusted metal, incurring several painful burns as well. On top of that my initial estimate on getting it running quadrupled. Mom would’ve said something crass had she been alive, about me bringing it home. Joleen took over that task.
One evening out in the garage, I took a long hard look at a rusty and faded license plate still attached to the Chevy’s cab. All of the plate’s glossy paint was long gone. I could barely read the license plate number, 2 911. I knew Mom would be saying,
“I told you so!”
I couldn’t help but grin. Had I noticed from the start, I probably would’ve refrained from buying. For the truck’s sake it’s good I wasn’t looking for such that day.
I could go on and on regarding the number of times 911 has popped up since mom’s death. Some skeptics would say it’s pure coincidence. I know different. It’s my mother’s way of letting us know all is okay. Joleen has come across such including my son, daughter, and my brother.
This past year has been an awful one for me physically speaking. If mother were around to chat with me she’d insist I slow down and pray for healing. She didn’t have to tell me. Someone did that for her.
Last Sunday morning in church, Pastor Chad Garrison’s sermon began with Luke 9:11. To paraphrase:
When the crowds learned it (that Jesus was present) they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the Kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.
My first though after hearing the message was,
“My back could sure use some healing!”
Thinking about the unusual Luke 9:11 sermon for several days afterwards, I initially believed it was mom’s way of telling me things would be okay. It didn’t take long to realize that wasn’t the case.
My assurance this time came solely from the one in charge, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. All I needed was ask him for help.
Follow up: I was told by doctors that I needed laser surgery to fix my back. Family, friends, myself included, prayed that I wouldn’t have to go that route. Miraculously, such a surgical procedure is no longer required.