The Backwards Story

You can tell a lot about a person and how they tell a story (or maybe not). Some people start at the beginning…and go to the end. Some start at the end…add the drama and interest, and then pull you back in by ending with the beginning. And some sort of swirl around until it all becomes clear. Elie started a story the other day…only later did I realize it was the end of the story and not the beginning.

“I was late to class today,” Elie began. Since the army, Elie is very aware of time and its requirements. Elie is not late to get somewhere because he calculates how long it takes to get there and buffers the time. Elie is not late, and if he is, he is quite annoyed with himself or the situation. He wasn’t annoyed and yet he was late.

“Why were you late?” I asked, “that’s not good.” Stupid comment on my part, since obviously he has learned that being late is not a good thing. In the army, it is punished; in life, it means you miss important things, annoy people, etc.

“I got stuck in the mall, but it’s okay. I’m never late,” Elie told me. Obviously, he’s never late. I just told you that (where’s the button to put in a smile here?).  Something wasn’t right. The fact that he wasn’t annoyed about being late was beginning to register.

“Why were you late? What were you doing in the mall?”

He was trying to get his sister’s phone fixed. “You should have just said ‘forget it’ and gone to class on time,” I told him, already realizing there was more to this.

“I know. I was watching and I told them they had 10 minutes and when they didn’t finish, I took the phone back.” Well, that doesn’t really answer the question.

“So, why were you late?” I asked again.

And finally the true story comes out. A woman collapsed/fainted in the parking lot of the mall; Elie went rushing to help. He had medical gloves in his pocket because he’s regularly on the ambulance crew. He felt for her pulse on her wrist. No pulse. He felt her neck and found a very weak one. He lifted her legs and began taking care of her. Her family filled in some of the medical background. People had already called the ambulance but by the time it got there, she had a pulse already.

Elie gave them the details, explained he had to rush to class, and asked if he could leave. With their thanks, he left, arriving a few minutes late to class.

“You saved her life,” I said to him, a bit astounded at the turns this story had taken without warning.

“Maybe,” he answered back. The ambulance told him he did a good job, he explained with that smile of his.

So Elie was late to class. “Did you tell the teacher why you were late?” Yes, he explained. Afterwards, he spoke to him and explained what had happened, “But there were still others that got there later, and I’m never late,” Elie said again. Some people start at the end of the story; some don’t.

A few years ago, Elie was driving by when he saw an elderly woman collapse. He pulled to the side and began giving her CPR. He continued until the ambulance got there, but she died anyway. The crew said there was nothing more that could have been done. I was far from home when my husband told me what had happened over the phone. I was driving, frantic to get home to know that Elie was okay, had accepted but not blamed himself.

My husband was brilliant. He told Elie that all their lives, this woman’s family might have wondered if help had gotten there sooner, would their loved one have lived. Because Elie was right there, they could live in peace, knowing this was her time.

Elie accepted that; or perhaps he’s been trained enough to understand that we are humans, not God. Life and death don’t always rest in our hands, or perhaps, more accurately, they never really do. Elie moved on from that incident, as he moved on from the one that happened this week. He hasn’t mentioned it, but for that one time when he told me he was late to class.

I look at my son, both my sons, all three of my sons and I wonder what great love God has for me that He gave me these boys, these girls. That woman was blessed this week that my son was there to help. But the one who has the greatest blessing of all is me. I pray that I never take for granted these gifts God has given to me. I pray that God knows how grateful I am for them, every day and every minute and every second of my life.

Maybe I’ve just done what Elie does – because the story in this post is my gratitude and not what happened in the mall. I started at one point, far from the real point. Such a blessing, so much gratitude.

Thank you, God, for trusting me with these amazing human beings you have created. Please, please watch over them and keep them safe. Bless the work of their hands, their hearts, their minds, their souls with health, with love, with life, with pride in what they do.

Shabbat shalom – may it be a Shabbat of peace here and around the world.

And finally, America “celebrated” Veterans Day this week – May God bless the soldiers of America and Israel, who fight for light and life, for freedom and for truth and may God send comfort to the families of the two pilots killed in this week’s training accident in Israel, and to the families of other soldiers this week who might have been hurt or killed defending our lands.

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