Harold held Sarah’s hand murmuring something about God’s will. At this point, hating God for what happened, and hating Harold for his insensitivity, Sarah tuned out and once again her thoughts turned to John and how the whole thing began.
* * *
John was close behind as Sarah maneuvered down the fluffy white slopes. They enjoyed their invented game of ‘shadow’. John zigged every time she zigged, and zagged within a split second of her next turn. Sarah was looking forward to this evening; sitting beside the open fire, sipping wine and talking about their dreams. They had the same interests, the same energy, and both liked their coffee black.
Sarah was twenty-four. After graduating from university in accounting she enjoyed working contract jobs. She relished the non-commitment aspect of short contracts, which gave her the freedom to ski in the winter and mountain climb in the summer. She had always had close friends, but John was her first serious love. When they weren’t working they spent every minute together. She was looking forward to spring, fast water and kayaking with John.
It was a freak accident. One minute they were driving on their way to get a pizza for supper and the next minute a car shot out of the intersection and smashed into the driver’s side.
Two days later Sarah regained consciousness to learn they had used the jaws-of-life to get her out. John had been killed instantly.
* * *
“Sarah, I have to go now. Do you want to stay sitting up in bed or should I help you into your wheelchair?“ Harold’s voice pulled her suddenly back to the present as he adjusted his tie, preparing to leave.
“Oh.... just leave me alone! Stop pampering me! I’ve managed to get into my wheelchair many times before and I can do it again. Just get me a cup of coffee and go to work.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to get your own coffee too, Sarah dear? I know you’re upset because of your legs, but don’t take it out on me. I’m just trying to help you.”
“I’m sorry, Harold. I don’t know what’s wrong with me this morning. It’s just these stupid legs!”
“It’s all right, I understand,” comforted Harold, handing her a coffee. He blew Sarah a kiss as he left the room, “I’ll see you tonight.” Sarah caught it, and smiled a good-bye.
It seemed like forever, yet it was only a month and a half ago Harold had rescued her from the hospital and brought her here. She smiled as she recalled the day it happened.
* * *
Sarah had been in the rehabilitation ward for many months. Harold, her physician at the time, had come by now and again to check up on her. He was twenty-seven and enjoying his first years of practice. As the weeks and months passed his visits became a daily event. She looked forward to their afternoon rendezvous. Soon their talk and laughter turned to tender touches and emerging love.
Of course, the image of John kept coming back to haunt her, but it happened mostly at nights now. Harold was beginning to fill her emptiness.
The proposal came on a Sunday afternoon when Harold arrived for his usual visit, this time with a bouquet of flowers and a gentle smile. “I love you Sarah,” he began. “As you know I have a big empty house. And I can arrange for home care. I would like you to come and live with me. What do you say?”
She took only a second to decide. “Yes, Harold, I’d love that.”
She needed to take control of her life and move on. John wasn’t coming back. Harold made her laugh and forget about her lifeless legs. She enjoyed feeling desired.
* * *
A familiar knock on the door brought Sarah’s thoughts back to the presence again. Kelly made her way in. “It’s me,” she announced, as she took off her coat and entered the bedroom. “I was able to get that new massager we talked about. Let’s get right to work and try it out.”
She moved Sarah on to the massage table and began working on her legs. Although there wasn’t any feeling in them yet, Sarah could swear she felt the odd twitch as Kelly proceeded with the deep treatment. While Kelly continued her work, Sarah’s thoughts drifted again to Harold.
* * *
Sarah really appreciated Harold’s commitment to her. He had ramps built to the entrance of his house, and even had the kitchen renovated so she could get around in her wheelchair. She looked forward to Kelly’s daily visits. Even if her legs didn’t seem to improve, she enjoyed the company and the massage. After six weeks of living there, Sarah was beginning to feel at home.
At first Harold was too much a protector–a caregiver–wanting to wait on her ‘hand and foot’. Things started to improve considerably around the third week, after the sandwich incident. Sarah had had enough and blew up at him. “It’s my friggin legs that don’t work. My arms are just fine; I can make my own sandwich. Stop babying me. If I’m going to live here I want to start doing things myself!”
After that Sarah gained new independence, her self esteem flourished and her relationship with Harold blossomed. She loved Harold more everyday, but she still hated the drunken driver who destroyed her legs, and God for letting it happen.
* * *
Kelly completed the massage and positioned the wheelchair for Sarah to get into. As Kelly prepared to leave, Sarah wheeled herself to the kitchen to make breakfast.
While buttering her toast the knife pierced it. Sarah clinched her jaw and reached for the strawberry jam.
“Who put the damn jam on the second shelf?” she fumed. “Kelly, if you’re still here, please come and help me.”
Unzipping her jacket, Kelly rushed in to assist her. She retrieved the jam and set it on the table.
“Please forgive my anger Kelly, but I’m not having a good day. It still doesn’t make sense. Why should this happen to me? Why should John die at the hands of a drunken driver? Why? There’s no justice in this world! If God exist, why would he cause this to happen? It’s not fair.”
Kelly sat down, taking a moment to ponder her response. She touched the back of Sarah’s hand and began, “You’re right Sarah, life appears to be unfair. At least if you accept the prevailing societal beliefs.”
“What do you mean–societal beliefs?”
“You know, what everyone generally believes, that we’re here at the mercy of God and whatever happens, happens. Or, the evolutionist view, we are accidents of nature and have no control over what befalls us.”
“Yes, I like to think there’s a God. But if there were one, why would he allow John to die and make me a cripple? I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Kelly adjusted her chair, cleared her throat, and continued. “Sarah, I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. I’ve never talked to anyone about this before, but I really feel what I’m discovering will help you.”
“I’m ready to listen to anything, if it can help me to make sense of it all. What have you found?”
“I’m starting to believe I’m the only one totally responsible for my life. And to be totally responsible there can’t be a god, out there, giving me favors or punishing me whenever he wants. It doesn’t make sense to me anymore that my life is being controlled by some almighty, unseen god.”
“Kelly, are you saying there is no God? Then that means you’re an atheist, doesn’t it?”
“Not really. I said there’s no god, out there, giving orders. What I now believe is we are all a part of the same creative energy. This creative energy could be called “God,” but it’s not the god of the Bible. Collectively we have created the universe. Individually we have created our own reality.”
“That doesn’t make sense. Why would I want to create myself as a cripple and have John killed?”
“First, Sarah, you’re not responsible for what happened to John. He chose that course for himself. However, you are responsible for your own condition.”
“I don’t understand? Come on, Kelly, you’ve never talked about this before. What kind of crazy philosophy is this?”
“I know. It’s new to most people, but give me a chance to explain and you’ll understand.”
“I don’t think so! What do you mean I’m responsible for what happened to me? It was that stupid drunk driver who killed John and crippled me.”
“Yes, I know most people need to blame their problems on someone else. It’s the accepted norm in our society. What I want to tell you about is reincarnation and how it explains responsibility.”
“No way! I think it’s time for you to leave. I don’t need some lame theory about returning to life as a rat, or something, to make me feel better.”
“Get out of here. Now!”
Sarah shoved the jam jar across the table. It crashed to the floor. Kelly, shocked, jumped up and left. Sarah pounded the table with her fist and cried out, “Why me?” Plunging her head into her folded arms she wept uncontrollably.
An hour or so later, when her dissipated anger was replaced by remorseful guilt, Sarah dialed Kelly’s number to apologize.
“I’m really sorry, Sarah. I thought I had my anger under control. Please forgive me? .......... Yes, I had a good cry. I began thinking about what you were saying and I would like to hear more. Do you have time to come over this afternoon to continue our conversation? .......... Don’t worry, I won’t throw any more jam jars at you.”
When Kelly arrived an hour later, Sarah was happy to see her. “Thanks for coming over again Kelly. I’ve never lost it like that before.”
“It was bound to happen sometime,” replied Kelly, as she removed her jacket, sat down, and sipped the coffee poured for her, “You’ve been holding it all back for a long time.”
“I’ve been blaming God for a long time. Now, you tell me there is no god to blame and I’m responsible. How can you say that?”
“First of all, I’m starting to think blame is just as useless as worry. Worry has never solved any problems. It only creates anxiety.”
“Yes, I agree with you worry is a fruitless activity, but blame is different. There’s always someone who causes things to happen. The drunken driver caused me to be paralysed.”
“Okay, let’s say that’s true. Answer this. What have you gained by blaming the driver?”
“I don’t know. Satisfaction?”
“Are you sure you get satisfaction? When I blame someone, I feel revengeful. I feel hate towards that person. Anger usually overcomes me. And to get right down to it, it doesn’t make me feel any better. It doesn’t help heal me. It makes me want to sue the person I think is responsible.”
“And I can’t even sue him. He’s dead too. So, what can I do?”
“I know this is difficult, but you need to forgive him.”
“Before any real healing can take place people need to forgive their enemies, and most importantly forgive themselves. Give me a minute to explain. It’s not enough to just say, “I’m sorry.” A person needs to experience forgiveness deep inside. And that’s where responsibility comes in.”
“Go on. I’m listening.”
“What I was saying this morning is I feel we are all totally responsible for everything that happens to us. We need to stop blaming a god, out there, for doing things to us. We have total freedom of choice. We ultimately make our own decisions; therefore we are responsible for those decisions. Being responsible implies no blame. There are no accidents. I know this is a difficult concept to comprehend. That’s why I brought a couple of books with me, for you to read if you care to.”
“Thanks, but how am I responsible for that drunk driver doing what he did?”
“You’re not responsible for the drunk driver. You’re only responsible for what you do. I know the idea of reincarnation is foreign to many people, but it can explain many things. You won’t throw something at me if I tell you a bit about it, will you?”
“I’m sorry about this morning. Trust me, you’re safe. I’ve read a bit about reincarnation, but it never connected with me. How does it relate to responsibility?”
“Reincarnation suggests we have lived many lives, and each life is a learning experience for us. It’s as if each life is a grade at school. Eventually we’ll learn all of life’s lessons and graduate. And, I’m certain you will not come back as a rat. No one is in a position to really know, but I believe we pre-plan our forthcoming life. You may have chosen to experience a life as a cripple to learn certain lessons. Harold might have been pre-planed to be your life partner. John’s part was to help make it happen. In any case you are responsible for your situation.”
“That sounds crazy, but, on the other hand, it does make a bit of sense. I really do love Harold, and I would never have met him if it weren’t for the accident.”
“There are no accidents, Sarah, only learning experiences. You learn from every decision you make. When you begin taking full responsibility for your decisions, your learning will begin to sky rocket. Understanding you are in complete control of your life, means there’s no one else to blame, and forgiveness demonstrates that understanding.”
“You know something Kelly? I think I’m ready to consider your ideas. I’ve been thinking about God a lot this past while, and what you’re saying helps put things in perspective.”
“I know reincarnation isn’t a part of our society’s beliefs, but two-thirds of the world accept it in one form or another. At least I feel better knowing I’m in complete control of my life.”
“Your explanation of responsibility helps to make it sensible. I hope we can talk about this again. Thanks for lending me these books.”
Before Kelly left she cleaned up the broken jar of jam. Sarah put the coffee cups into the dishwasher. Excited with her new insights, she dialed Harold’s number at the hospital.
“Hello dear,” she began, “I’ve just phoned to say, I love you, and I’m ready to dance.”
After relating her insightful discussion with Kelly, Sarah replaced the receiver and picked up one of Kelly’s books.
She opened it at a random page and read, “People need to learn to forgive without any expectation of being forgiven in return.” She smiled and began to read page one.