Today, we go back to Jan. 12, 2015, when Gary and I left our house to go to Gananoque to take care of a few errands. There was gentle snow coming down, but the weather was not stormy. We did not make anything about it and went on with our plans. We were about 10-15 km away from Gan, our Honda Element took a spin and Gary said, “Here we go honey, hold on tight”.
Our car went zig-zag to the oncoming traffic, Gary turned the steering wheel back to the right, to escape the snowplow that was coming towards us, so our car flipped and went into the ditch on the south side of Cty Rd. 32, facing west, while we were driving east. The car landed on the side of the driver, Gary’s door was on the ground, and yours truly was hanging in the air with the support of my seatbelt. I never knew I can join Cirque du Soleil.
Gary and I looked at each other and said, “Are you OK?” and while we both answered affirmatively “Yes!” we both wondered, what do we do now? The details after this are blurry after eight years, but the next thing I remember is hearing a voice saying, “Are you OK? We have called 911, help is on the way.” For some reason that voice sounded familiar. I said, “Thanks so much, we are OK. Can you tell me what is your name, you sound familiar to me”. She said, “I am Heather Price from Seeley’s Bay Pastoral Charge.” I replied, “Heather, this is Rev. Takouhi, from Elgin-Portland Pastoral Charge — oh it is so good to hear a familiar voice. We are really OK, thank you.” After a few minutes, another person came along and said, “Help is on the way.” We also thanked them.
About 20 to 30 minutes later, firefighters arrived with members of the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) and started to figure out how to get us out. One fireman said, we can break the window and help you get out. Gary said: “No need to break anything, the trunk of the car opens fully, and we can crawl out with your help” — the Honda Element was an outdoor-living kind of a car. Everyone was relieved by this decision.
They helped Gary out first, as he was already on the “ground.” As he left the car there was more room for me to be released and helped out of the car as well. It took a few minutes for my release to be determined, but after a few acrobatic moves, we both got out unharmed.
Paramedics checked us and asked to take us to the hospital, but we were not in pain at all. There were no visible wounds to attend to. After reporting to the OPP officer, we were told we were free to go – and there was black ice underneath that soft snow. We jumped into the tow truck and came home, with our car on the tow truck bed.
After this experience, of course we had some physical pain, shock, and fear to drive in the snow. And I do clearly remember that between 2015 and 2020, I can confidently say that I drove to Gananoque maybe a total of five times.
I always tell people that walking away from this winter accident was not the miracle for us, the miracle was that quiet, peaceful embrace when our car landed on the side. It truly felt like someone picked us up and put us down in the most luxurious, fluffy mattress on earth – that Peace was the miracle.
Fast-forward to June 27, 2020, at 7 a.m. when I put my feet on the ground to get out of bed, the audible Call came to me saying: “Go check how far is Grace United Church from your home, as I need you to go there to serve Me.” I looked over my shoulder to see if Gary was talking to me, but he was still asleep. I turned around and said: “God, You are funny. You know I do not like that road.” But we all know that God never leaves us nor forsakes us. God shapes us with Love. In our weakness the Eternal Strength is with us. And Most of ALL, God’s Grace is ALWAYS, and ALWAYS, sufficient for us.
Beloved, why am I writing all this today, Jan. 29, 2023?
Because today, in the middle of a snowstorm, through God’s Presence of Peace, I was able to drive to Grace United Church, enjoy a blessed worship celebration with many who showed up and when I came home, I told Gary, “Honey, I am amazed. Today’s drive back and forth to Gan had this palpable Peace that surpasses all understanding — I am amazed.” I always talk about that Peace, but today that Peace was more than words, it was tangible, and Present.
Last Wednesday, Jan. 25, I had to preside at a celebration of life and after the service, the snow was coming down hard again. Cty Rd. 32 was a breeze to drive on, which is the highway that I fret, but Hwy. 15 was worse than usual, however about fifteen kilometers away from home, I ended up behind a huge snowplow that literally guided me home. Sometimes getting stuck behind a snowplow is the best thing in a snowstorm.
Today, the sermon that I shared with Grace United Church Community of Faith was entitled, “Some Blessings are Hidden in Struggles…” (Matthew 5:1-12- You may find the Worship celebration here: (19) Grace United Church, Gananoque – Worship Service Livestream – YouTube), and there was no plow in front of me, but there was Peace, Palpable Peace beyond my imagination.
During worship we sang, “Lord Prepare Me to be a Sanctuary.” Later, a colleague said he watched the worship and our song mentioned above reminded him of this cantor and shared this YouTube with me, which I share with you ((19) Cantor Julia Cadrain: Sanctuary (Shaker Hymn) – YouTube).
Saturday evening, I was not sure if I should take my sister, Choughik (Morning Dew) with me or not. When I told her that maybe she should stay home and stay safe, her answer to me was, “If you are going, I am coming too, I missed the beautiful people at Grace.” So, two sisters, side by side, with the Peace of God in us and around us, enjoyed a beautiful trip back and forth to Gananoque. We spoke of the olden days from back home, Lebanon. We mentioned many times how fortunate we are to be living in this beautiful country and many other topics, and our conversations were pleasant and uplifting. There was Peace beyond logic.
Beloved, now that I sit and reflect, I am certain that this Peace was always there, but the experience of Jan. 12, 2015, created a fear in my mind and heart that I was allowing it to control my actions. Do not get me wrong, and do not go driving in snowstorms if you do not have to do so. The Official Board Chair of Grace, Brian Brooks, called me on Saturday and said, “if it is not safe, please turn around and go back home, Tammy Fergusson has agreed to lead the worship.” I did promise that I would turn back home if I sensed that the road was not safe. Before I left the house, I prayed “God, lead me with your Wisdom, and help me know if I should turn back or continue the path.”
The moment I arrived in front of the church, Brian was getting there himself, who said, “I was not expecting to see you, Rev. T.” I told him, it took me more than an hour what is usually 35 minutes, but I am here and I am good to go.” And not even a minute later, I saw a beautiful person, who I had met at the Blue Christmas Service on December 20th, who was so happy to see me again, and I was so grateful that I made it there for this moment as well. I promise you, friends, I was not trying to be a hero, I had promised myself that if I felt unsafe, I would turn back home — but all was calm from within, and all those who were in a rush and wanted to pass me on the road, I pulled aside and let them pass.
Maybe you are wondering, why I am writing all this?
Well, it is not that I have nothing else to do in my life, but because it is important for us to be reminded over and over again, that God is with us, God’s Peace is within us, all we need to do is Be Still and know that God Is.
Let me conclude with this prayer inspired to write today:
You are our Sanctuary,
You care for us and protect us from eternity to eternity.
Even if our surroundings are stormy, turbulent, and difficult to go through
And our bodies are hurt and in pain.
Staying still in the eye of the storm is where we find Your Peace.
We thank you for Your Presence,
Your Peace and Your Perseverant Love.
May our eyes open up to see you even in the darkest moments.
We pray in the name of the One who showed us the
Way of True Peace, Hope and Love.