In Memory of Mrs. Dhanraj

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 The population of Standard Road has dropped by two in one week. Today Mrs. Dhanraj passed away at age 90. (Last week it was Balliram.) I don’t know her first name as we often referred to her as her children’s mother e.g. “Sandra mother” or “Asha mother”. (We were not grammatically correct to use the possessive apostrophe s in the names.) The adults called her “Dhanraj wife”. (They cared less about grammar.) But no matter how she was called, we all knew it was the kind, jolly, hardworking woman who was as strong as the cattle she raised. Tanty planted rice and grew vegetables and was simply a woman to be admired. There was not “one lazy bone in her body” as the saying goes.

Tanty’s middle daughters (Maune, Sandra, Baby, Molly, and Asha) were of similar ages as the older girls in our family (my sisters don’t like to be named) and together with Cinty and Seeta, we spent many delightful hours liming and laughing. (Liming means hanging out.) It was a good life.

Tanty raised all of her children to be respectful. She had five sons  and not once were they ever disrespectful to the girls in our family. They never said a crude joke in our presence. I remember the siblings being happy. They got along with each other and celebrated often, a tightly knit family to this day. They were fun indeed. Tanty would often interject her sentences with a mild swear that brought on giggles because her way of speaking made the most mundane topic interesting.

Tanty’s yard was a big one. Around her house were flat green vegetation, which made her property appear more expansive, and relaxed. Tanty’s religion was Hinduism, yet when the pastor of our church wanted a spot to hold open-air meetings in the village, Tanty graciously gave permission to use her place. Many nights of praising God, film, and sharing the salvation obtained through Jesus Christ were spent on her premises. I believe that Tanty gave her life to Christ at those meetings.

Those who know them would agree when I say that I think the Dhanraj gene carries an extra chromosome of beauty. Tanty’s children were attractive and handsome.  I believe she had 14 children so there were many celebrations to which we were invited. Notable were the weddings. Friday’s saffron, Saturday’s farewell, Sunday’s wedding, and Wednesday’s return of the bride, which, invited or not, we were bent on seeing our buddies when they returned mid-week as was the tradition under Hindu rites. We grew to also love Tanty’s daughters-in-law as our friends.

Soon there were the grandchildren that widened the circle of beauty and joy. After years of not seeing them, I was able to make friends with Kimberly, Kelly Ann, Navita and Indira on Facebook, as well as with Usha, Tanty’s daughter who is younger than me. They were kids when I left but I grew to knew them now as women with families of their own.

Tanty lived a good life but she had sorrow too. The most grievous thing a parent can do is to bury their child. She buried three of her daughters. I hadn’t known of the two older girls’ passings, but I knew of Asha’s back in 2017. Asha and I were classmates as well, and I wrote a tribute to here which can be found by clicking on the link: https://www.susanharris.ca/remembering-asha/

On my trip to Trinidad in 2018, I longed to visit the Dhanraj girls  in the village. I couldn’t as I had no transport to get there. But I have words for my young friends and their beautiful families on the loss of their nanny. She lived long, just as the Bible says with long life God satisfies those who love Him. Nanny had the privilege to see not only her grandchildren but great grands as well. Living next door to Nanny makes the void even greater, the visual is always there. But nature shows us that voids do to remain void for long. Take, for example, a hole dug in the ground. It fills with rain water, or dirt caves in and fill it. Leaves falls from the trees into it, and the void begins to be a source for life. I pray tonight that the void left by the passing of Mamee as her daughters call her, and Nanny and Ajee as the grandkids call her, will be filled with the warm presence of the Living God.

I saw on Facebook that Kimmy had written that 46 years ago on this day Mr. Dhanraj passed away. That’s quite the thing that husband and wife would pass away on the same day decades apart. Truly the ribbon of spiritual connection weaves in signature-like fashion, and knowing what I know of death through my visits to Eternity, I believe there is significance to this. God sure knows what He is doing.

I pray that Dolly, Sandra, Shiann, Molly, Shamella, Usha, Shawn, Sookdeo, Persad, Deodath and Russell will take comfort in knowing that they were privileged to have their mother for nine decades, and that one day through faith in Jesus Christ, they may be able to reunite with each other. Your tears and grief are sacred testaments.

To Kimberly, Kelly Ann, Navita, Lisa, Mukesh, Barry, Indira, Sabita, Anjanee, Tracy Ann, Stacy Ann and Shelly Ann and many more grands who I don’t know, may you know that God is only a whisper away. He has placed people to comfort you and He will be your sustenance when there is no one around. You are never alone.

May God hold the neighbours, relatives and friends dear as you close the earthly chapter of  Mrs. Dhanraj. 1930-2021

I think of you, my lovely friends. Though far away you will be on my heart for a long time.

For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16.

 

 

 

 

 

Balliram Sookdeo Goes to Heaven

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 The harsh wooooz on my iPhone roused me to action. Likely it was the notification of fees and other expenses I had been paying over the last few days. Quickly I voiced my morning praise “From the rising of the sun I will praise You” then committed my day into the hands of Almighty God. Through the window the pink glow of twilight tinged the light grey morning sky.

I opened the text message. University fees would have been far more welcome. Instead, the terse words were from my brother “Balliram pass away. He was sick.”

Forget the grammar.

Remember Balliram.

September 28, 1947 – January 7, 2021.

The sincere, kind, jovial husband of my cousin Roselyn. He called her Rose. We called him Bandan. Their son Teddy had pronounced Balliram as  Bandan when he was a child and the nickname stuck. My mother and Roselyn’s father were siblings, and my early memory is that she visited our house every evening to wait for Balliram to return from work, then together they would walk to their home down in Small Trace. It was a beautiful marriage, and although this is a tribute to Balliram Sookdeo, it would be incomplete without details of Rose.

Bandan was of medium height, brown-skinned with black hair, and a heart of gold. Rose was a beauty, light complexioned and vivacious. Bandan doted on his Rose. As most husbands do in Trinidad, he brought Rose a treat each time he went out. Caramel was a favourite that I remember. Rose loved my younger sister Karen as her own and saved the daily treats to share with her.

A few years after their first child was born, Balliram and Rose built their new house close to ours. The proximity made both families fixtures in each other’s  homes. As a preteen I was sent over to help Roselyn on occasion.  Rose had inherited the Khadaroo gene for cooking, and her meals were lavish and exquisite. After the birth of their second child, I was at their house helping to prepare dinner. You have to know that I never even helped to cook at our own home, but with Roselyn’s instructions, I would provide a gourmet meal such as Bandan had never tasted before.

The menu that day was dhal, rice, and something I don’t remember. From the hammock Rose instructed me to half-fill the pot with water. I filled. Then I washed the dhal (split peas) until the water ran clear and placed it in the pot.

“Slice an onion and grind some garlic,” she said next. I sliced, and smashed the garlic pegs and those went in the pot.

“Anything else?” I asked.

“Put some saffron in the dhal” Rose replied. I took the glass jar with the saffron (turmeric) and  a spoon to her and she measured the amount. She also measured the salt. Gourmet was in action. I burnt the garlic and geera (caraway seeds) in hot oil, and the dhal made the satisfying shhwwiissh as the oil was poured in.

Boiling the rice was easy-peasy: water, rice and salt. A tad soft didn’t matter, right? Cheers to me.

I served Roselyn a plate, inclusive of the other dish which I have no memory of either its prep or finish. She ate dutifully, and so did I. When Bandan arrived from work he heaped his plate and dug in. He paused on the first mouthful.

“Who cooked this?”

“Susie.” Rose replied.

Bandan ate the entire awful meal. (It was indeed a meal like none other.) This was typical of his appreciation to others.

Balliram’s presence in the neighbourhood was one of protector. The cool waters of the river were a constant invitation for leisure, and us girls spent many hours there. Once a rumour went around that a male was seen lurking near the river. Balliram made it known loud and clear that any male found near the river when the girls were there would have to deal with him personally. (This is a gentle paraphrase of what he actually said.)  His blunt message was heeded.

There are so many, many stories of the hardworking, respectable man who now is with his Lord and Saviour. Rose had lived for Jesus since a teen due to the influence of my mother. Later, their son Teddy became an active church member with us. Bandan and the rest of the family gave their lives to Christ later and practiced their faith openly in church.

Their children are Teddy, Steve and Sunil, each with beautiful families of their own. I pray that the blessings of being God-fearing will cocoon them from each direction, and they will be comforted.

Pandemic rules forbid travelling for the funeral but technology can bridge as a secondary measure. I pray that you find healing in the memories of fun and family. May you grieve without limit or time, for deep grief is the corollary of deep love. May you know that the Holy Spirit is always with you in solace.

When I spoke to Roselyn this morning her voice sounded strong in contrast to my quavering one. She said she has not processed the loss, and I pray that as the reality settles in that she will draw supernatural strength from the Lord. I asked her permission to share the details of Balliram’s death because diabetes is widespread in Trinidad.

The pre-disposition from our ancestors from India is accelerated by the tasty foods high in calories, fats and sugar. Our fore parent generations did not know about predispositions and the relationship to food. They were hard-working people who were physically active, yet the visceral fat accumulated in the belly. But today through education we know that there is strong evidence towards our genetic predisposition and insulin resistance. Too many of my friends are dying of diabetes.

And so on December 30, 2020  one of Bandan’s legs was amputated below the knee. The pain, the infection spreading to other parts of his body, the dropping oxygen levels, the minor stroke, his calls for his son and wife, his calls for Jesus…too heart-rending. My prayer was “Lord, you know best. Let your will be done for Balliram.”

Yesterday Roselyn visited him at the hospital and he asked her to bring him home. That was beyond her ability. But it was well within God’s, and this morning Balliram went HOME!

When I spoke to her I briefly mentioned my own illnesses, my three times death experiences, my visits and glimpses of Heaven, and my miraculous healings upon return. Rose’s voice was already strong, but there crept a different note of assuredness when I mentioned “healing” and she said “Really?”.  And I knew in that moment that the Lord was healing her in this sad, sore loss of a husband. That Him being a husband to the widow was setting in motion. Roselyn will be comforted, she will have a friend in Jesus, a companion in her golden years until she is reunited with Balliram in Heaven.

I do not follow a script when I write a tribute/eulogy, nor are two ever the same. I write as prompted from my heart, and so I speak to any who read this piece. YOU CAN BEAT DIABETES BY MODIFYING YOUR LIFESTYLE.

Replace the white flour with whole wheat flour. Replace white rice with brown rice. I know how addicting our Indian foods are – those silky parathas and scrumptious dhal-purees saturated with oil and butter. The deep fried doubles and saheenas and pies and poolories. Those delectable sweets  – kurma, barfi and too many to relate. Those everyday sugars like tamarind ball and candy and sweet drink (soda or pop).

My people, eat less, eat on occasion, eat differently. To continue consuming in portions as I knew were eaten when I lived there, is to give over yourself to diabetes, and eventually to amputations. Eat green foods, fruits and vegetables as used to be planted in backyard gardens.  Skip the fast foods when you can. And exercise daily. Walk in the warm air. You are responsible for the choice. It’s the choice of health over convenience. It’s a choice you can make.

Over 6,000 km spans where I am to where Bandan’s body lies cold and still at Boodoo’s Funeral Home in Penal. On Saturday there will be a service at the family home in Standard Road (which I hope to join in via technology). Then his body will be cremated at the Creek.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ sustain Roselyn, Teddy, Steve, Sunil and their families, the relatives, the neighbours who are also family in the Trinidadian way, the friends and co-workers. I remember Balliram’s sister Golina, the younger one whose name I forgot, Basha, and the other brother whose name I also forgot. I pray that you will live for Eternity so that you may all be a family again in the presence of each other.

A prayer to invite Jesus into your life:

“Dear Jesus, I have sinned and I need your forgiveness. I invite you to be my Saviour and Lord. Help me to be the kind of person You want me to be. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sin and for giving me eternal life. Amen.”

With love and prayers for a man I knew since childhood, a man who I will see in Heaven. A good man, Balliram Sookdeo.

Susan Harris

NASA’s Tour of the Moon

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Happy New Year. As I write the Moon is 88% in waning gibbous state.

(Waning means that the moon is getting smaller, and gibbous refers to the shape which is less than the complete circle of the Full Moon.)

I’m beginning to photograph the Moon more seriously and was doing some research on it when I came across the coolest video by NASA giving a tour of the Moon. The Orientale, South Pole-Aitken, and Tycho and Aristarchus, to name. a few are are eye-popping, but the landing site of the Apollo 17 is just wow. The Taurus-Litthrow Valley is deeper than the Grand Canyon. Dizzying!

https://moon.nasa.gov/resources/168/tour-of-the-moon-4k/

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE TOUR.

 

Jupiter and Saturn in the Great Conjunction

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 The solar system’s two giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn, travel together across the sky nightly. Jupiter leads the way and Saturn trots contentedly behind. On December 21, 2020 Saturn caught up to and passed Jupiter in the astronomical event known as a “Great Conjunction.”

I was totally stoked to memorialize the Great Conjunction. (It’s the pinpoint of light to the left of my head.)

To the naked eye they looked like one star, but through the telescopes and binoculars they were distinct and apart. We did not actually see Jupiter and Saturn pass each other but even so, they are millions of miles apart according to NASA. “They’re not close in space – they’re still hundreds of millions of kilometers apart from each other said, NASA Astronomer Henry Throop. “But … they appear as two points very close in the sky … in fact they’re so close that if you extend your pinky at arms length you’ll be able to cover both planets with just your pinky finger.”

One of the best shots of Saturn and Jupiter in vertical alignment was taken by one Michael Sandford. The moons of Jupiter are visible in this wonderful photo.

Twas a wonderful night. Many thanks to my husband who snapped picture after picture in the chilling cold until we got the planets and me in one frame. This was particularly exciting as I had not captured Comet Neowise during summer. Grateful to God to see the “Christmas Star” as it was dubbed.

Many may have found the “star” over-hyped. Artificially created pictures floating on the Internet showed larger-than-life brilliance of the planets when aligned. None of it came true. Mars in the zenith was much more luminous that the conjunction. Venus on any given day surpassed the aligned expectation. Band of clouds teased the watchers, their gazes fixed on the southwest horizon. And Jupiter and Saturn were tiny glows as they faded into setting.

For me the astronomical event was glorious, counting down the nights and contemplating on the great God who made the giant planets.

The Great Conjunction culminated last night, and Jupiter and Saturn are now moving apart gradually, but over the next few nights they won’t appear much farther apart than the less than 1 degree of separation of December 21. Keep on watching.

 

Remembering Terrance Sookhansingh

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Hearing the news that the funeral of our classmate Terrance Sookhansingh will be held tomorrow (November 16) shocked me as his death shocked everyone else. In stunned silence I envisioned our class back at Iere High School – Haymatee who broke the news to me, Richard who broke the news to Haymatee, and the rest who had assimilated the sadness while I was absent from social media.

Tall, dark, and handsome were fitting adjectives for Terrance. In fact, “Othello” is how our French teacher described Terrance. Mr. Westmaas brought in all kinds of learning into French class, and repeatedly he would allude to Terrance’s looks and personality as a likeness to Shakespeare’s character in the play of the same name. Othello was the protagonist and hero, a Christian Moor and general in the armies of Venice.

Terrance was easily visible because of his physique but the trait that stood out the most to me was his gentle manner. Terrance was a gentle man, a true soft spoken gentleman. Terrance smiled a lot. I don’t remember ever seeing him anything but pleasant. If he had bad days, no one could tell from his deportment. Terrance was jovial and carried a dignity that complemented his Othello-ness.

On Sundays I post a reminder that ETERNITY with Susan Harris (my show on cable television where I live) will be aired today. My thoughts are never far from Eternity, the afterlife where we can live with God the Father forever and ever. When I came on to post, that’s when I read the message of the tragic news that our classmate’s funeral will be held tomorrow (Nov 16).

 Tears filled my eyes. I have been spared death many times and I know my purpose in life is to invite men, women, boys and girls into God’s kingdom. Becoming a citizen of Heaven is not automatic. Citizenship has a process. Countries observe it and likewise, Heaven requires citizenship. The route is through Jesus Christ, who says in the Bible “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” John 14:6.

Iere High School gave every student an opportunity to know of Jesus through the daily worship which started  our day. We prayed to the Lord. I believe that Terrance carried that sacred opening of the day into his adult life. I’ve never seen him since we graduated high school, but the fruit of the Holy Spirit was evident in him from a young age.

Every Othello has a Desdemona, and I learned from the obituary announcement that Haymatee sent to me (thanks Haymatee) that Terrance’s was the beautiful Angela. I went on their social media page and saw that Angela had posted a wedding photo in which Terrance looked more as he did in his school days, and I snipped his portrait for this blog memory. Angela, I pray that the Lord will uphold you in this time when the foundation of your world has been shaken irreversibly so. May you feel His everlasting arms carrying you. May you and your children be comforted, knowing that you will reunite with Terrance in Heaven.

Friends of Terrance, classmates and co-workers, neighbours and relatives, no one ever imagined that Terrance would never see a 6th decade, or turn 70, or have a party when he is 80. This could be the fate of any of us. We do not know what tomorrow holds. But I know who holds tomorrow. God holds every second of our lives. He knows what will happen with life on earth and He knows how we each will spend Eternity. Can I invite you to prepare to spend your Eternity with God? If you will pray the prayer below and mean it, Jesus will forgive you of your sins and you will reunite with Terrance in Eternity.

Dear Jesus, I have sinned and I need Your forgiveness. I invite You to be my Lord and Saviour. Make me the kind of person You want me to be. Thank you for giving me eternal life. Amen.

Mortality is frail, a whisper, dew on the grass. Here now, gone then. Death is a time to take inventory of what matters, how quickly what we hold dear can vanish. I pray that we will stock up what matters. Love and respect, kindness and faith.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus be yours today as you grieve the loss of our friend. God’s grace is always present and all-sufficient. Speak to Him, and feel His strength and comfort fill your heart today and in the months ahead.

Because of Grace,

Susan

Not an Angel

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Comet Neowise by James Dean

God didn’t want an angel when He called my aunt home on Sunday.

Usually I write a eulogy but this time I feel compelled to write what Scripture says. Like me, my aunt was a Christian. We called her Tanty Sahodra.

It was in her home that I first heard The Church in the Wildwood song. I was spending a rare night out so that my cousin Sita could accompany me to write an exam in San Fernando. I was 16 years old and travelling from Siparia to San Fernando was quite the journey.

Greeting cards and social media platforms hail the phrase “God wanted an angel so He took (name), or “ _____ gained their wings.” This is usually done of out of good intentions to comfort the grieving person, but the truth is that no one becomes an angel when they die.

Simply put, it is false theology to equate a dead person to angel status.

The Bible is clear in the order of creation that God made angels to do His bidding. And He made human beings lower than angels.

“What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.” Psalm 8:4-5 (NKJV)

So Tanty is not an angel, and will never be one. She’s likely doing similar things as angels by worshipping at the Throne right now. Matthew 22:30 says, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.” The simile “like angels of God” refer to their immortality whereby angels cannot die (John Gill Expository.)

A simile is a figure of speech and not a literal interpretation. (To further simplify – when one is said to be brave like a lion, one does not literally become a lion and suddenly grow a tail and transports to the Serengeti. But it would be really cool if that happened.)

So as Tanty has run her race and her body lies cold to be buried on Friday, she would be pleased to know that her passing into Glory found a purpose for denouncing the falsity that “people die because God needed an angel”.

Tanty Sahodra at age 85

The fact is that people die because their bodies have become too old or they been very sick and the medical treatments didn’t work. Or they may have had an accident, whether it’s their fault or another person’s error. They don’t die because God needs angels. God is well able to create angels if He wishes. And telling both adults and kids the truth should be done with carefully chosen words.

I ask my relatives and friends to explain to the little ones that Tanty Sahodra died (yes, use the correct word.) Tell the children that to die means that her body stopped working. Tell them that her heart and brain and organs wore out. Tell them of the glorious Heaven in which she waits, and hope to see them one day, and tenderize their hearts to Eternity.

My cousins know the Lord. Most of them live abroad.  They cannot fly down due to the pandemic. I pray that their hearts will be filled with the Holy Spirit who is the Comforter. I pray for Sherry who carries the heavier part because she is there. I know the Lord has surrounded her with relatives and others to weep with her and uphold her this week and in the upcoming ones. Our Redeemer lives, and because of it Tanty does, and so does she.

I know what lies beyond the starry blue. I’ve been there and back, and each night I raise my gaze because I’ve peeked into what’s happening there. When I look up tonight it’ll be for more than the comet; I’ll remember my kind and gracious aunt who has been  added to the multitude that worships around the throne. Deceased people, and the angels.

Sahodra Goocool went to be with her Maker on July 26, 2020 just short of her 86th birthday which would have been in August.

Visit to Hell – from Touched By Eternity (Susan Harris)

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 I walk beyond the suburbs in Heaven towards the edge. There are no houses here. Instead, a big, tall double wall with a narrow gap in between falls to a sheer drop way down below. The walls seem to be made of cement and they are the gray color of unpainted concrete. I am reminded of the double walls that guard cities. I look down, beyond the wall, and know instinctively that it is Hell, although I cannot see the details from where I stand. I know that it is mammoth, that it is far more spread out than the city of Paris had appeared when I viewed it from the top of the Eiffel Tower.

As I survey this place of gloom from afar, my second vision begins. I become aware of someone walking beside me and that I am walking downwards. His is a large presence, and I see his shadow. It is similar to the shadow I had encountered in 1998 in the meadow, but I knew that shadow to be the Shadow of the Almighty, as in Psalm 91:1; this time I sense it is an angel. I cannot see him, but I know it through the communication process where thoughts enter my mind that he is dressed in black and is a warrior.

Whereas the large person had walked on my right as we went uphill in the meadow, this person is on my left as we go downwards. Interestingly, the right side is heavenwards, so the warrior is on the left where the danger lurks, to protect me from it. He keeps about half a pace ahead as we descend long, winding steps hewn out of rock. It feels as if we are inside a deep mountain, walking down dozens and dozens of steps in a dark stairway with thick rock walls on either side. The stairway is narrow, able to accommodate two people at most, and it follows the contours of the mountain.

I do not fear tripping because somehow I can see through the darkness, as my sight is also heightened and clear. Like a nocturnal animal I have perfect vision and agility. This is both amazing and interesting, because in the natural I am very cautious of going down steps and always look for a handrail or a person to hold on to. Yet here I am without a handrail in the dark and I am treading down confidently and surely.

The angel of the Lord leads me to a deep abyss. Former atheist, Rev. Howard Storm, describes horrors at different levels of his journey in his book My Descent into Death,1 but thankfully I am not shown those. The knowledge is transmitted to me that I am a visitor on tour. This is a place that I cannot come to alone, because I am a foreigner and do not belong here. I have not asked to see this place, but the tour is being offered to me and the angel is my tour guide. This parallel is easy to understand, because in my travels to foreign countries, and even my native Trinidad, I’ve accessed the services of guides for both security and informational purposes.

As we grow closer to where the angel is taking me, a dark orange glow becomes apparent. It reminds me of Halloween colors and sights I have seen on television. I shrink back, my steps slowing. I hear faint shrieks in the distance that grow to louder wails, as if people are being tortured. The anguish is undeniable. The dark orange glows and glowers. It is spooky and terrifying, and I move closer to the angel as we continue down.

We turn a corner to the left. And I see it.

Hell.

A place of fire just as the Bible describes.

The fire comes in waves, as water rolls in the ocean. Waves of fire. The fire “ocean” looks like an endless, flat surface. The fire waves are gigantic from far off and become smaller as they crash onto the burnt rocky shore with its blackened sand. The fire recedes and surges, surges and recedes, like swash and backwash on beaches. And in it are people, as if they are bathing in the ocean, tossed to and fro by the waves in the fire. They are screaming and many have their arms upraised.

I am extremely familiar with waves and oceans. My native Trinidad is a Caribbean island bounded by four bodies of water: the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Caribbean Sea to the north, the Gulf of Paria to the west, and Columbus Channel to the south. Churning waters rolling blue and crashing waves with white frothy tips are the norm. They are cool and inviting, awesome and powerful. But Hell is the opposite–tormented and cursed, where the burnt-orange rolling fires are tipped with black.

I stand with the angel on the corner and watch Hell, witnessing the very real suffering of those who mocked the Christian gospel, who rejected the invitation that would have kept them out of the inferno. We do not talk, but there is an understanding that I am not permitted to go any closer. Nor do I wish to go closer.

I don’t know how long we spent watching Hell, because in Eternity a lot seems to happen in a short space of time. I can only extrapolate from my 1998 experience when I was unconscious for three minutes on earth, but saw, knew, and felt so much of Heaven. I also did not know how much time I spent in Heaven this time.

Our time is over. We walk up the stairs to Heaven and I go first with the angel behind me. At that point I came back to reality on earth, full of the dread and horror I had seen of the place prepared for the Devil and his angels. I do not know why I had been chosen for an unsolicited tour, but this would not be my last view of Eternity.

Copyright Susan Harris 2019, 2020

The Pennies in the Locomotive

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 “Do you have a penny from the years when you were a boy?” Mark asked Dan as he placed two coffee drinks and doughnuts on the table.

The tall man shook his head. “I don’t keep a lot of pennies,” he admitted.

All the same, he reached for his wallet in the inside pocket of his red and white coat, and to his surprise, a single penny—Copper—tumbled out amidst other money.

“You’re in luck.” He turned Copper over to Mark, who held it to the light to read the year of its production. It was not as old as the man.

Dan removed the lid on his cup. The red baseball cap he was wearing backwards gave him a more youthful appearance than his sixty-something years of age.

“I just keep a few pennies for fixing things.” This was not a surprise. Mark was familiar with Dan’s expertise as a mechanic, and had heard a story or two of his unique uses for pennies. Mark’s black jacket was in sharp contrast to the orangey-gold walls of the café. The green table top that held their drinks was speckled with tiny black dots, and hollowed out on the dusty pink backrest of their chairs the word Robin’s in cursive letters

“What is the most unusual thing you have fixed with a penny?” the younger man asked Dan. Delighted by his rapt audience Dan answered without hesitation, “The locomotive.” He went on to describe a day in 1997 when he worked as a machinist on the engine of the Canadian National (CN) railway.

The CN is not just Canada’s only transcontinental railway company. Spanning the Atlantic coast in Nova Scotia to the Pacific coast in British Columbia (BC), the CN offers integrated transportation services: rail, intermodal, trucking, freight forwarding, warehousing, and distribution. It also serves fourteen states in the USA, and links not only the east and the west but the Gulf Coast as well.1

The locomotive is the railway vehicle that provides the motive capability for the train. It is powered by diesel which flows through fuel lines connected to injectors. The engine was a 16-cylinder motor that was propelled by sixteen injectors. Each injector had two fuel lines connected to it, giving a total of thirty-two fuel lines.

Each injector also had a nozzle at the tip which controlled the flow of the pressurized diesel. On that day, the nozzle of one of the sixteen injectors was broken. Instead of a managed flow though a thin hole, the injector was gushing a larger quantity of unwanted fuel into the locomotive through its wider, broken nozzle. As the automotive mechanic, Dan’s job was to provide emergency back-up in acute situations, and on that evening, he had to plug the leak. A routine enough job on any day.

The train had left the station in BC and was on its way to its next major stop in Winnipeg, then to its destination in Montreal. All was well as it passed through Alberta, but well into Saskatchewan, the crew on board phoned the station at Melville to say there was a bad fuel leak.

The nozzle must be replaced, or at minimum, the fuel lines must be plugged. If they were plugged the diesel would not flow and the injector would not be flooded.

A quick search revealed that no replacement plugs were housed in Melville, but the necessary part was available at the Winnipeg station in Manitoba. Only at certain terminals in BC, Winnipeg, and Montreal was train maintenance performed, and parts readily accessible. There was no way to get a plug to Melville that night. The leaking injector could not be repaired.

“I was asked to do a temporary fix so the train could get to Winnipeg, but there were no spare units to fix it with,” Dan reminisced. “So I got creative.”

“What did you do?” Mark’s curiosity was heightening. He knew it was well over 400 kilometres to the station in Winnipeg, from Melville, the smallest city in the province of Saskatchewan, located on its eastern side.

 “The circumference of the fuel lines was the same size as a penny, so I unscrewed the nozzle cap of the faulty injector and placed a penny in each fuel line.”

“Did they really fit?” Mark sounded a bit breathless.

“Oh yeah, and then I screwed the cap back in place,” Dan explained breezily. “The pennies plugged the lines and the fuel could not flow into the injector.”

“How could the engine run if the fuel was shut off?” Mark did not quite understand. Dan, who was a bit hard of hearing, asked Mark to repeat the question. As he did, Mark studied Copper as if trying to gauge the diameter of the fuel lines.

Dan explained that the other fifteen injectors were still intact, and could provide enough diesel to move the locomotive.

“I asked the crew to get the injector repaired when they arrived in Winnipeg, and remove the pennies,” he continued, scratching the grey stubble on his cheek before sipping his coffee.

Swallowing the warm beverage, the mechanic stated that he gave the incident no more thought as trains were pulling up frequently at the CN station in Melville, and he was kept busy.

“Did the locomotive make it to Winnipeg?” Mark couldn’t wait for the end. His eyes were translucent pools of green as he drank in the details of this brave feat. His half-eaten doughnut lay cold in its white napkin, like Copper lying next to it.

“Not just to Winnipeg but to Montreal as well,” was the humble reply.

Seeing Mark’s quizzical expression, he added, “It was not until a few days later that I was called to my boss’s office.” Dan grinned. “There were two managers in the office and they were not smiling.”

Though not easily fazed, Dan admitted that he got a bit worried when he realized the ‘big boss’ from Montreal was on speakerphone.

“I had no idea why I was called in,” he shrugged. He had forgotten about his quick fix a couple days before.

It turned out that on arriving at Winnipeg, the locomotive seemed to be running well, so the crew shuttled it off to Montreal without performing any repairs to the injector. Dan’s two pennies set off for an additional two thousand  kilometres on a train with one injector down and a full load of cargo on board.

The Montreal station was a maintenance site, and the locomotive went in for servicing when it arrived. Servicing included checking things like the air brakes, oil, and fuel lines. It was then that the penny plugs were discovered, and the little copper coins, dark and tarnished with diesel, had a black suspicion cast on them.

It didn’t take long for the Montreal office to trace the source of the pennies. This led to Dan’s being summoned before his bosses in the Melville office, and while he was not expecting a ‘thank you,’ neither was he prepared for the query: “Did you sabotage the locomotive?”

“I had to defend what had happened,” the former CN employee recalled. “I told them that there were no plugs available, and we needed to get the train to Winnipeg. I had called ahead to Winnipeg and the crew there verified that they would attend to plugging the fuel lines, or replacing the nozzle. I gave the lines my best shot and plugged the leak with the pennies as a temporary fix.”

In mechanic school Dan had learnt numerous quick fixes, and this one had paid off big time.

“Were you disciplined for the fix?” Mark had visions of grievances and time off work. Even a firing. Fortunately, there were no negative reprisals. Dan’s explanation rang true, and he joked that one of the bosses had shaken his head and said, “Either you are crazy or you are a genius, Dan.” Here the hero of the locomotive paused and sipped his creamy ‘double double’—coffee with two creams and two sugars.

“Did they shake your hand?” Mark asked.

Dan’s humorous reply was, “Not at all, and neither did they give me back my two cents.”

“Why didn’t the Winnipeg crew put in proper plugs?” Mark wanted to know.

Dan’s reply was speculative. “Maybe they did not want to have to explain the pennies, or maybe the locomotive was working as it should.” It was the most courageous story of a penny that Copper had heard, and wished that it was one of the tiny coins that had plugged the line and got the CN to safety. All the same Copper was proud to be a penny.

Proud to be Canadian. Proud of what Dan had done for the national carrier.

Mark was impressed and anxious to hear more, so he questioned the senior gentleman. “Will you miss the penny when it’s gone?”

“Not me.” The cheerful answer was surprising. “I think the penny became a nuisance around 1975 or so. I keep them in my car on the dash and it fills up so quickly. You can’t get anything in 2012 for a penny like we used to when I was a kid. But what I really use the penny for is fixing things.”

It was a bittersweet moment for Copper. A penny could be a hero or a nuisance, or maybe both at the same time depending on someone’s mood.

Mechanic Dan would miss the pennies primarily for their household uses. He recounted to Mark that, in bathrooms and kitchens, he had stopped the flow of water caused by broken lines using a penny to quench the gush. Later, the families would obtain the proper part and the plumber would do his job. He said he chose copper because it bends fairly easily.

“Have you used the penny on farm equipment?” Mark too was raised on a farm, and any advice would come in handy.

Dan leaned back, revealing the red and white checked shirt under his coat as his eyes lit up at another memory. He told of a part in a tractor that had become dislodged. It was the spring that held the clutch in place, and Dan was trying to put it back where it belonged. The heavy steel spring was resistant to pull, and could only be stretched a little. Dan had the idea that if something small was placed between the rings in the spring he would be able to stretch the stubborn steel.

What better to use than pennies! They were the right size and shape, and were available in the right quantities too. Painstakingly, Dan had placed penny after penny between the rings, moving on to another after he had stretched one to its max. Slowly the unyielding steel lengthened, and eventually he was able to clasp the hook into the latch.

“You just have to bend the coil when you’re finished and the pennies will tumble out.” He grinned again and his blue eyes crinkled half shut as he finished the story.

Mark had followed the explanation fully, and made a note to use that knowledge if he ever needed to stretch stiff springs. He asked if there were any more tips for using the penny on equipment.

Dan, who seemed to have the gift that keeps on giving, produced another chronicle. “Once at the farm a hydraulic line in a machine blew and it was letting out too much oil. We wanted to restrict the flow, and not having a washer of the right size, I drilled a hole in a penny and fitted it across the line. It worked perfectly and we never replaced it with another washer.” It seems stopping flows with pennies, be it water or oil, were Dan’s pet uses for the little coin.

“Isn’t it illegal to tamper with currency?” Mark felt sure that it was.

“Oh yes, now I know it is illegal, and I wouldn’t encourage anyone to destroy the coins.” Dan laughed. “Nor should they place pennies on rail tracks so the train can flatten them.”

Copper felt exhilarated to be a penny. The little coin might not be necessary to trade, but it was still desirable for its shape and size, and that felt good.

This chapter is a tribute to “Dan” whose  real name is Bob Lindsay. Bob passed away on April 26, 2020. 

Little Copper Pennies: Celebrating the Life of the Canadian One-Cent piece 1858-2013

little copper pennies

little copper pennies

CHAPTER 4

The Pennies in the Locomotive

 

Touched By Eternity on SaskBooks 2019 bestselling list

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Touched By Eternity made SaskBooks bestsellers’ list of 2019

Copies available globally where books are sold – SaskBooks, Indigo/Chapters/Coles,  Amazon worldwide, Barnes & Noble, etc, and on digital platforms.

The review on the SaskBooks website by Shelley A. Leedahl can be read below, or at the link: https://reviews.skbooks.com/touched-by-eternity/

Touched By Eternity: A True Story of Heaven, Healing, and Angels
by Susan Harris
Published by White Lily Press
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$19.99 ISBN 9-780994-986948

Rural Saskatchewan writer Susan Harris wears a number of hats. I’ve previously reviewed two of her Christmas alphabet books, but her literary prowess also includes inspirational and nonfiction work. It’s appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul, and Sunday School students may have read her biblical literature in class. Outside of writing, Trinidad-born Harris can be found presenting on her extraordinary religious experiences, and hosting an Access7Television series called “Eternity”.

In Touched By Eternity: A True Story of Heaven, Healing, and Angels, Harris explores her greatest passion, Heaven. Indeed, she claims to have an “obsession about Heaven,” and if you read her new book you’ll understand why. In clear, well-written prose, Harris tells the otherwordly story of her three near death experiences, each occasioned by a health crisis, and what she felt and observed on the proverbial “other side”. Add anecdotes about angels, a description of fiery Hell, and a few visions, and you’ll also glean why she’s dedicated her book to “those who long for Heaven”.

Born into a family of “old-fashioned Pentecostals,” it wasn’t uncommon for Harris to attend revivals where people spoke “in tongues,” and the author writes of her own early ability to speak in tongues: “My English words ceased and strange words began to flow from my mouth in a foreign language I had not learned. It was a full-bodied, fluent sound that spouted at first then gushed like a stream from a rainforest mountaintop.” Harris was eleven, and her own daughter spoke in tongues at age four.

The book begins dramatically with a desperate text message to her husband after her teeth began chattering, three days after a wisdom tooth extraction. I commend Harris for her ability to make readers feel they’re in the room as she slowly drags herself from her dining room to a day bed in excruciating pain. It’s 2017, and she’s about to have her second near death experience. She sees “a spectacular castle,” and writes that “The castle is blue, a luminescent, glorious, amazing shade that I haven’t seen on earth. The sides and edges are trimmed with gold …” Heaven. And this is the beginning of the “remarkably ordinary” woman’s drive to share her experiences, and “to carry peace, compassion, and the message that Heaven is gained only through Jesus Christ” to whomever will listen.

One of the angel stories is particularly interesting. After Harris and her husband marry at the Las Vegas Wedding Chapel, they’re walking the Strip and get harassed and followed by a “youth of African-American descent”. Suddenly a large man, “possibly of Mexican descent” with “black shorts that came down to his knees,” appears and the youth halts, “as if he had bumped into something”. Harris later reasons that the protector was an angel.

Many may think of death as the ultimate negative experience, but Harris’s deep grieving for a return to the peaceful “Heaven’s meadow” of her first near death experience – while in her doctor’s office – denotes that it’s anything but.

THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM

Susan H Exceptional Experience at NDERF

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The Near Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF) is headed by Dr. Jeffrey and Jody Long. They explore NDE science, spirituality, community, inspiration, and hope. My story is featured as an Exceptional Experience.

Below is an excerpt but the full story and interview is found at: https://www.nderf.org/Archives/exceptional.html

4765. Susan H NDE 3/9/2020. NDE 8974. Exceptional Experience. From Canada. Where I am, there is no sense of time. Time as we know it on earth is linear and irreversible. Not in Heaven. There is no dimension to time. All is still. I inhale deeply. I am contented and satisfied in ways I could have never imagined as I absorb this quietude. I have no pain. I have no worries. I do not remember any sorrow. There is no hint of things negative.
NDE due to episode of unconsciousness during very difficult pregnancy (hyperemesis gravidarum).