A Rambling Man (Part Two) from Chapter Eight
They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. Psalm 107:4 KJV
They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. Psalm 107:4 KJV
Thornton Cline, author of “Not My Time to Go” on Indigo Sea Press.
They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in.
Psalm 107:4 NJK
Call me a rambling man or a wilderness man, but I felt lost for a long time. I was growing restless from spending almost 20 years in school, non-stop. I was working on my Ph. D. in music education at Eastman School of Music. I felt like a professional student. I had no life. I asked myself if studying was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was so ready for an adventure, outside the confines of the school.
The year was 1979, and I was traveling the country doing job interviews for a teaching position at a high school or college. In the end, I was offered two teaching positions—one in Long Island, New York and one in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I took the Cedar Rapids position directing orchestra at a high school. The cost of living and the opportunities outweighed the Long Island position. In July, I packed what little I had and headed west to Cedar Rapids in my sporty, silver Capri. In August, I started my first day as orchestra director. I was excited about my new position. I had great passion for teaching and knew that I would love being the orchestra director.
In addition to conducting the high school students, I taught a Suzuki violin class at the elementary schools. One of the greatest insecurities that I possessed at the time was my perception of how others saw me. I was age-conscious. I had been told repeatedly, that I looked as young as many of the high school students. That was a huge problem for me to overcome. Some suggested that I grow a mustache and dress more maturely to give myself an older look.
Even though I knew they meant well, I nevertheless carried that “age-chip” on my shoulder. Everyone knew it, even those who didn’t know me. That particular insecurity was difficult for me to hide.
My first week of teaching was fair. I had my work cut out for me. I was inexperienced as a first-year teacher, and the students took advantage of my inexperience and youthful appearance. The high school and middle school students looked at me as though I was one of them.
The days turned into weeks as I struggled to maintain authority and discipline at the high school and middle school. I was not experienced in disciplinary problems and did not know how to handle unruly behavior. The students didn’t seem to respect me like I had hoped they would. By the end of the semester, I felt like a dismal failure as a teacher. I was self-conscious about my lack of authority, my inexperience in teaching, and my youthful appearance that it started to affect my teaching in a seriously destructive way.
The principal, Mr. Detrich, called me to prepare for my mid-semester evaluation in January. Mr. Detrich told me he would be observing my strategies, class plans, and teaching style. The thought of such an evaluation made me even more nervous than I had been before. Whenever I imagined that January observation in front of disrespectful and unruly students, it made me feel sick all over my body.
When that first Monday in January rolled around, I had to drag myself out of bed just to begin teaching again. The teaching climate began to go downhill for me on that first week of the new semester. The middle and high school students refused to cooperate with me. Behavior was completely out of control. I had a student-led revolt on my hands, orchestrated to humiliate me, and designed to embarrass and discourage me, so I would quit teaching and leave the school system.
Mr. Detrich observed my teaching style and strategies (or lack of them) as promised. He called me into his office afterward for a meeting. Mr. Detrich said he was very disappointed in me as an orchestra teacher. He was greatly concerned about the unruliness and chaos taking place in my classroom.
Mr. Detrich told me that there was nothing that could be done to turn around the grave situation this late in the game. He offered me a proposal that I continue to serve out my year contract by attending all classes. But the orchestra classes would be considered study halls with the assistant principal sitting in on all of those classes, keeping order with the students until the end of the year. I was ordered not to do any teaching, but rather to sit in the study hall quietly with the assistant principal. This would turn out to be one of the most humiliating experiences I would experience in my life. Principal Dietrich’s proposed agreement with me was approved by the local school board. I patiently waited out my time, drawing a paycheck until school ended in May. I felt totally disgraced and humiliated. Could I ever teach again?
(Read part two from “Not My Time To Go” in June)
If you’ve been following my monthly Indigo Sea Press blog, you’ll know that I have been focusing on stories of my angelic protection from my new ISP book, “Not My Time to Go”. In this blog I will be sharing with you of how I was caught in the middle of an ongoing Mafia war.
It would be eight years before any more near-fatal experiences occurred in my life. I was accepted into the Ph.D program in music education at the acclaimed, legendary music conservatory, Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. I arrived in Rochester in August 1977 on a Greyhound bus. Rochester, New York was a wonderful cultural arts city and offered me many exciting opportunities in music. But while it was an amazing place to live, there was a downside–crime. The administration at Eastman School of Music warned the students about the dangers of the downtown area. They told stories of students being held at gunpoint and robbed in broad daylight. They warned of beatings, murders, rapes and kidnappings that occurred even during the daylight hours. The school advised students to walk together in parties or use a form of transportation other than walking. Most of the students, including me, ignored the warnings and didn’t take them seriously.
Late one night in November of 1977, I was camped out in a practice room, frantically preparing for a violin jury, where I would perform a difficult classical piece memory in front of an entire panel of distinguished judges. I thought that night would never end. By three a.m. I was exhausted. I had to call it a night and headed home for a few hours of sleep.
1977 was particularly violent for Rochester. Crime and murders had risen sharply due to a major Mafia war sweeping the city. The war was fought between two Mafia-associated families the Pistilli clan and the Giovanni family. There were numerous reports of deadly drive-by shootings, car bombings and families being sprayed with roofing nails placed inside homemade bombs rigged to front doors of the Mafia family homes.
That night in November, I was so exhausted after hours of practicing that I couldn’t keep my head up or my eyes open. I packed up my violin and walked the six flights of stairs to the ground floor.
“I’m leaving for the night,” I said to the security guard.
“Be careful,” he replied.
As I left the school building, I could feel the gentle breeze of the early morning air. It left a cooling mist of dew on my tired face, promising to keep me awake on my long walk home. I was completely alone, with not a single person or car anywhere in sight. The morning was calm and peaceful. I was numb and basically walking in my sleep. As I crossed Elm Street, I passed one of those parking lots where you pay to park for a certain amount of time. Then I saw a lone man walking to his car. It seemed very late for a man to be out doing business. But I reassured myself that the man was probably drunk and had just left one of the nearby bars. As I passed the nearby lot, the lone man went to unlock his car door. Unexpectedly, a colossal, thunderous explosion rocked the streets, forcing me to the ground. A massive ball of fire billowed from the car and engulfed the man, lighting up the dark, peaceful night. I felt glass and shrapnel fall all around me on the sidewalk. I lay there shaking for the longest time, in a state of shock, scared to the death.
After awhile, I carefully and slowly crawled on the sidewalk, away from the fire. I felt my entire body to see if I was still alive. The police, firefighters and paramedics arrived shortly after that and began asking me a million questions.
Needless to say, I completely forgot about getting any sleep. The paramedics checked my vital signs, but couldn’t find a scratch or cut on me. Despite my close proximity to the explosion, I wasn’t injured in any way.
Some declared that night a miracle. Others said I was lucky to be alive. I knew better than that. I was definitely protected by angels and the hand of God. Again. it was not my time to go.
In my past Indigo Sea Press blogs, I have share some stories from my debut ISP book, “Not My Time to Go”. They have all been about angelic protection. This one is about me nearly losing my life as a teen.
I begin chapter six with a quote from Exodus 23:20 NIV: See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.
I was age 15, very involved in community orchestras as a violinist, but had no reliable transportation to take me to the four orchestra rehearsals I had per week. Age 15 can be an awkward age, particularly if you don’t have a car or a license. That was my case.
Mrs. Tyler treated me like one of her sons. She was a kind and generous person. She never complained nor grumbled. She was dedicated to her children and always made sure they were taken care of. Many times, Mrs. Tyler was available to transport me to and from orchestra rehearsals. But then there was Johnny, a 17-year-old cello player who played in the youth orchestra. He was kind enough to give me a ride to orchestra when Mrs. Tyler wasn’t available.
One Monday, Mrs. Tyler called my mom to tell her she couldn’t give me a ride because she had the flu. And Johnny was sick too. My mom scrambled to find a ride for me. After a dozen calls or so, my mom found Mrs. Boucher who agreed to transport me. She was one of the mothers of a friend in youth orchestra.
Tuesday arrived quickly. The last period bell at my high school rang at 3:30 p.m. It had been a ho-hum day at school. I ran out of the building with my backpack on my shoulder and violin in hand. I waved goodbye to my friend as I waited on the corner of Malvern and Augusta Avenues. My ride to youth orchestra would arrive any minute now. It was already 3:35 p.m. The student crowd was thinning out and the last bus left the school. I was bored waiting. I looked at my watch which read 3:55 p.m. Now I was worried. My rehearsal would start at 4:30 p.m. and it always took 40 minutes to get to the rehearsal hall. Back then, there were no cell phones to call or text to check on someone. Had I missed my ride? I feared that if I went to the school office to call, I might miss Mrs. Boucher. I continued to wait, pacing back and forth on the sidewalk. The time seemed like eternity. I grew more nervous. Visions of running in late for my rehearsal haunted me. I had a very strict orchestra director, Mr. Gustav Martine, a virtuoso conductor from France. I had worked hard auditioning for and preparing to hold the position of first-chair concert master in the orchestra, and I didn’t want to lost that. What if I ran in late and Mr. Martine became upset? What if Mr. Martine asked me to leave the orchestra and never come back. That happened to a friend of mine who played oboe. She was asked to leave because she was 15 minutes late.
The clock turned to 4:10 p.m. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a bright-blue Chevy Impala roared up. The front passenger door flew open.
A woman yelled, “Get in!”
It was Mrs. Boucher, moving at a frantic pace. Her son, who played in the orchestra, was screaming at her from the back seat to hurry up. I threw myself into the front seat and held on for dear life with my violin case in my lap.
Mrs. Boucher took off at lightning speed.
“I’m so sorry for being late,” she kept saying.
As she drove, she dug around in her large red purse and found some pretzels and cookies. She tossed a bag over the front seat to her son and a threw a bag of cookies at me. Next, she pulled out several cans of cola as she steered with one finger. Mrs. Boucher tossed the cans at her son and me, driving like a maniac. Her eyes were everywhere but on the road.
Mrs. Boucher was swerving all over the road as she picked up speed. It was a wonder the police didn’t stop her, as her careless driving gave her away. Mrs. Boucher cursed and screamed at the cars ahead to get out of her way and to move faster. Her son and I realized that we were going to be very late to the rehearsal, perhaps by as much as 20 minutes.
The school traffic turned into heavy rush-hour traffic. Mrs. Boucher continued speeding as fast as she could down the four-lane road.
All at once, the traffic light at a four-way intersection turned red in front of us. Mr. Boucher didn’t even slow down.
“Watch out for that car!” her son screamed.
Her car barreled right on through the intersection into oncoming traffic. Car horns blared all around us, followed by the deafening sound of metal scraping, glass breaking, and tires squealing.
Her blue impala had somehow escaped any damage as several other cars swerved to miss us, colliding with each other. We came to a screeching halt about two blocks past the scene of the accident. Mrs. Boucher, her son, and I climbed out of the car, shaking badly. People rushed to help, asking if we had been hurt. Mrs. Boucher sat on the curb. Someone threw a blanket on her, worried that she might be in shock. She didn’t say a word.
Traffic backed up for miles in all directions. The cars that swerved to dodge Mrs. Boucher’s car were totaled. People were rushing to their rescue and soon the police and ambulances arrived.
At the hospital, doctors examined Mrs. Boucher and our vital signs again and kept us in the hospital overnight. But the doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with us. We had no cuts or scratches. The doctors couldn’t explain how Mrs. Boucher had avoided the collision at that intersection. But the angels knew how we were protected in the invisible spiritual world.
Turns out many miracles happened that day, they say. None of those drivers and passengers involved in the accident were hurt or killed, although their cars were badly mangled. Some people dismissed the miracle, however, brushing off the lack of injuries as lucky coincidence. I knew better. While I knew, God had spared my life, I later learned that it was also my guardian angels faithfully protecting me. Another reminder that it was not my time to go, that God had some great plans for me. The accident went on to change the lives of Mrs. Boucher, her son, and me in a positive way. We were forever grateful for the gift of life. We learned never to take life for granted.
In my last blog, I shared about how I should have died when I was only two-years-old, which is documented in Chapter Two: A Toddler Almost Lost of my Indigo Sea Press debut book, “Not My Time to Go”.
In Chapter Three: A Vacation Horror, I had just finished third grade. Summer had begun, and I was headed to the lovely, pristine beaches of Mathews County, Virginia with my sister, Robin and my parents. We ventured out in our 1959 green Rambler and headed east to the beach. We were cruising down Interstate 64 East, singing songs and sharing stories of how great our vacation would be.
The sun was quickly setting as we took the New Kent County exit and headed down a lonely, two-lane highway, Route 33. It was now very dark.
“Keep your eyes on the road,” my mother warned.
There was an eerie fog that had settled on the highway. It was so dark that even two bright headlights looked like tiny candles flickering in the night. The road creepily wound beneath large trees which draped over the road. It was very rural and there was no one around for miles. Everyone in the car was silent and still. For Robin and me, it was a scary place to be.
All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a bright light flashed down on the right-hand side of the highway.
Phyllis screamed. “Bob, watch out for those poles.”
My dad swerved left, now seeing for himself the long poles jutting out in front of us. It happened so fast that no one had time to think. Bob steered to the side of the road and slammed on the brakes, taking us from 60 mph to zero in seconds. Robin and I were thrown as the car stopped. We were stunned. Speechless, we sat there in the dark trying to catch a breath. I was shaking violently. I never demonstrated much outward affection for my sister. But that night, I reached over to Robin and held her close, comforting her.
We stared at each other like zombies, slowly realizing that we were alive and in one piece. We had no cuts, scratches or bruises, nor any broken bones. We stepped out of our car and noticed the long skid marks our car had burned onto the left lane.
There was an old construction truck parked awkwardly in a rough dirt driveway. No one was in the vehicle, which was sitting perpendicular to the road. It seemed strange for someone to leave a truck parked like that, its back end barely clearing the right lane. There was no note left on the truck nor was there a rag attached to the truck indicating that it was broken down.
We looked closer and realized that passing that truck would have been fatal for us. We stared in disbelief—jutting out the back of the truck were eight long four-inch wide solid steel poles.
The truck had been parked in such a way that the poles extended over the entire right hand lane of the dark two-lane highway. These poles stuck out low enough so that if Bob hadn’t swerved to the left lane when Phyllis screamed, they would have cut off the top of our car. We would have instantly been killed, our head severed from our torsos.
Then a strong wave of peace flooded my body. I felt like I had been touched by the hand of God. I felt renewed by a new sense of confidence and purpose. At that moment, I felt reassured that I could go on with my life know I was protected by God and His angels.
When I look back on how I almost faced death at two years old. It is not only frightening but humbling. I was too young to understand anything about dying.
It was a peaceful Saturday morning in early March the day I almost died the first time. On that morning, my mother noticed that I wasn’t awake yet. She looked more closely. I was lying my crib unnaturally still. My mother, Phyllis, carefully lifted me, and found my body lifeless, burning with heat. My eyes rolled back into my head. Phyllis felt a stab of panic as a sudden vision of me lying in a tiny coffin inside the sanctuary of our church ran through her mind.
Something’s wrong with my baby. Dear Jesus, help him.
My mother quickly tried to revive me, covering my body with a cold washcloth. I did not respond. My temperature had risen to 104.9.
Paramedics arrived and loaded me into the ambulance after given me oxygen and checking my vital signs.
I vaguely remember lying on that hospital table, wired with dangling tubes from my arms and chest. The hospital staff worked frantically to revive me as my heart had stopped. They struggled to bring me back.
An overwhelming, heavy silence suddenly fell in the room. And then, a miracle happened. My tiny lungs gasped for breath and filled with air. I could feel the thump of my heart in my chest. I started crying. My mom and dad were speechless in disbelief. Their prayers had been answered.
I had always been a fighter and not a quitter. Perhaps I had a strong will to live.
There were undeniable divine forces in that room that day. This would be the first of many close-call brushes with death. God had purpose for me here on Earth. It was definitely not my time to go.
by Thornton Cline
In my debut non-fiction book, “Not My Time to Go” on Indigo Sea Press I devote chapter seventeen to the purpose of living on Earth. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines purpose as the reason something is done or used or the aim or intention of something.
Throughout my true compelling close-call, near-misses with death I gradually discovered my purpose for living on Earth. I once believed that I existed just to eat, drink, and be happy. I didn’t think too much about other people’s lives, but put high value on indulging in worldly pleasures. I didn’t have much concern for my fellow brothers and sisters. Life was all about me. And while I played the violin and piano growing up, I used those talents and gifts for my own self-seeking purposes, not for a higher purpose.
Through all of my self-seeking, I gradually became reckless, taking foolish changes with my life. Many times I felt immortal. I depended only on myself for everything. The Lord was far removed from my life, despite my childhood spent attending church. I had forgotten how to pray, and, in fact, I didn’t feel like I needed to pray at all.
Of course, that was far from the truth. My guardian angel, other angels, and my Lord and Savior have always been by my side. I just haven’t come to that realization yet. All that time when I thought I was doing it on my own, my angel and the Lord were there helping me through everything in my life.
While I was depending on myself, they were what I needed. But no one could tell me. No one could preach that message to me. I had to learn it the hard way.
Slowly but surely, I came to the realization that I wasn’t here on Earth only to take up space and to exist. I also realized that life wasn’t about partying and pleasing myself with selfish ambitions.
Through the near-tragedies that I experienced, I began to conclude that life on Earth was a testing ground for my everlasting life in Heaven. Life was about storing up treasures for the hereafter. It was not about pleasing myself in partying and living it up, nor was it about accumulating riches and wealth while on Earth. I realized that I was constantly being tempted and torn between the invincible greatness and goodness of the Lord Almighty and the dark, evil forces of Satan. I discovered that every decision I made in my life had its consequences.
Life, I finally saw, was about God’s kingdom on Earth, serving God faithfully, and planting seeds by helping others so that the fruits of my labor could be reaped later. My mission was to reach others with my gifts and bring them into God’s fold.
Finally, life makes sense knowing why I am here on Earth and what my purpose is. It took those 11 close-call, near death experiences to help me to discover my purpose and the meaning of life.
There is a side of me that most of my friends don’t know. I have rarely shared this side with anyone until now. I am a survivor. My life has been spared. I am not talking about surviving cancer, heart disease or some life-threatening disease. I am referring to the eleven true compelling near-death experiences I have survived since I was toddler.
Long before I lived in Tennessee, my first encounter with death occurred when I was two-years old. I should have died and I should have died many times. But, it wasn’t my time to go.
What I am describing has been experienced by between four and 15 percent of humans, according to the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation. This segment of the population will have experienced a close call with death sometime in their lives.
It never occurred to me until later in my life that there was a possibility that someone or something was watching over me and protecting me from the dangers and close-call brushes with death. Later I came to the realization that there were angels watching over me. They have known me before I was born. They have watched me come into this world. They are looking out for me, watching and protecting me 24/7.
Skeptical? I can certainly understand. I was very skeptical for a very long time until I ran out of reasons and explanations for how my life was spared over and over again—11 times! I am not talking about situations where I was flirting with death, I am referring to miracles where there was no scientific or medical explanation as to why I had survived.
It takes a certain amount of faith to even consider the possibility of the existence of angels, especially for those who have no religious background or do not practice any sort of religion. And without trying to get religious with you all, I did some research from the King James Version of the Bible and discovered that the Book of Daniel (chapters 7-12) lists the names of our guardian angels here on Earth: Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael. The Book of Revelation (7:1) describes how the four guardian angels protect and watch over the four corners of the Earth.
My eleven near-death experiences read like an Academy Award winner thriller film or a New York Times bestselling book. I have experienced grave illness as a toddler; was nearly decapitated along with my family; was almost killed by a bomb explosion during a Mafia War, was involved in two devastating car accidents, escaped from fire and explosion when my car malfunctioned on the Interstate, was the victim of an attempted abduction at gunpoint when I was a child, faced the near-death of my young 10-year old daughter, was involved in a close-call brush with death on an airplane, and was a victim of a failed car-jacking as an adult.
After much prayer, research and soul-searching, I came to the conclusion that I was protected and spared by guardian angels. Each time a close-call brush with death occurred, it was not my time to go. I concluded that there were reasons why I was spared here on Earth. I now realize that I am living on Earth for a purpose. Every day is truly mission and I am here to help leave the Earth a better place than it was before.