Discover more from Bob Olson Connect: Afterlife Investigator
The Snowman, the Superhero, and the Soldier
“The unlikeliest people harbor halos beneath their hats.” ~ Anonymous
Several years ago, in the middle of a major New England snowstorm, Melissa and I got a call from our mechanic that our aging Volvo was ready for pick up. We didn’t have a second vehicle, so we had borrowed Melissa’s parents’ Jeep while they were away for a few days. It turned out to be a handy vehicle considering the snowy roads.
Because the storm clouds made everything dark, I turned on the Jeep’s lights for safety, which instantly caused its engine to slow, sputter, and nearly stall. I shoved the lights off and the Jeep began running smoothly again, a clear indication that either the battery or alternator needed replacing.
“Great,” I said to Melissa, “we’re going to break down on our way to pick up our car that broke down a few days ago. Is Mercury in retrograde?”
Melissa and I had been experiencing some hardships at the time. The repair we had on the Volvo was just one of a series of ill-fated hits we’d endured. So the thought of breaking down in a borrowed car seemed overwhelming.
We continued driving without incident, so a few minutes later, more out of curiosity than necessity, I tried the lights again. This time the Jeep ran okay, for about two minutes until the engine simply quit. I steered the coasting Jeep to the side of the slushy road.
A bit panicked, I shut off the lights, the heater, and the windshield wipers, and turned the key to try starting it again. At first, the engine murmured a low rrrr-pause-rrrr-pause-cough and that was it. It sounded like a growling dog with emphysema. I looked at Melissa for support. She gave me a look of encouragement. I shrugged my shoulders and took a deep breath before turning the key again. Rrrrrrr-pause-rrrrr-pause-cough-rrrrruuuuummmmm! It started!
I grabbed the shifter, threw the Jeep into drive, and we were rolling down the road once again. Yet now the snow was rapidly covering the windshield due to our lack of a heater and defroster. Hesitant but without choice, I tapped the windshield wiper only when absolutely necessary to clear my view. Regardless, the windshield was slowly icing over. I didn’t know how far we’d get before I couldn’t see at all.
The Jeep threatened to stall when stopped at a traffic light, but I could keep it running if I revved the engine in neutral. At every stop, Melissa jumped out and scraped the ice off the windshield while I kept the engine revving. With this hair-raising system, we kept the Jeep running and the windshield clear until we arrived at the mechanic shop.
“Thank God that’s over,” I told Melissa.
The mechanic agreed that the Jeep likely needed a battery or alternator, but he had no interest in standing outside in the snow to take a look at it, especially considering his business was named Dr. Volvo, not Dr. Jeep. When I asked if we could leave the Jeep in his parking lot overnight, he said we couldn’t because the plows would be coming to clear it.
“But it’s about to break down, in a major snowstorm. What if I leave it off to the side somewhere? You have other cars out there.”
“Sorry, I just don’t want anything else in the way of the plows.”
That was it. We had no choice but to attempt driving it home.
After paying for the repairs, Melissa and I swept the snow off our Volvo, scraped the windows, and devised a plan while it heated up. Her parents’ home was only a few miles down the road. We decided that Melissa would drive the Jeep while I drove behind her since the Jeep drove better in the snow. Plus, if it did stall again, I could swing the car around and jumpstart the Jeep without her having to leave the vehicle.
It was a good plan. Our biggest concern was that it was beginning to get dark and we knew the Jeep wouldn’t run with the lights on, but thanks to the white snow reflecting the remaining daylight, we believed we could get the Jeep home before nightfall.
We scraped the Jeep’s icy windows one last time and set off on our journey. Halfway to Melissa’s parents’ house, the Jeep stalled. Melissa steered it into the nearest driveway, which belonged to a woodworking shop that sold handmade furniture. She only got a few feet into the driveway before rolling to a stop.
Driving right behind her, I knew I needed the Volvo in front of the Jeep to jumpstart it. In a split-second decision, I attempted to pass the Jeep in the narrow driveway. The snow made it difficult to judge the width of the driveway, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to drive over the lawn a bit considering it was covered with snow. As I drove beside the Jeep, my rear, driver’s-side wheel slid off the driveway and became stuck.
I tried to back the car up to renegotiate, but the wheels just kept spinning. Melissa switched vehicles so she could drive our car while I pushed. With no heat in the Jeep (since the battery was now completely dead), she was only too happy to get into the warm Volvo. Regardless of our years of practice rocking the car with her behind the wheel and me pushing, we couldn’t get a rocking motion going. I was going to have to shovel the snow from underneath the car.
I checked the trunk for something I could use as a shovel, but there was nothing. I checked the Jeep, still nothing. I needed to find a shovel. I hoped I’d find one by the woodworking shop, which was about a hundred yards away considering its long driveway.
Foolishly dressed for a snowstorm, I walked to the woodworking shop in five inches of snow wearing casual shoes and a light jacket. My shoes would fill with snow, my foot would melt it, and then it would fill with more snow several steps later. My jacket, on the other hand, allowed the snow to pile up behind my neck, melting the flakes very slowly as they dripped down my back. Having grown up in New England, you’d think I’d have known better; but no one really expects to break down.
As most Maine businesses do in a February whiteout, the woodworking shop had closed early. I looked all around for a shovel, but there was none to be found. I found a long board inside the dumpster that I could use as a makeshift shovel.
After fifteen minutes of pointless shoveling with a useless piece of wood, I decided to see if I could borrow a real shovel from a nearby house. I looked around me, and the nearest house was a half-mile away.
I fought the Nor’easter for the half-mile walk down the road while cars and snowplows drove by me. It was now completely dark and the road had no streetlights, so I jumped into the snowy embankment with every approaching vehicle. This didn’t prevent the slush from covering me like a tidal wave as the vehicles passed, but at least I didn’t get hit.
I found an old farmhouse and located the homeowner in the barn. She let me borrow her shovel, although it was a flimsy, plastic one that she must have bought at a pharmacy or convenience store. All the same, it was better than my crappy piece of wood.
Slogging the half-mile back to the car through what was now seven inches of snow, my hair, eyebrows, shoes, socks, jacket, and shirt were now thoroughly frozen. I looked like a snowman. With new determination, I returned with my shabby shovel. It worked better than the board, though it did nothing to chop ice. After another twenty minutes shoveling on my knees to scoop the snow from under the car, I could now see that the wheel had not just sunk into a soft spot on the lawn; it had slid into a two-foot ditch on the side of the driveway. The belly of the Volvo was resting on the top edge of the ditch.
Exhausted and defeated, I knew I was in trouble. I’d seen it before. When the undercarriage of a car is resting on the edge of a ditch, there’s only one way to get it out. A tow truck pulls it out, ripping the muffler, gas tank, and whatever other parts regrettably meet the ground as the car scrapes its way back onto four wheels.
My mind searched for ideas to avoid the litany of costly repairs that seemed inevitable. Maybe a helicopter could lift the car, I fantasized. Short of that happening, I knew the car was getting towed back to Dr. Volvo.
I hope the tow truck drops it right in the middle of his parking lot, I thought, now feeling resentful that the mechanic wouldn’t let us leave the Jeep there. It wasn’t long before my resentment toward the mechanic turned to anger at myself, at which time I began with some constructive self-talk. What kind of dim-witted dumbass would attempt to pass the Jeep on this narrow driveway? What am I, sixteen years old? Stupid, stupid, stupid!
After my minor mental meltdown, I quickly went from anger at myself to bargaining with God. “Oh God, not now. Please, not now.” This then changed to surrendering to the reality of my current circumstances. Once I landed on acceptance and surrender, I knocked on Melissa’s window and suggested she call for a tow.
As Melissa searched for a phone number to call AAA, a car pulled over on the side of the road. It was the first car to pull over in 45 minutes since getting stuck. A stocky guy in his early 40s got out of the car.
“Need some help?”
“I don’t think there’s anything that can be done,” I told him. “There’s a ditch on the side of the driveway and my car’s undercarriage is hung up on the edge.”
Without hesitation, the man walked into the snow, got down on his knees, and looked under my car. He asked me to hand him the shovel, then began chopping away at the ice and snow.
At one point, he stopped shoveling and looked up at me, “This isn’t a very good shovel, is it?”
He stopped shoveling and cocked his head to the side, just staring at the car. Then he stood up and began walking toward the rear of the car. “I’ll bet we can lift the car up and put it back on its wheels. The front wheels are on the driveway. We only need to get this rear wheel back up out of the ditch. Come on, we’ll lift on the count of three.”
I wanted to tell him that Volvos have three times the gauge steel as most cars, making them a lot heavier than the Toyota he was driving. Before I could say anything, he was already behind the Volvo and bending down to lift it up.
“Ready? One, two, three!” he shouted.
I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have time to grab the rear bumper before he lifted the car up. The Volvo lifted off the ground and back over onto the driveway.
What the…? I was dumbfounded. Who is this guy? I thought to myself.
“That ought to do it,” he said.
He dropped down on his knees and looked under the car.
“Your car looks okay. Don’t think you have any damage.”
He patted me on the arm. “You okay from here?”
“Yeah, I’m good,” I told him, flabbergasted that he had just lifted my car. He was the helicopter I’d requested. I thanked him for his help and asked his name.
He walked away as he yelled his name, but I didn’t catch it. By the time my brain had time to untangle the preceding five minutes, he disappeared into the snowstorm.
As he drove away, another car pulled over. This time a young man in his twenties got out. He approached me and held his hand out to shake mine. As we shook hands, he told me his name followed by the nearby town where he lived—Sanford.
I matched his greeting with “Bob Olson from Kennebunkport. Nice to meet you.”
I thought it was peculiar that he told me his name and the town where he lived, but there was something sweet about it.
“Need any help?” he asked.
“No, thank you. That guy who just drove off helped me, but I appreciate you stopping. You’re only the second person in over an hour who did.”
I told the young man how the other guy lifted my car out of the ditch. We had a few laughs, then he said goodbye and drove away.
I managed to jumpstart the Jeep after the young man left and parked it beside the dumpster. Melissa and I got home safely, and our day of adventure was over. The following week, it turned out that the Jeep needed an alternator after all. I also had my mechanic put our Volvo on a lift just to see if there was any damage underneath. There wasn’t.
The whole experience seemed miraculous, to say the least, especially considering a superhero with herculean strength happened to be driving by during a blizzard. Just the fact that he stopped to help at all was a small miracle, which I learned from this incident. Still, how many people driving by would have had the strength to lift a Volvo on their own? I’m pretty sure the odds are slim to none.
To add to the bizarreness of it all, only a week after this incident, I saw a picture in the newspaper of the young man who stopped to offer his help. The article said that he was from Sanford, just as he had told me. It added that he had returned from a tour in Iraq only a week before I met him, which had me wondering if that’s why he introduced himself by his name and his hometown. Perhaps, I thought, that’s how soldiers introduce themselves. But what sent chills down my spine more than all of this was that the young man’s picture was in the newspaper because he had just died in a car accident. He’d survived Iraq but died driving his car a couple miles from his home.
This is a true story, which rarely fits the formula for a seamless storyline. I know most people prefer tales with a happy ending, and I prefer writing them. That said, I believe there are divine messages hidden in the events that happen in our lives, and this one is no exception.
I view this as an uplifting story about humanity, more specifically about the heroes among us. We give awards to those who save people from burning buildings and sinking ships—and we should—but saving someone stuck in a snowstorm rarely makes the news. My story has two knights in shining armor who arrived when I wasn’t feeling very good about life in general.
Our first hero clearly had superhuman strength, but, more importantly, he also took the time to stop and offer assistance. Our second hero was a thin, lanky young guy who probably couldn’t have lifted my car out of a ditch, yet he too took the time to see how he might be of assistance. I imagine most people would have seen the first guy driving away and assumed I was all set. Not this young man. He stopped anyway, just to be sure. What this story reveals about both men speaks volumes about their character.
I’m sure there’s a meaningful message to be gained from the fact that the soldier, who had less than two weeks remaining in his life, crossed paths with a guy who was investigating the afterlife. Perhaps it’s to teach each of us—me who is telling this story and you who are reading it—that heroism has many faces, reminding us to notice all of them.
A pessimist could focus on the couple hundred drivers who passed by without stopping to help, but pessimists would be missing out on the hopeful reflection of humanity in this story. Two silent heroes ignored their busy lives, as well as whatever destination it was that led them outside in a snowstorm in the first place, to offer their services to a stranded couple who needed help. One came and went like a guardian angel. The other became an angel two weeks later. Yet he lives on in my memory, and now possibly yours.
Here's to the heroes in our lives: the soldiers, firefighters, EMTs, police, doctors, and nurses, as well as those who help strangers cross the street, change a flat tire, reach the top shelf, and pick up items dropped on the sidewalk. You inspire us to be more aware of our fellow human being and to slow our busy lives in order to assist those in need.
Bob Olson is the host of Afterlife TV, author of two books, Answers About The Afterlife and The Magic Mala, and creator of the reputable directory of vetted psychics and mediums, BestPsychicDirectory.com. His newest venture is Bob Olson Connect, a Substack newsletter where you can read his stories, listen to an audio of each article, and ask him questions or share your otherworldly experiences.
All Friday articles are free. Subscribe to get them in your inbox weekly.
Tuesday articles are a bonus for paid subscribers. These typically include comforting and insightful information about life after death.