My husband calls them “marks of ownership”. The most notable one runs from his right ear and along his jaw line. The scar shows where the surgeons practically knit his broken jaw together, weaving wires in and around and through the bone after it was shattered. This was years before I met Charles. He was a young military officer with the Canadian regular forces, barely nineteen, who was studying to be an aeronautical engineer. He had a love of fast cars and fast motorcycles. I have heard all of his “easy rider” stories from that time, along with some of his more death defying stunts. He would love to own another motorcycle but I only need to look at the long scar on his face and I cringe at the idea.
He had just bought this new bike. He was still getting used to it in some ways. It was by far the most powerful of all the motorcycles he had owned before, however on that rainy night in Victoria, B.C., he wasn’t interested in breaking any land-speed records with it, he just wanted to get home and get into some dry clothes. He didn’t much care for riding his new bike in the pouring rain. Charles had been out with his friend, Pat that evening who decided he would follow behind Charles in his Honda Civic while Charles rode ahead on his bike. The rain was pelting down as they cautiously started home. Charles doesn’t remember exactly what happened as he rounded that fateful corner in the road, but he says that the telephone pole just “jumped out at him”. He vaguely recalls the front tire of the motorcycle hitting some loose gravel by the side of the road and then the bike going into a wobble. As the bike tilted sideways and started to go down, the gas tank must have hit a larger rock and at the same time Charles’ face impacted with the telephone pole. The helmet he was wearing likely saved his life although for several days doctors were not sure he would recover fully from his injuries. He had shattered his jawbone and much of his face and broken his wrist. Pat saw the entire accident happen, and though horror-struck at witnessing the crash, he was able to flag down help quickly as his friend lay bleeding and unconscious in the ditch. Had Pat not been there, Charles may not have been found for hours, and would likely have bled to death, since the road was pitch dark and the driving rain made the accident scene nearly invisible to passing motorists.
Charles’ parents were called immediately after the accident and rushed to his side. When his mother saw her son in the hospital, she was so overcome with shock at seeing the severity of his injuries that she became physically ill. For the next several days, Charles remained in critical condition. Doctors set his wrist, but it was broken so badly that weeks later it had to be reset again. Doctors were not sure he would ever have the full use of his arm again. The jaw was problematic as well. The surgeons had wired the bone together the best they could. He would have to have more surgeries in the weeks following. Not being able to open his mouth for months after the accident, he subsisted on a liquid diet that he sucked through a straw. His weight and muscle mass dropped significantly and he experienced nerve damage and numbness in his face and chin. He later discovered that somehow due to the accident he had lost his sense of smell.
In a couples Bible Study we attended a couple of years after we were married, Charles was relating this horrific accident to members of the group. To this day I shudder when he talks about the accident because the reality is he could have been killed that night. I would never have met the love of my life, I might never have become a Christian (because it was he that led me to the Lord), our three beautiful children would never have been born…. It is frightening to think about the “what ifs”, but there is another “what if” that may have resulted in equally similar results had the accident never happened.
Charles is the first one to admit that he was walking as far away from the Lord in those days as he could possibly be. He had become a Christian as a young boy, he grew up in a loving Christian home. However once he moved away from home to pursue his military career, going to church and building a relationship with God was more or less forgotten.
After the accident, as he lay recovering in a hospital bed, God took hold of Charles again. As he went through the painful process of healing physically, God healed Charles spiritually as well. Charles had ample time to think about his life and where it was heading before the accident but now he was forced to rethink his priorities in life. God had given him a second chance.
His recovery was long and when he finally was able to return to his studies at school he had missed just too much class time to pass the courses. The Canadian forces, who were paying for his tuition at the time, determined that Charles’ marks were too poor to continue to fund his schooling. His dreams of becoming an aeronautical engineer were over as was his career with the Canadian regular forces. Instead, he joined the Canadian reserves and it was there that we met.
He completed his science degree at the University of Victoria and became a professional geophysicist that eventually led him to Calgary to work in the oil patch there, his young wife in tow. The rest, so they say, is history.
Now, I am not saying God caused that accident to happen to get Charles’ attention. Although Charles has joked that he probably needed a good “knock on the head” to turn his life around. No, we think instead, God used the accident and the subsequent scars to place His “mark of ownership” on Charles. The scars are a visual reminder of Whom Charles belongs to. Without them, Charles would not be the man he is today. We would not be the family we are today. When God marked him, he marked our entire family and I am forever grateful.