I state in today’s Sun column — available at baltimoresun.com — that we all have stories of rescue. We have all heard a story about some quick-thinking someone saving another someone, often a stranger, from drowning or fire. Or we know someone who did. Some stories are family heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation. They all come with what-ifs and what-if-nots: What if your mother hadn’t been there? What if your brother had gone on that camping trip, too?
Today’s Sun column is about “the luck of circumstance and the serendipitous nature of things. Not in all things, but in some things. Not all the time, but some of the time.”
“And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.”— Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5; Yerushalmi Talmud
The first such story I heard was from years ago in Massachusetts, and it was about a young Canadian priest, the Rev. Rupert Maclellan, who had a near-death experience in August 1958 on a beach in Quincy, just south of Boston. The priest was visiting relatives and, while swimming on Quincy’s Merrymount Beach, near Wollaston Boulevard, got caught in a fast-moving, incoming tide that overwhelmed him. I have seen the tide rush toward Merrymount and the narrow channel that runs under the boulevard and connects the beach to Black’s Creek. There is a dangerous, swift-draining funnel effect there. A swimmer could get sucked into it. I assume something like that happened to Father Maclellan. The priest’s 11-year-old nephew screamed for help. Fortunately, other bathers were nearby. A 40-year-old man named John Stockman and an 18-year-old boy named Ed Flavin acted quickly, got in the water and rescued the priest, who was unconscious and floating facedown.
The reason I know this story: That teenager who helped save Father Maclellan married my sister, Roseann, eight years later. They’ve been married and living in Quincy for 55 years.
The local newspaper — the one I went to work for 15 years later, The Patriot Ledger — reported at the time that the priest was in “poor” condition and “still on the danger list” at a local hospital. I assume the Ledger followed up, but I do not have a news clipping reporting that the priest survived, though I know he did.
Turns out, the actions of Mr. Stockman and my future brother-in-law made possible the long life of a parish priest. Father Maclellan returned to Alberta and served at churches in Coalhurst, Milk River, Banff and Calgary over the next five decades. He died on Prince Edward Island on Aug. 4, 2018 at age 90.