An inexplicable tale

November 2021
Phyllis Shragge

Lillian was the epitome of contradiction:  loving but difficult; unselfish yet combative; big-hearted but critical of others.   Perhaps her perplexing personality was off-putting to some men, but just when she was certain of her future as a spinster, she found the love of her life.  She and Sam were married in January 1947.  A baby boy was born just months later, in October.

The couple was far older than most new parents of their generation. Lillian was in her late 30s.  Sam was 47 years old.  They were thrilled with their newborn baby. 

Sam was president of a Winnipeg scrap metal business he’d inherited from his father.  Sam had revived the business and he was determined to keep it afloat. Lillian was a full-time homemaker.  She had left her job selling fine jewelry once she and Sam got married.  

On January 26, 1948, they were one year into their marriage and their baby was three months old. Sam’s day at work was uneventful.  Once home for the evening, he was hoping to relax when he received a phone call from a client.  Lillian later recounted his end of the conversation.  “Let’s meet at the scrap yard tomorrow,” he said.  “We’ll sort everything out.”

When Lillian and Sam climbed into bed later that evening, they fell asleep immediately, barely aware that a storm was brewing outside.

Sam slept soundly, but Lillian’s sleep was a whirlwind of distressing images.  She floated in and out of a terrifying dream that would change her life forever.  

Years later, when Lillian described her dream, she said she knew it was a premonition, a dire warning of what was to come.  The dream predicted a catastrophe. Sam was in danger.  She needed to stop him from going to work the next day.

As a Jewish woman with a strong adherence to her faith, she believed in God.  But would God send her a message in a dream?

The next morning, she was distraught. She woke up early, hearing the wind howling outside the bedroom window.  She peeked through the curtains and saw snow pounding every surface.  It was the beginning of a snowstorm.    
She woke Sam up and tried to describe the dream which was so clear, but so abstract.  She pleaded with him not to go to work.  She insisted that something terrible would happen if he left the house.  She begged him to stay home.
Sam wouldn’t listen.  He knew that as the head of his company, he could not shirk his responsibilities.  He had an appointment to pick up a business associate and the two of them were to meet a client at the scrap yard.  He would not disappoint the client.  

Once again, Lillian begged him to stay home.  She fought back the tears as he left house and drove away.  She would never see him again.

As Sam and his business associate drove towards the scrap metal yard, the storm worsened.  The blinding snow obscured Sam’s ability to see more than a few inches past his windshield.  At 11:45 a.m., Sam drove through a railroad crossing four miles east of the town of Transcona, near Winnipeg.  A train plowed into Sam’s four-door sedan.  He and his associate were killed instantly.

Sam’s shocking death on January 27, 1948 changed Lillian forever.  She was now a single mother.  A few months after Sam was killed, Lillian’s parents moved into her house to help raise the baby.  She would dedicate every ounce of her energy to her son, Bill.  She never remarried.  

Lillian was my mother-in-law.  She was a strong, sensible (and yes, difficult but loving) person who, because of one dream, developed a firm belief in the paranormal.  She knew without a doubt that she and been warned about her husband’s impending death, but no matter what she did, she could not change the course of destiny.
Lillian knew that there is so much we do not understand.  And there is only so much that we can control.
Phyllis Shragge is a local writer, mother of five, and grandmother of four.