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In her time of reckless abandonment, senseless actions and indifferent demeanors, Saida knew she was on the verge of doing something that she would eternally regret. As she stood on the cold grim slab, she tried to reason herself back to sanity. As the cold wind sliced her face and the salt of her tears rested on the curl of her lip, Saida shivered in utter fear and confusion in what she was about to do.
Ray gripped the steering wheel and rested his head against the seats of his BMW. Like a sleek, black cougar, he slowly prowled the boulevard, but unlike a cougar Ray was not in search of prey. He was on his way home having just completed a thirteen hour shift at work. Ray loved this time of night or rather morning. It was the only time he could drive down the boulevard in peace without the howl of car horns and the roar of truck engines. The drive home always helped Ray to relax and wind down. The last lag of his journey on the boulevard was across the Harriet Tubman Bridge. He always slowed down a notch or two as he crossed the bridge; the view was awesome. As Ray reached over to click on his Byron Cage CD, he was unprepared for what he saw before him.
Saida was too engrossed in her effort to be aware of anyone else in her nightmare. When she closed her eyes and stepped off the edge, she was totally taken off guard when two strong arms flung her back to safety. Ray’s arms were wrapped around Saida’s torso as he quickly lifted her over the rail.
“What are you doing?” he asked Saida breathlessly. Saida tried to wiggle out of his grasp, but it seemed every move she made caused his arms to grip her more strongly. With her back against Ray and the tears streaming down her face, it was impossible for Saida to see clearly the man that had just saved her life.
“Why didn’t you just let me die?” Saida cried.
Saida tried again to break loose from Ray’s grip. “Let me go!”
“Stop fighting me and listen,” Ray whispered into Saida’s ear.
Just when she had resolved to give into the calming voice in her ear, they both jerked when they heard the police officer scream, “Freeze!”
Ray looked up to see two uniformed officers with their guns drawn.
“Look, man. It’s not what it seems.” Ray cried out.
“Shut up and let the lady, go!” the police officers shouted.
“O.k., O.k. I’m not armed.” Ray said as he released his hold on Saida. He reached in his pocket to pull out his id. That was the last move he made before three gun shots to the chest silenced his pleas. The shrill sound of Saida’s scream brought everyone back to the ugly reality before them.
It seemed like time had stopped. Saida watched everything happen almost in slow motion and was numb with cold fear. She didn’t recognize her voice as she heard herself cry out, “You shot him. Oh my God, you shot him!”
“Lady, he was trying to hurt you. We did you a favor.” The officer replied in disgust.
The tears began to flow again down Saida’s face as she cried out, “No, Oh my God, he was trying to help me. He was trying to stop me from jumping off the rail”
Officer Joe Tromsky followed her gaze to the bridge rail and back to the lifeless body on the ground before them, and ran to his cruiser to call for help.
Ray Colbert loved everything about Spring. He loved the smell of flowers. He loved the feel of the wind at this time of year. He loved the fact that every year at this time the days grew longer. Ray was thankful that he was alive to take in the beauty of it all. At one point in his life, Ray never thought he would live to see twenty-five, let alone thirty-seven. He felt blessed beyond belief to have survived the drug dealing, the bank robberies, and the loss of his mother to an unexpected but predictable heroin overdose. Ray was determined to leave his past and live a life that was pleasing to God.
Although Ray graduated high school, he never got further than a year in college. It wasn’t because of his lack of intelligence, but because of his lack of interest. Thinking back, Ray wished he had remained in school to get his Bachelor’s degree, instead of his Certified Certificate from the School of Hard Knocks. If it weren’t for Rev. Parker and the team of brothers from Jesus Saves Ministry, Ray isn’t sure if he would even be a productive part of society.
Rev. Parker, a big burly man, with broad shoulders saw something in Ray. When everyone else decided he was a lost cause, Rev. Parker never lost hope for him. His prayers, talks, encouragement, and support provided Ray with the guidance he needed to steady himself and redirect his life in a positive direction. It was Rev. Parker who called in a favor to one of his frat brothers that got Ray his position at the Armored Truck Company. Ray chuckled to himself as he laid his head against the leather headrest in his car. Who would have thought that him of all people would end of guarding the money that he used to steal? He had to laugh at that one. God does work in mysterious ways.
It was the beginning of Spring and Saida felt on top of the world. With a new job in a new city, it felt to Saida that she was finally in control of the craziness that was her life. At thirty-five, she finally felt like she was getting a grip. Yet, her life was slowly unwinding into a coil of craziness. Saida couldn’t pinpoint when she started losing control. Maybe it was the monotony of getting up everyday and coming home everyday to an empty apartment bored senseless. She hated being alone and even when she was in the presence of others, she ultimately still felt alone - an outsider.
No matter what she did she couldn’t shake the feeling of her nothingness. She tried clubbing to surround herself with people and music with hopes of keeping her mind off the loneliness. She tried drinking to numb the pain of her aching heart. She slept with more people she cared to remember trying to grasp that feeling that moment when she was in utter control and with each of her efforts Saida realized what little control she actually had. It got to the point where nothing seemed to phase her. Her day to day activities, her life were all just glimpses of memories that she wanted desperately to forget.
Saida wasn’t a praying woman. She never believed that God even cared about her. Sometimes she wondered if there was a God, but on September 30, 2003, Saida’s life changed forever. With the wind stinging her eyes and a scream still in her throat, Saida prayed for the first time in her life for a man she didn’t even know.
Officer Joe Tromsky was a twenty year veteran on the Tubman City Police Force. Green blooded and tough, he was a divorced father of three who worked hard and loved little. The mean streets of Tubman City had hardened the Irishman and festered a hatred that grew in him every day he worked his beat. He had lost hope long ago that he or anyone else could make life better in the neighborhoods he patrolled. He watched daily as Black men, Black women, Black boys, and to his surprise even little Black girls destroyed their lives and communities. When he looked into the eyes of the little black boys who often waved to him while he was on patrol – all Officer Tromsky could see was another potential danger to society. How could he believe anything other for their lives. He didn’t even have much hope for his own life.
The tears came in long sobs as she buried her head into the side of his hospital bed. She learned his name and occupation from the television reporters. She learned everything else about him from Rev. Parker. He startled her during one of her crying spells during the first week of her visits to the stranger who had saved her life. Rev. Parker stood at the doorway and watched her for almost an hour before she realized she and her mystery hero were no longer alone.
Rev. Parker had also watched the news reports and read the countless news articles. He had even served as Ray’s official family spokesperson demanding justice from the Tubman City Police Force, who it seemed wanted to disregard the fact that one of their officers had fired on an unarmed man who had just saved a delirious woman from jumping to her death off of a thirty foot bridge. If Saida had not witnessed the entire charade, Rev. Parker was almost sure the officers would have fabricated an incident to cover their inadequacies, but then he remembered Saida was the reason this happened in the first place.
When Ray awoke out of the coma, he couldn’t place where he was. He heard beeps and drips and distant voices. He tried to move, but the pain was unbearable. He felt her before he saw her. She was holding his hand and reading Psalm 23.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil. For thy rod and staff are with me to comfort me all the days of my life.”
Saida had been visiting Ray everyday after the shooting. She couldn’t believe the police officers shot him. She didn’t know what she would have done if Ray had died. Even though she never had the chance to really get to know the man that lay in the bed before her, she felt a sense of obligation to Ray. It was the one thing that kept her alive. She kept replaying the events of that night over and over again in her heard and she still couldn’t believe that this stranger would risk his life to save hers. Saida lifted his hand in hers, and jumped when Ray squeezed her hand.
“Oh, well, well, well. Look at you.” Saida smiled and looked down at him.
Ray’s eyes were still closed as he moaned.
Saida got up and went looking for Ray’s nurse. It seemed Ray would make it after all and for the second time since she had known him he would again alter the course of her life.
Rev. Parker knew the first time he saw Saida that she was a lost soul. He began that first day talking to her about the love of Jesus Christ. They talked well into the night and when Mrs. Parker stopped in to see Ray it seemed she picked up where the Reverend had left off. It seemed all Saida could do was cry. The tears just wouldn’t stop. She cried for herself, but most of all she cried for Ray’s pain and when it seemed that she had run out of tears, it was then that Mrs. Parker eased the little book in her hand and asked her to begin reading.
“The book of Psalms?” Saida asked.
“Yup, and you can begin at Psalm one,” Mrs. Parker replied.
“There are a hundred and fifty of them in here,” Saida remarked as she thumbed through the little book.
“and your point,” said Mrs. Parker with a glint of a smile that faded when she turned back to look at Saida’s silent hero lying in the bed.
“Based on Dr. Hudson’s report it’s no telling how long Ray will be in this coma. The book of Psalms was his favorite part of the Bible. There’s no rush. Take your time and starting with this one right here,” Mrs. Parker said as she reached over and opened the little book in Saida’s hand.
Rev. Parker got up out of the chair and put a stern hand on Saida’s shoulder.
“Read it aloud,” he said before leaving the room.
Mrs. Parker also encouraged Saida to read aloud to soothe herself. So it was 39 days ago that Saida began reading each Psalm one by one.
When she got to Psalm 6 a few weeks back something was beginning to click inside her. She recognized the agony in the writer’s words and her heart received the cure.
“The Lord heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer.”
A couple of weeks later at Psalm 18, Saida made a declaration from her heart.
“I will love you, Lord. Oh, Lord, my strength. You are my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my God, my strength in you I will trust. You are my protection. The horn of my salvation, my righteousness."
By the time Saida got to Psalm 23, she was crying uncontrollably something she seemed to have been doing continuously now for weeks, but this time her tears were not in fear, but in something else….
“The Lord is my Shepard; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name sake.”
Saida kept reading those lines over and over again and for the first time in her life, her heart opened. When the tears flowed this time, it was not because of pain, but because her heart had finally received the joy of the Lord. Saida had met God in that hospital room and for the first time in her life she felt a peace and a sense of understanding. Saida knew from deep within in her that God was with her and Ray. It was probably at that moment that Saida began actually talking to God. With the drip of the I.V. and the sound of the monitors in the stalk white hospital room, Saida told God about her pain, her longing, her need for release, and she asked for forgiveness.
"Mr. Colbert, my name is Dr. Hudson. You are a very lucky man. The bullet missed your heart by two centimeters."
Ray managed to mumble, “Blessed.”
“Ah, Blessed I would say you are,” Dr. Hudson said as he left the room.
Saida stood outside the doorway unsure as to whether or not she should go into the room. She had just finished reading her favorite Psalm and was just about to read Psalm 40 when she felt Ray move. She was so excited when Ray squeezed her hand, but now she had a sense of dread in facing the man that risked his life to save her from a senseless act. She stood outside the door with her back against the wall. With her eyes closed, she began praying. Rev. Parker and Mrs. Parker stepped off the elevator and had the same reaction. After exchanging glances, they walked over to Saida, grabbed her hands and began to pray.
“Lord, God we thank you for your love and mercy.
God, we thank you for your grace.
We thank you for giving your son, Jesus Christ to die for us. Lord, we don’t always understand the cards that you deal us in life, But we trust that your perfect will be done. Lord, we thank you for watching over the young man in this room. We thank you for sparing his life. Lord, we know that he is your vessel and we thank you for saving him. We thank you for using him to bring one of your daughters back to you. Lord, we are so thankful for Saida. We thank you for her new found faith in you. We thank you for her determination. We thank you for her love. Lord, we ask that you guide these children. Be with them, Lord for the days ahead of them will be even more difficult than those behind them. Encourage their hearts and keep them firm in you. In Jesus Name, Amen.”.
When the three of them walked hand in hand into the little hospital room to see Ray, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Ray couldn’t help to hear the familiar voice out in the hallway. He was a bit overwhelmed when he saw his spiritual mother and father walk into the room with the most beautiful woman he’d ever saw.
“Acts” by Lynn Pinder © November 20, 2003
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