The “encounter”, as I now call it, reminds me of my three year old. She would always tell me where she was about to hide. “Daddy, I’m gonna hide on the couch, try and find me!”
After a zippy ten count I will turn and walk toward the giggles, finding my little one with a throw pillow over her behind and her hands over her eyes (if she can’t see me, I can’t see her).
I had died. Don’t be alarmed, it happens to us all, and I’m not dead any more. I took a respite into eternity on my way home from the office. It’s funny, I had always pictured my death much more noble and Hollywood. I pictured myself saying something profound from my death bed, an enraptured and teary eyed audience hanging on every word. The truth of it was much different. I breathed my last on the I-64, with gawkers and rubberneckers slowly creeping past. My last words were expletives of the four letter variety.
Though much of those preceding days remain hazy my memories are returning. Sometimes they come back to me light and feathery, like my wife kissing me on the cheek before leaving that morning. Some other memories return to me dark and heavy. Most of it though is still fleeting, like pursuing someone in a dream, but gaining no ground.
I remember “him” clearly though. Every detail of his face has remained; the wide set brown eyes and close cropped hair. It was his unworried voice that I first heard, soft and even, “Mr. Patterson? Mr. Patterson can you hear me?”
A young man knelt over me with defibrillation paddles held up. His uniform came into focus first. It was dark blue; over the breast pocket was a patch that read “Life Flight.” A helicopter- an accident, my accident. The window over his shoulder revealed the gray bottoms of rain laden clouds.
His voice was deep and calming. “I lost you for a minute Mr. Patterson. Don’t try and speak, just squeeze my hand. Do you know God?”
It seems so absurd thinking back. He didn’t ask, “Is there family we can contact?” He asked about God.
He held my hand firmly, but I did not squeeze back. “You think that you can’t know God. You think him capricious and that he hides from us.” Not questions, just facts. How could he know?
“He is not hidden, Mr. Patterson. He is always with you, as visible as the sun over my shoulder, or your little girl’s laughter.” As if on cue the shreds of clouds over his shoulder turned from gray to white and a shining shaft of light reached down from the clouds. “He is not the one hiding, but it is you who try and hide from him. He has called you to be his. But it’s a choice. Do you want to stop hiding?”
How could he know the very thing I struggled with? I had felt like such a phony playing church, felt like such a hypocrite praying and asking God to reveal himself in my disbelief.
I squeezed his hand with the meager strength I had in me, but it was enough. The young man smiled warmly and I slept.
I awoke in a hospital bed. My wife was there, her eyes red and watery. The curtain in my room was open and rain gently washed against the window.
I knew I had to tell my wife of the Life Flight Technician. She knew how I struggled. As I began the nurse walked in with a clipboard tucked under her arm. “Do you want me to come back Mr. Patterson? I was just going to check your vitals.”
“No, its fine, I was going to tell my wife about the Life Flight technician in the helicopter.”
The nurse laughed softly, “You must have dreamed that part, we don’t have a landing pad at this hospital.”
She scribbled down what she needed on her clipboard and left.
Before a sliver of doubt could put its hold on me the room brightened. The rain had ceased. A brilliant shaft of light reached down from the clouds, washing the hospital grounds beyond in a warm and golden glow.
He was not hidden, but always before me, revealing his glory and love as obvious and plain as my little one giggling on the couch.
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