He boldly said, “I won’t be back, but you’re going to be okay.”
Before you read the account below, please read my article entry from last week entitled, “Confronted By Death – February 13, 2013.” This is a continuation of the life-changing event detailed in the earlier blog release. In fact, I purposefully omitted this chapter of my story from last week’s piece. What is written here will be confusing if you read it prior to reading the entry posted on Feb 12th.
Once again, as I did in last week’s posting, I preface this account with a hard statement:
The documentation below is my accurate testimony, without embellishments or artistic license. What I have written here was only witnessed by two people, my former wife (depicted for this purpose as “Joan”) and myself. On more than three separate occasions, I double checked the facts and timelines with Joan in order to be as accurate as possible. At the time, I told my doctors I would write a book about the experience of the journey I was hurled into. I never did so. Then came the promises to family, friends and God that I would tell the story in some format when the time was right. In one case, I spoke clearly concerning my story during a speaking engagement. Prior to public speaking of the episode, I documented it for posterity and memory sake. I was reluctant to share this account on this blog, but was persuaded to do so, only after watching two similar occurrences from interviews with a well known Dallas, Texas business man, as well as Dr. Kenneth Cooper MD, MPH, founder of the renown, Cooper Aerobics Center and the Cooper Institute of Dallas, Texas. In short, it is what it is.
I will make a request of you. If you begin to read this stunning, and very personal episode, please read it to the end for a greater understanding of the evidence and circumstances detailed here.
A Grim Setting
I believe it to have been Friday the 16th, or Saturday the 17th of February, 2013. I had just awakened for the first time from a coma. (The first time with ability to observe and reason.) I was quickly beginning to get clarity of thought, consciousness of people around me and my surroundings. As mentioned in my posting from last week, I was hooked up to various machines with tubes and cords coming in and out of every part of my body. I was on life support and had my mouth full of tubes, unable to talk. My wife, at the time, was there with nurses swiftly coming in and out of my ICU/CCU room like a fast food restaurant. My room doorway in the ICU/CCU ward remained opened, leaving my bed in a clear line of sight from the nurses’ station just across the hall. This was on the 3rd floor at the Medical City of Plano in Plano, Texas in the North Dallas area. Opening my eyes, I recall seeing Joan standing close to the door that led into the hallway, as a nurse was tending to me.
To be as detailed as possible, I do not recall how much time passed from when my eyes opened and the following took place. I will say less than five minutes, certainly no more than that time-frame.
A Grand Entrance
At a point when a nurse stepped out of my open door, a very familiar tall, slender man, clean-shaven with dark brown short thinning hair, walked briskly into my room as if he owned it, without knocking or asking if he could enter, or inquiring if I was awake or not. He was dressed in a mid thigh dark coat, or a suit coat. Aesthetically speaking, he looked to be roughly in his late 40’s. As for appearances this is all I can honestly remember, with the exception of wearing a million dollar grin with joy-filled warm eyes to match. There is no certainty, but I want to say his eyes were brown or hazel in color.
Without any hesitation or shyness, he walked right up to my bedside, on my left, and took my hand, which was strapped down. Looking directly into my eyes he stated with a wide white toothy grin, “It hasn’t been a good day for Alan Brown, has it?” This is a point that is difficult to explain. As he asked the question, it was as if my best friend was there with a lighthearted phrase. He was so very familiar to me, as if we had a past, a history. Let’s just say, ironically, I recognized him, this man I had never met.
In retrospect, what is remarkable to me is the WAY he said the words. He uttered them with an authority, as if he knew not only my prognosis at the time, but WHY I was hospitalized. As strange as it might sound, it was as if he wasn’t really asking a question, or even delivering a sounding board for information gathering. When it hit my ears I thought I was missing time, as if he had been an eyewitness to a tragic event I didn’t recall and was following up with a kind visit.
At this time in my health event, I didn’t know a thing. Clueless would be a good word. (I knew I was in a hospital setting, but had no idea why or for how long.) If I am sounding as if reaching or stretching for an explanation, I certainly understand, but he sounded as if he had the complete history of an event that I had yet to find out about. My former wife told me later she hadn’t seen him before, outside or in the hallway prior to that moment.
Dim To Lit
He continued to grip my left hand with his in the way we used to call the “soul handshake” with our thumbs nestled against each other at their base. During his initial entrance, Joan had moved to the right side of the bed while he remained on my left, just between the railing of the bed and the row of machines keeping me alive.
Although intensely focused on my face, he glanced up at Joan a couple of times as he was speaking to me. Let me add here, I began to get emotional, shedding a couple of tears. It was unusual for me to get weepy without much context. After all, this guy was a stranger who had only spoken one sentence at this point. However, I felt as if I was being caressed by a dear old friend, one I had known for a long time. There must have been some sort of reading in my face for what he asked next. I might have nodded my head in the affirmative or squeezed his hand because he reacted by saying, “Do you know who I am?” I nodded my head to confirm. Why did I? Because, again, I felt like we had an old relationship. I know, it doesn’t make sense as you read this today. I understand. One thing I want to add here is a certainty of the boldest expression in which he looked at me and spoke to me as if HE, too, had known me for a long time. Joan described the look on my face as a look of comfort and connection, as well. She indicated she thought at the time this man was someone I knew well by the glow on my face and the grip of our hands. She went on to say for the first time she saw a “light” in my eyes. (Apparently I had opened my eyes before, while in the coma, but nobody was at home, so to speak.) One of the thoughts Joan had was that he must have been one of my favorite pastors from the metroplex area, prior to our marriage. Making the point clear, I will repeat this important element: I never saw this man before that moment, yet somehow I knew him intimately. I only know he was there, the first visitor to comfort me at the moment I became conscious with full mental awareness, not a minute before, nor the next hour afterwards.
In a very cherished moment, he spoke some words that, to this day, cause me to shiver. Joan believed it to be one of the most defining moments. It was the stuff of raised eyebrows and confirmation that this man was not your average Joe randomly entering a stranger’s hospital room. Withholding now the comments made, I will say, I speak of something divulged which was highly personal, shaking us both to the core. However, I feel uncomfortable to share all he had to say, at this time.
“…This is what the Lord, the God of your father David says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you…” 2 Kings 20:5 (NIV)
For the following I admit I honestly do not recall the next words used, although I would give away my possessions to know. After some words of warmth and comfort, the man then said something to the effect of, “Let’s pray”, or “I want to pray for you”. He reached across the bed to grab Joan’s hand. There we were, the three of us, alone in a CCU room without one interruption from medical staff or the various sounds from monitoring equipment, which seemed constant. As mentioned earlier, the hospital staff was on high alert, constantly entering and exiting like an endless parade. Yet, suddenly, there was an astonishing hush.
If I were to explain why I cannot bring up the wording of his prayer it would be simply put, I was mesmerized. It was as if we were somewhere else with frozen clocks. To describe exactly how I felt during this part of his very quick visit is to solicit judgment from those who will flush this entire account of my mysterious visitor. I am hyper-aware some will claim me to be a cloaked new-ager of the highest order, or mystic at heart with deceitful intentions of pulling out of the reader a wow factor. Allow me to reinstate, as the Lord God is my eternal judge, I speak the truth of the matter written in this testimony, without the tool of artistic license.
A No Latin Or King James Zone
Joan has verified and attests to the following description: As he prayed, beginning with whatever his opening words were, I was in complete and utter wonderment, we both were, almost to the realm of a trance-like state. He didn’t “pray TO” the Father, or spoke “AT” the Father, but rather he “communed verbally WITH” the Father. He gave off the sense of a closeness or intimacy with Whom he addressed. No dogma, no Christianese, no highbrow factors. Lacking were the standard Old English verbiage, habitual memorized automatic phrasing, or a listing of the various titles of the Almighty One (often used to impress the human ears). If you are not a person of faith, or an unchurched individual, you will not understand my meaning, and that’s okay. Stay with me on this. If you are a person of faith, let me ask in all sincerity, the following: Does this make any sense at all? Has this happened to you in your prayer life? In my clumsy efforts, I am sure I am not truly revealing, in a comprehensive way, the sheer, raw essence of this man’s prayer. To say I have known thousands of Christians in my life would be a gross understatement. It is also a gross understatement to say I have heard thousands of prayers and from many who would certainly be labeled “prayer-smiths”, who could write them as poetry, selling calligraphy or audio copies for years to come. At no time in my days have I ever been lifted, dazed and amazed as I was with this man’s effectiveness of praying. He delivered the prayer as if he were speaking to a brother or a dad he had known since hour one. When you hear someone speaking on the phone with a loved one, where you only hear a one-sided conversation, this is the hew of tone he used with warmth, love and an overwhelming sense of the familiar. As I laid there I felt as if warm honey had made its way into my IV. It was nuts!
“There isn’t any problem in my life, there isn’t any uncertainty in my work, but I turn and speak to Him as naturally as to someone in the same room, and I have done it these years because I can trust Jesus.” – D.L. Moody, Founder of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.
After he prayed, he walked to the other side of the bed, spoke her name and lovingly hugged Joan, wrapping his hand around the back of her head, patting her as if consoling a long lost daughter, just holding her there for a few seconds. I watched her simply melt into his embrace like a rag doll. I had never seen her so moved, nor since. She later would compare it to a father holding a child in comfort, with designated warmth she had never felt to the point of a physical relaxing of the muscles.
An Astonishing Reveal
The two of us gazed at him as he walked toward the door just as he had entered. Just before he stepped out into the hallway, while placing his hand on the door frame, he turned and stated something strangely odd for the occasion. The first part of the sentence was, “I won’t be back…” It was true, we never saw him again. Within a six week hospital stay, there were a couple dozen ministers, pastors, chaplains and church layman, with business cards in hand, who took the time to visit with me. Although I dearly appreciated the encouraging visits and prayers done on my behalf, none could ever compare to this mysterious moment of visitation. I say his reveal was strangely odd, and it was. But the proclamation spoken, ending his statement, was the most mysterious phrase of the entire episode. He said something no doctor, EMT or nurse had yet to say and wouldn’t say from that time onward. Just before his exit, with that enormous grin, in concert with the joy in his eyes, with a forceful delivery, these words were the last thing he uttered, “…but you’re going to be okay.”
“I won’t be back, but you’re going to be okay.”
That declaration was the exact opposite of what we heard during my six weeks in the hospital. There wasn’t much hope concerning my survival, in fact almost zero when I arrived in the ER. All through my struggling journey, while in the hospital, I was being told of how handicapped I would be for the rest of my life. I was told to expect a return to ICU/CCU. I was told my kidneys were dead and would never come back. I was told about unexplored brain damage, heart damage, neurological nightmares, motor skills, muscle depletion, double pneumonia, sepsis in the bloodstream, etc. So, how dare he blatantly sound off as he walked out the door with these words, obviously said in ignorance and false hope, “…but you’re going to be okay.” Delivered in the midst of tragedy, as if he knew for certain the outcome of the crucial time, his delivery was smooth and effortless. How cruel! Am I right? Joan, knowing the extent of my condition at that time more than I, was left stunned at this sentence.
He Might Have Been Olympic Great Jesse Owens
In a state of shock, along with wiping tears from her face, Joan said something to the effect of, “Wow, that was really a different experience.” She then mentioned to me how she didn’t ask for his card (as was her practice with various ministers visiting me). Right away she turned toward the door and left to catch him. After a time, she came back with a pale look. She told me that he wasn’t seen in the hallway or visiting any other CCU patients in other rooms. (With the exception of my room, the other rooms had sliding glass doors.) My room was in the corner of two adjacent long hallways where you could see all the way down to other wings, both leading in two different directions. She approached the nurses at the desk just outside my room, some nine or ten feet from my open door. After she inquired about our visitor and his description, they claimed they saw no one in my room. Zero, zilch, nada! I strain to even type the following, but I must. He simply seemed to have vanished.
Almost as if I had responded to a director’s cue in a tear-jerking scene in Act II, I slipped right back into a coma a short time after he left us. I remained unconscious for at least another 12-24 hours.
The simple truth sounds absurd. I awoke, for the first time, before he entered the open doorway, and sunk back under the surface of unconsciousness after his exit. Beyond being ultra mystifying, it didn’t occur to us until weeks later that while he was there, not one staffer walked in or out. It was as if time was stilled in that room exclusively for the three of us. Of course, that never happened again with any other visitors. It was indeed an exclusive moment.
If you’re like me, your mind is probably scrambling and searching every corner of the imagination to find a key to unlock this mystery. Don’t spin your wheels, I already have. Joan and I muddled through a mix of scenarios concerning this mysterious visitor. Between the two of us we came up with a couple of possible explanations. Allow me to shed some light on our thoughts.
It wasn’t long when I began to wonder about the in-house chaplain service there. It would be natural for an “on-his/her-toes” chaplain to visit the CCU patients and families every day with some good old fashioned shoe leather, followed by some pressing of the flesh.
A Visit Of Another Kind
Not too many days after they wheeled me into my new telemetry room on the 5th floor three weeks later, a middle-aged woman with a clipboard sheepishly knocked on my door. She wasn’t dressed in hospital garb, but did have a badge identifying herself as a member of the chaplain volunteer service. I never remembered her name, but she was very faithful to visit me when she was on duty. She explained to me that she was indeed a volunteer who was commissioned, by the chaplain himself, to visit the patients on each floor. She said there were just a handful of volunteers who participate in that ministry, which are mostly made up of laypeople from different faiths, to be available and suited for any situation and/or needs of various faiths, creeds and cultures. With direct intension, she asked if I wanted her to pray for me. I immediately responded in the affirmative. She asked what faith I belonged to. I told her I was Christian and quickly added, “I belong to the Lord”. How evangelical of me. Frankly, I don’t know why that phrase came out of my mouth, only to say it was like an involuntary reflux. The health event did rekindle a hearth-like closeness to God from the moment I was awake with the ability to reason again. Like a survey marketer, asking about my race or marital status, she asked if I was protestant or catholic. By this time I just wanted to say, “Sister, forget the titles and the denominational stats. Place your rubber-garnished hand in mine and let’s get to it.” After what I had been through up to that point all religious borders, laws and ideas of what God looks like seemed almost silly child’s play to me. I knew the true Creator, Healer and Lover of my soul and He is a God of intimacy, on the microscopic personal level, Who cares not for the titles we publish to each other. Somehow, the truth-is-truth notch had been cranked up in my heart and mind. Instead, I answered very calmly, “Protestant”. To this day, I don’t recall when I asked her about the man who visited me, but I did ask if he was the chaplain. She said he wasn’t there every day. That was one of the purposes for her volunteerism and her co-minister’s efforts. When I described the mysterious man to her in detail, she didn’t recognize him, but she didn’t believe he was the chaplain.
After several months at home I gained strength to get myself to the desktop computer. I initiated a bit of research on the chaplain ministry at Medical City of Plano. Like a would-be gumshoe, I went to the hospital website in hopes of finding a page on the chaplain ministry and perhaps a photo of the chaplain. Very little info on the ministry was on the site, but it did give me a phone number to the chaplain’s office. Like a man on a mission and without hesitation, I called. The chaplain himself answered the phone. Without delivering all the fine details, I told him a bit of why I was calling. He reconfirmed to me about the structure of the volunteer staff. He explained some chaplain office protocols. He revealed how they are required to wear badges with their names and what service of the hospital they serve under. He mentioned he too dons a name-tag at all times while on duty. It seems they all are told they MUST ask permission to pray with the patients when introducing themselves and their general ministry. Also, they MUST ask the individual’s religion of choice in order to pray the selective prayers with all its slants. After a nervous swallow I inquired concerning his length of service there, thinking he may be new to that location. He said he had been the one and only chaplain there for ten years. A lump grew in my throat when I asked if it might have been him in my CCU room that day. Right away he began to describe his features to me. By process of elimination he was out of the running fairly quick when he mentioned how he was heavyset and wore a salt-n-pepper beard. I asked if he would have been clean-shaven the week of Feb 13th. He proudly replied that he had his beard for at least six years. Like a snapshot flashback, I was reminded of the slender, beardless, tagless, badgeless man who did not ask permission to pray over me in my CCU experience. Nor did he ask what religion I adhered to. I thanked him for his service and said good-bye. With remarkable timing, my wife walked through the front door. Right away I told her of my decision to look up the chaplain at the hospital. Before I could tell her how the minister described himself to me over the phone, she said he, the chaplain, had come by a few times while I was in CCU. She had his card to prove it. Before that moment, I had no idea Joan had met the chaplain. She immediately stated the mystery man was NOT the chaplain. Her description of him was spot on. She vividly remembered both the chaplain and the mysterious visitor being two very different men.
Questions have faded in my brain concerning the man. There is a good reason too. FAITH!
No need to ask me where God was in my time of trouble, trauma and tragedy. He will do what He will do.
Without my identity on the door, how did he know my full name? Moreover, how did he know Joan’s name? Why or how was it that we seemed to know one another? Why did he know of my desperate, critical condition without seeing my chart or asking a status at the nurses’ station? Even so, there were medical privacy rights in play. Why did he not ask permission from the nursing staff, or the welcome desk, or Joan herself to enter my room and approach me, the guy in the coma? Why did he not knock before entering my room? During the time of the visit, why did the hospital staff not enter, as was their custom, regardless of who I was with? Just before he left the room, why did he make it a point to tell us we wouldn’t see him again? I dare say, the average visitor wouldn’t spell that out in a case like mine. Why was that important to mention? Could it be he was saying, “So, take this word of encouragement. Use it and ride it like a wave. No need for me to come back.” Lastly, why did he walk in as soon as I came out of the coma and not before and/or after other friends or family visited? Why was he seemingly aware I had just awakened and was about to go back under? The timing was, well…impeccably synced to perfection. How did he vanish in the hallway, alluding the nursing staff? How could he exit the long hallways before Joan followed him out of the room? Was he an Olympic sprinter? Perhaps other questions may arise, but one thing is for certain. Whoever he was, there is a peace of knowing that after my life is over this same individual will come to me once again with that brilliant grin and say, “Hello, Alan Brown. Remember me?” My response will be, “How could I ever forget?” In that new day I will not be surprised if he then says, “It’s a good day for Alan Brown, isn’t it?”
My veins have been full ever since with warm fuel for the race.
“Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” – Hebrews 1:14 (NIV)