Chronologically Gifted

“…But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m gettin’ older, too….”
(1975) “Landslide” Recorded by: Fleetwood Mac  Composer: Stevie Nicks

Way before I was chronologically gifted, at 15 years old, Fleetwood Mac came out with the song “Landslide”. Being swept off my feet then, I find myself still mesmerized by it. In fact, about seven years ago, while on what we all thought was my deathbed, my rock star daughter flew in from New York to be by my side.

Feb 2013 while still in a coma.

There in ICU, I indicated (I couldn’t speak with all the tubes down my throat.) I wanted her to sing the Fleetwood Mac song while holding my hand. She did. Nurses and doctors stopped out in the hallway, gathered at the door of my ICU room. I cried, she cried, they cried. You could’ve heard a pin drop. Afterwards, I asked her to sing it for my memorial service. Although I came back to life, after six weeks in the hospital, my request still remains.

My friend Ann from the blog entitled, “Muddling Through My Middle Age”, often speaks so well about getting older, complete with everyday events in her life, humor, while all laced in wisdom. I’m not sure I can do so well about this topic.

While doing so, allow me to age six decades right in front of your eyes.

Recently, a friend on social media asked what was the first television image you remember in childhood. Quickly I realized I was a tad older than her readers when answers tended to be, “The space shuttle explosion”, “When JR got shot on Dallas”, or “The Bill Clinton impeachment hearing.” Mine was easy. My first TV recollection (Black & white) was watching King Kong climb the Empire State Building when suddenly the old movie from the 1930’s was interrupted by Pres. Kennedy’s funeral march. It stuck out to me visually because there was a horse hitched to a wagon, with a coffin on the bed, wrapped in the American flag. No doubt, a sight very different from the norm. I was three years old.

 

1963 – My first dog, Tippy. (How about that haircut?)

I don’t say “chronologically challenged”, but rather I am “chronologically gifted”, so to speak. Have there been challenges in my winding road of life thus far? Sure, way too many. But I wish to lean into what has been good in my life, along with what taught me. Although I must remind myself to do so. Follow me on this. Perhaps you can identify with me.

You may be chronologically gifted if you recall the sound of the old rotary dial telephone.

You may be chronologically gifted if you rode a stingray bike with a banana seat.

You may be chronologically gifted if you ate candy cigarettes.

You may be chronologically gifted if you remember the theme song to the old television show, “Family Affair” with Buffy and Jody.

See what I mean? If none of the above makes sense, it could be you are not yet chronologically gifted.

They are all just little delights from an era gone by.

Thank you, Kodak for the film for special cherished moments in life. I bumped into rock legend, Roger Daltrey of The Who in north Dallas. He was cheery and didn’t mind me taking a picture. It was 1975, right after a run of the cinematic version of the rock opera, “Tommy”, as well as a new solo album, “Ride A Rock Horse”. Although 16 years my senior, he looked very…youthful at 31.

1975 – Roger Daltrey at Valley View Mall, Dallas.

Another gift to recall, how it feels to hold your first born.

Nov 1987. My Tabitha.

It’s a gift to recall holding HER firstborn, my first grandchild, 27 years later.

June 2014. Holding my Skylar. (I was looking really gaunt. I was still in recovery and physical therapy.)

You’re pretty gifted if you have fond memories of your first full-time job.

1978 on my first full-time job. (I can laugh at the tie now.)

You can be gifted if you can look back on loves, life, and lacerations and still smile.

1976ish in overalls

You might be chronologically gifted if you are close to wrapping up mortgage payments.

2003, first Christmas in my newly purchased home at 43 years old. (Better late than never.)

You can be gifted even if you were known for playing elderly characters, and now you save money on the old-age stage make-up.

Dec 2002 playing an older role in a Broadway-style musical.

My old stage make-up bag is not that heavy anymore. It’s okay. Counting the worry lines isn’t what I do anymore.

2020 Facebook profile pic.

There was a time, a few years back, while at the check-out counter in the grocery store, the attendant bagged-up four plastic grocery bags worth of essentials for me. Then the young lady at the scanner looked at me a couple of times and asked, “Sir, would you like help getting these bags out to your car?” Bless her little pointed head. There was a second or two of collecting my cobwebbed gray matter and replied, “Awe, no thanks. I think I can handle it.” I grumbled to myself like an old man all the way to the car.

But then, there are terrific gifts that come along when chronologically gifted. Like the very first time I approached the cinema box office window at a time I found it unnecessary to “act” like a senior citizen.

Thank you, Cinemark! It helps when the box office attendant is all of 19 years old..

Of course, the unwanted gift of being a chronological surfer are the funerals added to the schedule. Too many come my way. Friends, family, and familiar ones on your street gone before me. A childhood pal, one of my very best friends, just spent his last day of suffering with ALS. His battle was only two years in length. That’s nothing but God’s grace and mercy..

Because I am a person of faith, a Jesus follower, getting older can be seen as a gift. I am just that much closer to entering His eternal promises than when I watched JFK’s funeral procession. He said He came to offer a life that was more abundant than what it would’ve been like without His provisions, His nurtures, His guiding hand. I have noticed His road signs. Too often, I ignored them, leading me down darker rocky roads. Signs like…

Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi on Pexels.com

When you find yourself chronologically gifted, maybe a landslide in life will be more survivable. And when you find you are indeed chronologically gifted, and you look back and see your younger reflection in the snowy hills just before a landslide brings it down, there’s the Almighty’s Voice within stating the truth, “See, I brought you through that one, and that one, and this one.”

The finish line has promise when the tank is topped with fuel for the race.

” I will be the same until your old age, and I will bear you up when you turn gray. I have made you, and I will carry you; I will bear and save you.” Isaiah 46:4 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

In The Waiting

“And all this time I’ve been staring at the minute hand.  Oh, what a crime that I can’t seem to understand that life is in the waiting.  Life is in the waiting…”  (2000)  In The Waiting, originally Recorded by:  Greg Long.  Composer:  Kina Grannis

It was early in 1998.  There I was, with two copies of my new script in a saddle-leather briefcase with the strap over my shoulder.  A friend of mine (I will call him Jon, because that’s his name LOL.) agreed to meet me at the Cracker Barrel restaurant in Arlington, Texas (Between Dallas and Ft Worth.) for a pre-production lunch meeting.  As a producer, director, writer, actor, I was acquainted with wearing all the hats way too often for my productions.  In this case, circumstances required an executive producer to help me launch my next three-act stage play.  Frankly, I was relieved.  But I needed someone I could trust.  Jon was always pitching the idea to bring a production to his suburban community.  We had been in musicals together, as well as, duos on stage, and choral work.  Off the stage, together we produced an original song for a scene in one of my radio theater plays.  So, it seemed right to ask him to be my executive producer while I agreed to take care of everything else.

After scheduling arrangements through phone calls, complete with email confirmation, we were to meet for lunch at 11:00.  Double checking our emails, I knew the exact time to leave my house, which was some 35 minutes away from Arlington.  My radio drive-time show began at 2:30, but the radio station was only a quick 10-15 minutes from the restaurant.  If the meeting went long, the clock gave me a buffer.

I am always early for everything.  That’s just who I am.  I’ve always hated rushing around in the attempt to arrive on time.  If I don’t, I can get scatter-brained.  Plus, being a radio guy, I was living and dying by the broadcast clock.  Literally, half-seconds are counted on-air when back-timing for hard commercial breaks, or news drops.  It’s something you tend to take home with you.

11:00 rolled around as I checked my watch.  No Jon.  Cracker Barrel has a gift shop inside their front door.  You have to wade through all the candies, gadgets, and silk-screened t-shirts to arrive at the front counter, as well as, the host/hostess station for seating.  So, I browsed away at the pecan logs, moccasin style coin purses, and plastic bobble-head dashboard figurines way beyond my actual curiosity.

I checked my watch…11:27.  No Jon.  Hummmm.  So, I remembered that the restaurant had a selection of wooden rocking chairs outside on the porch area.  After exhausting myself among the peanut brittle and beef jerky, off I went to explore the various rustic patio furniture.  It was a cool morning, but tolerable.  I walked among the presentation of rocking chairs, looking at the price tags while talking to myself.  Suddenly, realizing they were all just about identical styles and colors, I chuckled at myself for doing all I could to kill time as I rocked in one of the chairs.

Rocking Chairs

Photo:  decorpad.com

By that time the watch said 11:45.  No Jon.  I checked my cell phone only to find I hadn’t received any texts or missed phone calls.  Hummmm.  I didn’t want to call him, knowing he was probably driving like a mad hatter to get there.  After counting all the cars and pick-up trucks in the parking lot, I began counting all the green cars and trucks, vs the blue cars and trucks.  Yep, it was getting a tad stupid.  Thinking I should spend my time more productively, I pulled out a copy of my script and began reviewing like a script editor.  (Any actor that has worked with me knows that’s dangerous.  I tend to find words I want to add, or rearrange scenes, or dump a character.  I also tend to remove myself from my surroundings when this occurs as the clock gets devoured.)  Halfway through the script, about where I placed the intermission, my watch read 12:52!  NO JON!  I must admit, miffed is a kind way of interpreting how I felt.  My 2:30 radio show obviously was to happen without show-prep, or a fresh pot of coffee at that point in the waiting.  The next thing on the docket would be my frantic producer/co-host calling me in a panic wondering where I was.  Arg!

By now you must be wondering why I didn’t give up and leave the place.  I’m quirky that way, I guess.  Nobody can accuse me of one who gives up easily.  However, there was a thought to give him until 1:10 for the drop-dead time.

About 1:00, two hours after our scheduled lunch appointment, Jon pulled leisurely into the parking lot.  As I waved away the steam coming out of my ears, I could see him walking up toward me, totally relaxed and unhurried with every hair in place.  Go figure.

Jon said with a smile, “Hey, Alan.  The food smells great out here.  I’m starved.”

I grinned, as I bit my tongue, “Boy, me too.  I’m short on time, but I can woof down a burger quicker than anyone I know.”  And with that greeting, in we went.  With the two hour gap, I wondered if he had made a trip to L.A. forgetting to change his watch back to central time.  Who knows?

The funny thing is, he never said why he was late.  He never apologized for keeping me waiting.  The scripture passage says, “Wait on the Lord…”, but not Jon.  I avoid confrontation whenever I can.  Never did I mention the late hour at all.  It seemed okay just to play off his mindset of the moment in the attempt to hide my angst.  After all, there was much to discuss with few tick-tocks to do it in.

Have you been there…in the waiting?  For you, maybe it was that time when you were in a hospital waiting room, counting the rectangular panels on the ceiling, hoping all would go well in the O.R.

Waiting Room POV

It could be something as benign as sitting in traffic everyday, or that long traffic light at your most hated intersection.  How about when you’re in a jury pool, with scads of other citizens, waiting all day for your name to be called?  How many outdated magazines can one read in a day?  Maybe you’re thinking of the time you waited up for a very late, non-communicative teenager on a Saturday night.  (Oh, don’t get me started on that one.)  Maybe it was after a first diagnosis, while in the waiting for test results to confirm, or a second opinion.  The cruel clock can just be a mocker sometimes.

However, it’s up to the individual to caress the realities of this journey between beginning and ending.  It’s the duty of each to embrace the joy in the journey, even during times of hardship, pain, and frustration.  It’s what we make of our speed-bumps and the cliffs ahead.  We can stroll among the identical rocking chairs, comparing the price tags, or burn them all in anger because they’re not different.

One thing is for certain.  Above all else, time marches on.  The famous Rolling Stones lyric is wrong.  Time is NOT on our side.  Mick Jagger just discovered this in his own life.  As much as we want it to be, time is not a respecter of persons.  Ask any plastic surgeon.

There is a beginning, and it assures us there will be an ending.  Everything in the middle proves to be just the space between the certainties of beginnings and endings.  With the exception of a sphere, or circle, all has a beginning and ending.  In jazz you will discover chords can be created with dissonance.  Often the time signature has these chords sustained for the ear to grasp the clash of pitches.  Oftentimes, the ending of a score in jazz does not resolve, leaving the ear hunting for a major key chord of solution.  Not so much in life.  Endings are not always pleasant, or wanted, but they push through the maze of waiting.  Expect a resolution to all things in this physical world.  In the middle of our stage entrance and exit, we find ourselves in the waiting…sometimes listening to jazz.

How often have you heard an elderly person say they inwardly feel like they did as a teen, spry, energetic, with youthful thoughts?  There’s a purpose for that testimony of the aged.  It’s all about the soul, or the spirit.  I’ve written about this before, and for good reason.  Often interchangeable in print or speech, the soul/spirit, is eternal.  (I often think of the spirit as the emotion, or intellect.  This disappears when the brain is dead, diseased, or damaged.  Yet, the soul is far deeper.)  In fact, some medical researchers have put a weight to the soul as it leaves the body.  It’s been documented at 21 grams.  No matter how the wrinkles and lines redraw the face and hands, the soul remains timeless.

In a lengthy post, found in my archives, I shared my near death experience.  (See “Confronted By Death…” dated Feb 11, 2018.)  Actually, I should say, “death” experience, as I was found dead and brought into the E.R. dead.  Let me just say, they call it “Passing Away” for a reason.  Literally meaning, “Moving Out (in motion)”.  That event changed my outlook and daily life.  Since I have written about it exhaustively, I won’t do so here, but I will repeat something I KNOW to be true.  This body we live in is an EARTHSUIT.  It is a shell created for this planet’s temps and atmosphere, exclusively.  The more we discover other planets, the more certain this becomes.  We rent this thing we call “the body.”  It begins to degrade the moment we are born.  When “it” dies, “YOU”, the person in whom you are, the soul of yourself, moves out.  You leave your remains behind like an old apartment you once knew and took care of.  When the old ’72 Chevy gives up the ghost, it’s time to get out from behind its steering wheel.  Later, in a salvage yard, someone might be able to use its hubcaps, or dipstick if not too corroded.  But the realization is, “YOU” are no longer in that rusted-out car.  It’s like the discarded empty cocoon, left to degenerate on the branch.  Look at it this way; the body that dies has come to the end of the waiting.  Not unlike Elvis, the being has left the building.

Meanwhile, soul/spirit/body wrestles in the waiting, before shedding what corrodes, to be who we are inwardly, discarding the waiting.  You can visit my grave after my body fails to revive, but don’t ever say, “Buried here is Alan.”  Say hello.  I won’t answer.

Meanwhile, the waiting may be long, or short.  My personal Act I, Act II, and Act III have their moments, their twists and turns, leaving me to wonder how much longer to curtain call.  The Executive Producer, the Ancient Of Days, of my life may seem late, but He’s always on time.

Jon and I worked together very well, selling out each show later that year.  Moreover, we went on to sing together in various venues, as well as, stage musicals.  It was worth being in the waiting.

When discovering and accepting the Author of Easter, one never waits for fuel for the race.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.  He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”  – Jesus –  In John 3:16-18. (NAS)

Slippery Slopes

“…She was going way too fast.  Before she knew it she was spinning on a thin black sheet of glass.  She saw both their lives flash before her eyes.  She didn’t have time to cry.  She was so scared.  She threw her hands up in the air.  Jesus, take the wheel.  Take it from my hands. ‘Cause I can’t do this on my own.  I’m letting go…”  – Jesus, Take The Wheel, (2005)  Recorded by:  Carrie Underwood.  Composers:  Brett James, Gordon Sampson, Hillary Lindsey.

14 years ago, an old friend of mine, Jaylene Johnson, miraculously survived a severe crash.  (See her car above.)

She is a successful singer/songwriter/recording artist, Juno Award nominee and Covenant Award winner from Winnipeg, Canada.  To say she was exhausted at the end of a cross-Canada solo tour, would be an understatement.  With her heater blowing full throttle, as she was driving home after a heavy snowfall in North Western Ontario, she was eager to see her hometown.  Jaylene was negotiating the roads as well as could be expected.  There was a moment in time she thought maybe it was best to grab a hotel before they closed the highways, but that had yet to happen.  Her car was packed to the roof with her guitars, keyboard, sound equipment, promotional products, and luggage.  The only thing on her mind was the weather conditions bearing down on the route.  She is a cautious driver, well versed in winter driving, but the semis nipping at her bumper were not so careful.  The rear-view mirror became her friend.

jaylene johnson performing

Jaylene on-tour.  Photo:  Tim Hellsten

The last thing she recalls is the map.  She had made it just outside of Upsala, Ontario, in the Thunder Bay District, when all went dark.  (Some of the following details came from eyewitnesses, EMT’s & police reports, along with her own post-accident inquiry.)

Travelling westbound, she had reached the top of a ridge overlooking a valley below.  As she began to descend into the valley, she slipped on some unexpected black ice covering the highway, and lost control.  As her little vehicle slid across the highway, she hit a transport coming eastbound head-on.  When she came to in the wreckage, a stranger on the scene, named “Willie”, pulled her through a shattered window, held her hand, and covered her with his coat before the EMT’s arrived.  As she sobbed, he comforted her while stroking her hair as she laid there in shock.  Fast-forward, she spent the rest of the day on a back brace in a Thunder Bay hospital.  Her body was riddled with pieces of broken glass.

Back in 2004, I was doing a radio show in Buffalo, NY while she had just released her first major album.  At the time, it was rare for Canadian artists to get radio airplay on the USA side of the border, especially independent bands.  I wanted to change that trend in the corner where I was.  The station I worked for was operating with 110,000 watts, reaching well north of Toronto, generally all of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).  The signal stretched over the entire Western New York area, northwestern Pennsylvania, and some portions of Ohio.  There was too many stellar Canadian artists putting out top-shelf cuts, not being heard on the U.S. side.  My number one focus was quality writing, production, along with terrific vocals to debut south of the Canadian border.  However, it was under a global relief, development and advocacy banner where our roads converged.

World Vision International had approached the two of us to join their work in El Salvador, as part of an ad campaign for support.  We worked together there, alongside other Canadian artists, for a week or so.  I was doing live reports back to the radio station as I interviewed World Vision workers, as well as benefactors.  It was there Jaylene and I became friends in a much warmer climate.

me in el salvador with world vision 2004

Jaylene took this photo of an interview I was doing with a World Vision recipient through a World Vision interpreter.

After our trip, we kept in touch.  Jaylene graced my show, in studio, a couple of times when she was performing in the GTA or WNY.  Through the years I kept track of her tours and television appearances.

After hearing from her on the details of the accident, I grew concerned about her health in the wake of such trauma.  In the end, there was no need for concern on my part.  God took the wheel, indeed.

I’ve had my own experiences with icy paths.  When you believe you can negotiate the roads in that condition, caution and prep would be top priority.

Come to think of it, no matter what climate you travel through, icy roads can derail your life.  Do you know what I mean?  We can be living life as a smooth operator, no issues in sight.  Then suddenly, without warning, our feet come right out from under us.  Zero traction takes us by surprise.  We’re never really prepared for it.  Just when we think we are, “BOOM”, on our tailbone we go.  (And it’s always the tailbone, right?)  For some, it might be losing traction on funds and finances.  We might experience losing traction on world peace.  Maybe a loss in traction with our child, our health, our marriage, or our nation.  It happens.  Before you know it, we slide hard into a nearby ditch, off the trek we were to be on. Just like Jaylene’s shellacked pavement, the ice doesn’t have to be thick to cause a head-on collision.  We can find slippage on the invisible, and/or what we deem as non-threatening.  It’s a tragic mistake.  Some find slippery slopes that lead to life-ending results.  There are non-negotiables out there which can transport you to where you don’t want to be.

“…stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand….and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace…” – St. Paul, Ephesians 6. 

In Paul’s time, Roman soldiers were fitted into special sandals with studs on the soles, like cleats.  For me, my preference are my insulated snow-boots with cleats on the rubber soles.  Better yet, Paul indicates a true gripping.  It’s more like the spikes on a mountain climber’s boot.  Anyone who has ever fallen hard on the ice, or slid down a slippery slope in the winter, or did so in a social, political, or economic climate, would recommend cleats in decision making.  Just ask the citizens of Venezuela.  Unlike Jaylene, when driving in the ice on bald tires, your future is certain.

Prep all you want.  There’s always the God-factor outside of your own abilities and strength.  Have you been there?  Maybe you have and you didn’t truly take the time to consider it.

As for Jaylene’s ordeal, a couple of mysteries still hover.  One unsolved oddity surrounds “Willie”.  As she was being placed in the ambulance, she looked back for him.  He, and his coat, were gone.  No person at the scene could tell her who he was, where he came from , or where he went.  Plus, according to the reports, the shear impact from the head-on collision with the transport, and her small vehicle, was of tremendous force.  Yet, she walked out of the hospital, on her own power later the SAME DAY!  Just shocking.

Also, one of the EMT’s was familiar with her music from Canadian radio.  He went the extra mile after taking her to the hospital.  He went back to the scene and helped to retrieve her property from the wreckage, all on his own time.

Lasting effects remain with her, mostly psychological in nature.  To this day, Jaylene will tell you, she can’t seem to fully relax anymore.  Yet, she does see God’s hand in the incident on several levels.  So do I.

jaylene johnson promo Jaylenejohnson.COM

I’m proud to say she continues to write, record, and perform.  She’s now married and raising a family.

When in slippery, tight places, it goes better when fitted with the cleats of fuel for the race.

“For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.  They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone.”  -Psalm 91:11-12 (NAS)

 

The Hand That Rocks The Cradle

*****Just a note:  I was recently interviewed for a podcast show on Isle of Misfits podcast/blog.  You are certainly welcome to click on and listen to a bit of my history, including my near-death experience from my own voice. 

Here is the link:  Isle of Misfits

“Blessings on the hand of women!…For the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” – From the American poet, William Ross Wallace (1865).

To say, the decisive influence of a mother can and will shake a person throughout their decades, is an understatement, in my opinion.  William Ross Wallace believed the future of society itself rested its base in the hand of a young mother.

“Give me the first six years of a child’s life, and I care not who has the rest.” – American educator and author Kate Douglas Wiggin from her book, “Children’s Rights and Others: A Book of Nursery Logic” (1892)

You don’t have to search far to find someone who has damaging memories of their mom.  I know of some in my own family.  With that said, I will state some things here that are familiar to most who treasure their mothers.

Mom salon

My mom, Carolyn Atherton-Brown

Leaving out lots of details, she had every pathway to abort me.  She was only 15 when she was carrying me.  She was newly married to my bio-father, a man full of abuses on every level.  Even his parents feared for my life, warning my maternal grandparents in a secretive meeting.  His lies were uncovered rather quickly, as quickly as the divorce decree, when I was two years old.  She did remarry again when I was five, but it was short-lived.  She has stayed single for the balance of her life.

When bravery and gritty courage is given as a title, I think of POWs, cops, or firefighters, but not today.  I instead picture this incredible, enduring woman of granite-like stability.  This girl, in her mid teens, chose to raise a son all on her own through the 1960s and 1970s.  That alone is like a spelunker forging his/her way into the darkest, undiscovered cavern of the greatest of depths.  To be a young single woman, with a young son in the mix, slugging her way through the male-driven world of those times, was only for the most adventurous, gallant female.  She had to be like the grill on a car, being hit with everything.  Women of that time had to be willing to be objectified, to be broke from low wages, to be able to take harsh words, along with an ocean of dirty looks and rumor.  Yet, she did so because of me.

A woman who represents only the best of motherhood, is a woman who understands and acknowledges selflessness to the broadest degree.  She must make a tripwire decision to place herself last, further than the unwanted back-burner.  Motherhood decrees an oath of pouring out one’s “self” for the one hiding behind her skirt.  It meant, for my mom, two or three jobs at a time, multiple lay-offs, skipping high school and college, dodging unwanted advances, taking judgmental heat from those who allow their love to grow cold toward the divorced female and single mother.  That is what she signed up for.  THIS is my mom’s tip of the iceberg in a snapshot.

In order to post a simple blog article, in lieu of a novel, I will decline here to spell out a few dozen stories concerning the sheer resilience and integrity of my mom.

23 OMA Me and Mom 1967

My mom, grandmother and me – 1967.

“Having children gives you a perspective you didn’t have before.  You are no longer the center of the universe.  It opened my heart, made me a different person.  Every move you make is with someone else in mind…” – Actress, Jessica Lange.   Kenneth Miller’s article, AARP Magazine. Aug-Sept 2017

I would be remiss if I didn’t add the fact the hand that rocked the cradle in 1944, during WWII, greatly shaped the woman my mom grew to be.  My God-worshiping grandmother, as well as her mother before her,  had the right salt-of-the-earth stuff, passing it on to her only daughter.  Today, I can even see their influences in my oldest daughter, raising her young daughter.  The hand that rocks the cradle truly does move and shake the generations behind her skirt.

Mom and Skylar Dec 2017

My granddaughter with my mom. December 2017.

If a mom truly wants joy for Mother’s Day, she should not hesitate in filling her child with fuel for the race.

“In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.  And she made a vow, saying, ‘Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life…’ ” – 1 Samuel 1: 10-11 (NIV)

Mysterious Visitor

He boldly said, “I won’t be back, but you’re going to be okay.”

A Warning:

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.

CCU Hallway

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.

My CCU Room Panned-2013

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.

My CCU Room Zoom-in 2013

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.

My CCU ward layout 2013

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.

Being Sherlock 

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.

Poignant Questions

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)

Confronted By Death – Feb 13, 2013

There is a power keeping you alive, and it’s not us.” – Medical City of Plano’s chief respiratory doctor.

This will be different than any other article from my blog page.

At the risk of sounding overtly macabre, I must resist the fear of writing the following account.  I promised myself, God and others, I would write in detail, candor and accuracy of the event that took place five years ago this week.  Please know, the following details are indeed truthful in every way without embellishment, even though some aspects may be difficult to believe unless you know me well or if you were there.  I am one not known for tall tales of fantasies, or a demon under every rock.  My friends and family would assure you of this fact.  If you are from the medical industry, know that other members of the medical field are always amazed when they read my medical history.   Before God, the Living One, the Father of Israel in Whom I trust, all descriptions of the events from February 2013 written below are true and verifiably witnessed events.  The episode I am testifying changed my life on multi-levels that remain with me today.  It is my hope, you, or someone you know, might glean a newness, a sense of hope, a concrete foundation that we (you and I) are never alone.  The reality you will find from the entire reading of my story is that we (you and I) are greatly cared for out of undeserved love and favor.  Know this, going into the text beyond this line, YOU cannot, and never will, defeat death, nor can concentrated grit of fortitude.  Allow me to tell you my story.  Feel free to print this off for an easier read.

The Unexpected

For a few weeks at the beginning of 2013, my former wife (For this account, we will call her Joan.) and I were treating a boil on the back of my head at the base of the skull.  I was reluctant to see a doctor in that I was uninsured at the time.  So, for me, home remedies seemed to be the answer.  The boil grew delivering severe pain, a physical anguish I had not experienced up to that point in life.  One of the soothing routines was to soak the back of my head in a hot salt bath.  I did this often, every couple of days.  On February 10th-12th, a change became evident.  I began to slur my speech, even to the point of being non-intelligible at times.  My body and mind slipped into a stage of being lethargic.  I slept almost around the clock, at one point, 20 hours.  On the 12th, I began to be violently ill.  That is the last thing I remember.

For a good year or two my marriage was also violently ill.  Divorce had already been considered.  The canyon dividing us was vast and bottomless.  Nightly, I slept in the closed master bedroom while Joan made her bed on the living room couch.  It was a joint decision.

Here, I believe it important to note that the following is from her account of the pre-hospitalization event.  It might be wise to include here that Joan probably had been drinking heavily that day.  It was common.

Around 2:00am, on February 13th, Joan heard bath water running from the bathroom, just adjacent to the master bedroom.  Later, Joan admitted she reasoned I had awoke from sleeping around the clock and was prepping for another soak, so she turned over and went back to sleep.

Some six-seven hours later, at approximately 8:30-9:00 that morning, Joan opened the bedroom door only to find me missing.  She then walked to the master bathroom door, opened it and found me lying in a tub full of frigid water, with my face above the waterline, my eyes were open and fixed.  My skin was shell-colored.  I was unresponsive and ice cold to the touch.

For logic I cannot fully understand or explain, she delayed calling 911 for some unverifiable length of time.  In a moment of clarity, Joan called my mom, who lived some 60 miles away, telling her that I had gone to “another place” and described what she had discovered.  My mom recollects those maddening minutes.  Joan mentioned something to her about not having life insurance on me.  Being dismayed at the words, Mom pushed Joan to hang up and call 911 immediately.  While my mom was trying to cut through the confusing conversation, she had Joan place the phone to my ear as my mom yelled at me to awaken, but to no avail.  After several minutes, my mom pleaded with her again to call for an ambulance, and did so several times.  Joan then told her that I was naked in the tub and that I wouldn’t want the EMTs to see me in that condition.  She went on to say she wanted to take a shower first before calling.  (As a side note, the shower was built alongside the bathtub with only a glass wall separating the shower stall and tub.  While taking a shower she would have been looking down at my naked stone cold body.)  With a bit of fire in her tone, my mom finally convinced her to call for help.

Within the hour, I was rushed to the ER, to what is now called, Medical City of Plano in Plano, Texas.  No doubt the EMTs feverishly worked on my body in efforts to revive me.  I was told, many days later, by Dr. Betz, the ICU/CCU doctor in charge, they brought me in dead.

The ER staff was unable to fully revive me and placed me on life support.  At some hour overnight in that bathtub, my body suffered a full-organ shutdown with only minimal brain activity.  I was left comatose.  As common in situations like mine, the ER staff placed an internal thermometer into my torso revealing, at that hour, a core body temperature of 78 degrees!  (Few ever come back to tell of a 78 degree core body temperature.)  Not only had my organs stopped functioning, I was also suffering from hypothermia from being encased in cold bath water for several hours in mid February.  After the ER team consulted with several specialists it was decided that I was a lost cause and to consult my wife in the waiting room.

After discovering I had no directive or legal will, the ER doctor on duty, as well as a nurse, advised Joan of my dire condition explaining a respirator was keeping me breathing.  He went on to tell her they could try to treat me in my current condition, but that patients in my circumstance who survive are 1 out of 20.  He went on to mention there was no way to know how much brain damage had been levied.  The ER doctor made an attempt to have her choose a directive to pull the plug.  In the end, Joan signed a document requesting that they treat me in efforts to sustain my life.

The most common question I am asked surrounds the cause of the full-organ shutdown.  To be as accurate as I can, it remains a mystery.  There were a number of factors, all of which could have ended my life.  It may have originated from hypothermia after falling asleep in the bath, cardiac arrest, infection from the open boil, diabetic shock, kidney failure, etc.  All of the above could’ve happened first, but nothing can be chronologically pinpointed with all certainty.  All we can say is an internal domino effect occurred sometime in the overnight hours.

Sometimes being gone is better.

I am unsure the exact number of days I was in a coma.  I will say I had come out of a coma once for a significantly short time (which I will detail for you next week in a part II article) only to slip back into it for at least another day or two.  The impression from calculations, based upon friends and family who had visited my ICU/CCU room, I believe it was a four-day coma.

When I surfaced to consciousness, for the final time, I was aware I was in the hospital, but unaware of why or what had deposited me there.  It’s funny what can go through one’s head in that circumstance.  I recall being confused as to why my wrists and ankles were strapped down.  I was made aware right away that I was hooked up to loud machines and monitors all around the bed.  There were tubes and hoses going in and out of every orifice, and I mean EVERY orifice, with the exception of my ears.  In fact, besides the IVs and ports in various areas of my body, I also had one tube going into my rib-cage and another planted in the side of my neck.  I couldn’t inquire verbally, with breathing hose and feeding tube down my throat.  Other than a slight ability to nod and shake my head, as well as do a thumbs up in response, my body wouldn’t move on command.  Nurses and doctors were coming in and out like a swinging door, but rarely did anyone speak directly to me, as if I wasn’t there.

My immediate thought was I had been the victim of a car crash.  Curiosity spun my mental gymnastics every minute.  Joan walked in the room at some point telling me things at home would be different from now on.  My first thought was that she meant our relationship would be better now.  Interestingly, my fresh-from-a-coma brain went to the ailing, damaged relationship at home when she uttered those words.  In retrospect, I believe she was trying to say my health, my lifestyle had been compromised.

This new “awakening” was so hard for a plethora of reasons.  In contrast to the state I was in just prior to my days in a coma, the realities of a CCU room were close to torturous.  One of the almost unbearable treatments, still so prominent in my memory, was no liquid whatsoever passed my lips for almost three weeks due to the inability to swallow properly.  Hydration was applied through an IV and a feeding tube into my abdomen.  My tongue became like lizard skin.

While in a coma (or while separated from my body), I was at perfect peace, with a sense of flotation, never touching the ground.  There was no noise, no sound, only solitude.  There was no sense of the passing of time.  There was a lack of care for clocks and calendars.  There were no binding limitations, but rather a feeling of flying or floating at will, wherever I wanted to go.  Vivid ultra-brilliant colors of objects observed were beyond any shades I had ever witnessed in my lifetime.  Frankly, they were shockingly striking to the vision.  Here I will stop with my description that forever will be stamped in my memory.  Just allow me to say I had an experience beyond the reality of the bathtub and hospital bed.  It is incredibly personal and forever shall be.  Only a handful of close friends and family have been given my “beyond view” of that time.

There is a Power

I had 8 doctors working on me.  However, in the beginning while in ER, there was one doctor, the only doctor, who wanted to take on my case, to give me a chance of survival.  All others had felt I was for file 13.  This one courageous and selfless man was a kidney doctor, Dr. Sidiqui.  After I came out of the coma and began to show unanticipated signs of my body functioning, other specialists were assigned to me.  Regardless of the prognosis from a team of professionals, regardless of my 1 out of 20 chance of survival, regardless of how my body was still in resurrection mode, Dr. Sidiqui never gave up hope, always going the extra mile.  Although I was on sessions of dialysis, breathing treatments, oxygen mask and fluid pumps, I was improving very slowly.  I am unsure of when I developed sepsis in the bloodstream, but a debridement surgery of my head was performed where the infected boil was.  I also developed pneumonia in both lungs while in CCU.  After a time, I was helping to plan part of my own funeral with one of my daughters and a dear cousin.  Over the span of several months, I lost some 70+ pounds, much of it in muscle tissue.  I became anemic.  I started with zero body function but gained motor skills at a snail’s pace.  During physical and occupational therapy my body had to learn to swallow again, walk again, talk again and write again all because I had lost most of my motor skills, including various neurological autonomic functions.

Plano Med Center Stan PT guy Sept 2, 2014

Photo:  Stan, my physical therapist from Feb 2013

I spent three weeks in ICU/CCU then I was upgraded to a telemetry room for another three weeks.  One day I found myself listening to three doctors, including a couple of nurses, standing over me.  CCU is NOT a quiet place.  After having several staff members swing by my room, congratulating me on the rise from death, some of whom were telling me they were there when I was brought into the ER, the doctors were discussing what meds to remove, how much fluid to drain and what my prognosis was for each organ.  As the conversation wore down, my respiratory specialist, while looking at my thick chart said, “There’s a power keeping you alive, and it’s not us.”  He slammed the notebook closed and walked out in frustration.  I responded by saying it was the result of many people praying for me.  I will never forget that moment.  It was as if God needed me to hear what he had to say openly to bolster my personal faith.

As for Dr. Sidiqui, he explained the unfortunate truth was that my kidneys had not come back to life.  Simply put, I was at stage five kidney disease.  After leaving the hospital after six weeks, I was admitted to out-patient dialysis three or four times a week, four hours at a time.  This was devastating on my body.  I likened it to chemo treatments.  It left me weak and very ill for two days after each session.  At the same time, I had a Medvac attached to the base of my skull.  This was a suction hose going from the surgical area of the debridement of the boil, which was a 4”-5” square of raw flesh thinly covering that part of my skull, and leading to a briefcase-size unit I had to carry.  It was in efforts to keep the open wound free of particles and toxins which remained on my head 24/7 for several weeks.  Surprisingly, after several months of this harsh regiment, my kidneys began to come back.  In fact, the kidneys rose to a stage three status which discharged me from dialysis.  The nurses at the dialysis center were in shock.  Again, that alone is almost unheard of.  Today, I remain at stage three, leaving a 31% renal working capacity, managing functionality as best as I can.

Being an invalid at home was a new difficult challenge.  Dr. Sidiqui worked hard to place me in a much needed rehab hospital, but was unable.  Slowly, from June to the end of October of 2013, I worked on strength and endurance while using a walker.  October 31st, I was admitted in an out-patient physical therapy program, at another hospital, which lasted through February of 2014.  Because of the fine work there at that facility, I was able to graduate from a walker, to a cane, to walking without assistance.

The personal tsunami of February 13, 2013 still has its waves around my house.  Some effects remain in the aftermath, but I am relatively well, considering the alternative, with a few lasting medical issues that are managed daily (too many to list here).  After all, it’s hard to come back from the dead.

To this day, medical personnel often will ask how I was able to stay alive with the ability to function.  Many answer their own question before I am able to get the words out.  “It must be for a divine purpose” or “God had His hand on you” or “You must believe in prayer”.  I say, all of the above.  As an ER respiratory nurse told me, when our time comes, we have very little to do with it.  Without power of our own, we seem to be like a flower plucked out of a meadow by a force outside of ourselves.  That is so true.  The shear realities, surrounding the fact that you are reading this from my own fingers on a keyboard, dictate that I did not survive because I am an exceptional individual or some righteous leader.  To be blunt, I deserved the opposite of life.  The hospital admitted I walked away beyond the scope of their medical technology, care and the modern medical mechanics available.  They called me “Miracle Man” during those last few weeks.  However, it is clear; the power did not come from me, nor from their medical abilities, but rather from the Creator of the body.  (More proof of this next week in a part II article.)

Some have asked how it all has changed me, other than physical.  My answer is easy.  I love more.  I tell my loved ones more.  I reach out more.  I am grateful more often with a greater measure.  I find I cry more at movies, TV shows, commercials, photos and songs.  How can you not have your life placed back in your lap, knowing you had nothing to do with it, and not be more sensitive in every way?  Furthermore, I don’t get all twisted up in anger at the level I once did concerning trivial, temporal stuff.  I came back realizing there’s too much in the world that doesn’t matter in the end, only eternals.  We are often fooled into thinking temporals matter as priority.

If you’re wondering about my medical bills from that year alone…over $1,000,000.00!

TAKE NOTE:

As mentioned earlier, my next blog, part II, entitled “A mysterious Visitor” will surround an astonishing slice of time in my CCU room that we could not explain away.  Frankly, that part of the story is far more important and stunning than anything I have written here.  Look for it on my page in a few days.  Once you read what I omitted in the account above, you might find it leads to the pump of fuel for the race.

“The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.  I came that you may have life and have it in fullness.” – Jesus –   John 10:10 (paraphrased)