Now I'm getting the chance to read books I didn't have time for before. Think of me whenever you see the slogan "So many books, so little time!" Now I've got the time. Cheers, Fred.
5. WHEN CHRIST VISITED ME
Read by me at both services on Easter Sunday 2004 and given at a Spiritual Formation class on Easter Sunday 2006
[Some of this is a slightly condensed version of events mentioned in part (2).]
I nearly died one night in July '99 in Mary Greeley Hospital. Later that night Christ visited me. His visit was the most wonderful experience of my life. I think about it every day. It is very difficult for me to control my emotions when I talk about it – even now, nearly five years later. First I felt the need to write it down. Now I feel the call to read it here to you.
What led up to that night? In late March '99 my wife Doris took me to Mary Greeley. I was soon told I had Guilliane-Barre Syndrome (GBS), a neurological disease where your immune system goes haywire and attacks your nerves, causing paralysis. My veins kept collapsing during the plasmapheresis treatment, so it took days to cleanse my blood. I had axonal GBS, which led to permanent damage of many of my nerve axons. By the time my blood was cleansed I could move only my eyes – all else was paralyzed.
I was in Intensive Care for seven weeks attached to a respirator. Even so, breathing was often difficult. At times I felt I couldn’t keep it up. But the love and encouragement of my wife Doris, my daughter Jennifer and my son Steve pulled me through – they gave me the will to live. When I was moved to Acute Care, the respirator was removed, but an RT (Respiration Therapist) would suction my lungs through the tracheotomy hole in my neck every six hours.
Late that night breathing was very hard, so I called the RT early. I could barely breathe. The RT used a hollow rubber ball to force air in and out of my lungs. A nurse said “Squeeze harder, he’s turning blue!” As I began to black out, I floated to the ceiling and looked down at the scene below me, seeing myself, the RT working the bag, and the nurses looking on. When I heard the RT say, “The air is moving better now,” I floated back down into my body on the bed and saw, face-to-face again, the RT telling me to breathe slowly and deeply. I did, and the crisis was over. They were all smiling now! Soon I drifted off into an exhausted sleep. Christ had not yet come.
After a few hours I awoke. All was quiet. I lay there thinking about how I had nearly died, amazed at how I had floated up and saw myself struggling to breathe. Now I knew that such near-death experiences were for real. I began worrying about the next time, when I might not make it, and how my death would affect my loved ones. I began to have trouble breathing again, as bad as before. I thought I was done for – I was far too exhausted to go through such a crisis again so soon. I felt very sad and lost – I wasn’t ready to die.
Then Christ came! “Relax,” He said, “Calm down.” He was in the chair at the foot of my bed, smiling at me. His smile and voice were so powerful and kind, His eyes so full of love, His presence so awesome, I had no doubt that this was Christ. He didn’t move, but I felt His hand on my brow – then I was calm and breathing easily. He said, “Do not worry, for I am with you. I will be by your side to comfort you whenever you need me.” I felt such joy and inner peace just looking at Him. His face glowed softly, as if lit by candlelight. I wondered to myself if I would survive GBS. He read my mind, smiled, and said, “Have no fear, for whatever happens, I will be with you.” When I heard this, I knew that I would fear death no longer. I could accept whatever was to come. No matter what happened to my body, my soul and spirit were at peace with God. I can only describe this peace as “the inner peace of God that far surpasses all understanding.”
Christ was with me quite a while longer, but spoke no more. From then on our talk was silent – I heard in my mind His comments on my thoughts. His meaning was always very clear. He knew my entire history. He reviewed with me the crisis I had at age 13, how it was resolved, and how it gave me a rock-solid faith in God. In our silent talk He first told me that it is enough to know and keep His two great Commandments: Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Love your neighbor as yourself.
Before leaving me, Christ admonished me for judging others and told me to study religious writings of all faiths, once I became well enough to read and study again. Until that happens, He said to focus on my own physical and spiritual health, and on that of my family, whose love gave me the strength to live. With those final words, He vanished. I was awake the rest of the night, thinking about His visit. As I said earlier, I think about it every day.
While in the hospital I tried to tell my family about that remarkable night. But whenever I tried, I would break down in tears of joy, unable to speak. [But it was easy to convince them that my experience was not a dream, for (as anyone who has experienced this knows) when you wake up struggling to breathe, you are very much wide awake and very afraid that you won't be able to fight for each breath much longer.] My breaking down when I tried to tell about it made me realize that I would have to write about this experience when I could write again. It took me over a year after July '99 to regain the ability to handle a book. By November '02 I had learned to type using only my thumbs. As Christ told me to do, I have since read and studied many books. Because of His visit, and all I have learned since, I know I will continue my studies as long as I live.
Every day I feel again the inner peace Christ gave me with His last spoken words, “Have no fear, for whatever happens, I will be with you.” He both renewed and transformed my life. I have been truly blessed by my visit from Christ.