dying was the worst thing that could happen

Next to the pain, dying was the worst thing that could happen to me because it was the end of life, and there was no more, nothing else.  But when she told me that no surgeon was available until the next day, the idea of trying to exist for another minute or another hour with this pain was not worth it anymore.  I had been hanging on in the hopes that they would get a doctor and do the surgery, open me up and fix the problem.  But when they said they could not get a doctor, I said to my wife that is was time for us to say good bye because I’m going to die now. 

So she got up and put her arms around me, she told me how much she loved me and I told her how much I loved her, it was really sad.  We made our good byes. We said those things you say after you’ve been together for 20 years.

Howard Storm in HospitalShe finally sat down because she knew it was over, and I knew.  It was so hard looking at her crying like that, so I closed my eyes and just let go.  I went unconscious.  I was probably unconscious for only a short while, a few minutes probably. 

Then I was conscious again.  I opened my eyes and looked and I was standing up next to my bed.  I knew exactly where I was, and what the situation was, there was no confusion in my mind.  I felt alive, more real than I’ve ever felt in my life.  People asked me, “were you a ghost?” I was just the opposite, I was very alive.

As I am looking around the room, I notice that there is something underneath the sheet on the bed, a body.  So I bent over the bed to look at the face and it looked like me.  But that wasn’t possible, I’m alive, I’m great, I’m more than alive.  So I tried to talk to my wife, but she couldn’t hear me or see me.  I thought that she was just ignoring me.  So I got very angry at her, for ignoring me.

So I’m screaming and yelling at her, “Why is there this body in bed that looks like me? How did it get there?” I had a sneaking suspicion that the body was me, but that was too scary to think about.  So I’m getting really agitated and upset, because this is all too weird.  This can’t be happening, it’s impossible; I got a hospital gown on, and everything is very real. 

I hear people calling for me outside the room, speaking in soft gentle voices.  “Howard, you need to come with us now.  Come quickly, come out here.”  So I went to the doorway of the room.  There are people outside in the hallway.  The hallway is dank, it’s grey, not light or dark, it’s just grey.  All these men and women dressed in grey, in what might be considered hospital uniforms.  I asked them if they were from the doctors to take me to the operation room.  I told them all about my situation and how I have been waiting.  They keep saying, “We know, we know, we understand.  Howard come quickly, come with us, we’ve been waiting for you.

people in hallI left the room which was really clear and bright, and I went into the hallway which was dank and hazy.  I followed these people; we had a very long journey.  There is no time, and when I make a reference to time, it’s just an illusion because there was no time in this place.  But this place, if I was to recreate it, I would have to walk from Nashville to Louisville (175 miles, 281 km) to recreate the walk with these people. 

walking in hallAs we walked they stayed around me, kept moving me on, and it kept getting darker and darker.  They were becoming more and more openly hostile to me.  At first they were syrupy sweet to get me to go with them.  Then when I was going with them they said things like, “hurry up, keep moving, shut-up, stop asking questions” It got more ugly.

So we get into complete darkness and I’m absolutely terrified.  These people are very hostile and I don’t know where I am.  I said, “I’m not going with you any further.” They said, “You’re almost there.” We started to fight and I was trying to get away from them.  They were pushing and pulling at me.  There were now a lot of them.  Originally it had been a handful, now with the darkness it could have been 100s or 1000s, I didn’t know. 

people hurting Howard StormHoward Storm in DarknessThey were playing with me.  They could have destroyed me if they wanted to, but they didn’t want to.  They wanted to inflict pain on me, because they derived satisfaction out of the pain that I experienced.  It’s really hard for me to talk about, and I won’t tell you much about it; it gets too ugly.  Initially they were tearing with their fingernails, scratching, gouging, ripping, and biting.  I was trying to defend myself, trying to fight them off and get away from them but it was like being in a bee hive, there were hundreds all over me.

Soon I was lying on the ground; all ripped up with pain everywhere, inside and outside.  Even harder to bear the physical pain was the emotional pain, with utter degradation.  I never once felt that it was unjust or wrong.

I heard my voice, not someone’s voice or the voice of God, it was my voice, but I didn’t speak it.  Maybe it was my conscious, I don’t know, but I distinctly heard it say, “Pray to God!” So I thought to myself, “I don’t believe in God.” I was thinking, “even if I could pray, I don’t know how to pray anymore.

At that time, I haven’t prayed for about 23 years.  When I was a child, we said prayers in Sunday school and Church.  I was trying to remember them.  To me, praying was just reciting something that I learned.

The Lord is my Shepherd, give us this day our daily bread, my country tis’ of thee.  Wait, that’s not a prayer.  Yea thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, for score and seven years ago our forefathers…” I’m getting all mixed up, I can’t remember how to pray. 

Every time I would mention God to these people that hurt me, it was like throwing boiling water on them.  They would shriek, scream and yell.  They would use the worst profanity I had ever heard in this world.  They could not bear to be around me talking about God.  It was so painful for them to hear about God that they kept backing away.  So I had a sense that I could push them away by talking about God.  So I am trying to remember prayers, but I was getting confused and mixed up.

Eventually I realize that they are gone and I’m alone.  I was alone there for an eternity, what I mean was that I had no sense of time.  But I thought about my life, I though about what I had done, and what I hadn’t done.  I thought about this situation I was in.  The conclusion that I came to was this, my entire adult live was selfish, and my only god was myself.  I realized that there was something terribly wrong with my life, and that the people that attacked me were the same kind of people that I was.  They were not monsters, nor demons; they were people who had missed IT.  The point of being alive in this world, they had missed it, they had lived lives of selfishness and cruelty.  And now I was in a world where there was nothing else; nothing but selfishness and cruelty.  They were doomed to inflict that upon each other and themselves forever, without end.  And now I was a part of it.

Howard Storm all beat upThough I didn’t want to be there, it seemed like the right place for me to be.  I felt that this is what I deserver, because this is how I lived.  You can’t imaging how emotionally painful that was.  I’m lying there for time without end, thinking about my fate.

In the back of my mind comes up an image of myself as a child, sitting in a Sunday school class, singing Jesus Loves Me.  “Jesus loves me, la la la, Jesus loves me, la la la.” I could hear myself as a child singing it.  More important than anything else was that I could feel it in my heart.

There was a time in my life when I was young and innocent and I believed in something good, I believed in someone other that myself.  I believed in someone who was all good, all powerful, who really really cared about me, and I wanted that back.  That which I had lost, I had thrown away, I betrayed, I wanted that back.  I didn’t know Jesus, but I wanted to know Jesus.  I didn’t know His love, but I wanted to know His love.  I didn’t know if He was real, but I wanted Him to be real.  There was a time in my life where I did believe in something, and I wanted to trust that it was true. 

Jesus appears to Howard StormSo I call up into the darkness, “Jesus, please save me!” and He came.   First there was a tiny little spec of light in the darkness, vary rapidly it got brighter.  The light became so bring that in the physical world it would have consumed me.  It would have fried me to a crisp.  But it was not hot or dangerous there.  He was in this light and he reached down and gently started to pick me up.

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