The Shadow of Death
"Hold on son. We have a wrecker on the way to lift this truck off of you." I Iook at a father's fearful face and the twisted wreckage of my legs wrapped around the mangled motorcycle. I smell the gasoline dripping off the hot engine as it burns my flesh under my baseball uniform.
I woke up seeing the periphery of two nuns ministering to me, nurses at St. Bernard's. I'm in a fog. I take inventory. I'm all here, I think. But where am I?
Take two. A Texas highway patrolman tells me, "Your friend did not make it." The jaws of life are making metal stretching noises as they open up a hole in the roof to extract me. I'm a bloody mess.
The funeral was a parallel universe. Jenni and I knelt at the coffin. Pictures in the Gazette revealed a crushed car that no man could have survived. I had only split seconds to pray before we went airborne. Powdered safety glass in my eyes, gasoline smell strong. Penned in a nightmare, I recited Psalm 23. Mass confusion of sirens, a swirl of lights and crushed metal on asphalt. In an ambulance, we leave.
Take three. I read my wife's lips. "He's having a stroke." I stumble while the lights go dim. I pray, "Lord, I still need to see my baby girl get her college diploma," and the lights begin to come back on.
In a spinning tube of lights, I hear, "What's your name?" "Jose Cuervo." My humor does not elicit a response from the nurse. "You need to be still to get a good picture." I see two faces in the mirror. "Phantom of the opera," I think. My left arm, hand, and leg do not move. I can't swallow. My mouth mumbles.
Prayerfully, I walk out of the hospital. They say the blood clot has disspitated. They say.
Take four. She lifts my sunglasses. My head has rotated as far to the left as it can go. My eyes are flicking left to right. My jaws are locking my teeth on my tongue, and I cannot release it. As we race to the hospital, I plead, "Lord help me! Protect us! Travelling mercies."
I recite the twenty-third Psalm to myself and contemplate. I am ready to meet my Maker. I hum the tune, "This is my temporary home." Finally, the unknown unseen monster releases my tongue and head.
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