My Neighbor's Right Side
Our natural world is filled to overflowing with the signs and wonders of life—abundant life, which I believe is granted by permission from a higher source—from the birth of children to majestic landscapes; abundant variations of wildlife, flora and fauna, and resources; environmental microcosms and macrocosms working in relative independence and harmony; spectacular arrays of stars, planets, and galaxies in the evening sky to hold the eye in curious fascination and imagination; tangible and tactile, persistent and patterned, sustainable and satisfactory to the necessity of living in general. Yet there remain forces outside our understanding attributable to a basic inability of our minds to fully understand and explain the things that cannot be tested in a laboratory or agreed upon with absolute certainty by argument. There are whole gaps in mankind's ability to know and comprehend the environment and the universe at large, which shall never be bridged by human means on this side of life.
Experiential aspects of human existence sometimes defy scientific explanation. Shall I dare to utter humanistic heresy by suggesting that our reliance and faith in the sciences cannot offer reasonable explanations for anything outside fixed empirical indices? That which cannot fit neatly into a theory, syndrome, or generalized condition may be succinctly ignored or rejected as preposterous by those often too smart for their own good. For instance, a nightmarish dream may certainly be attributed as a bad bit of meatloaf from supper or a symptom of overexertion, worry, or mental fatigue. But a dream cannot be empirically tested by its own merits, only the dreamer can be examined. To call a dream a vision (as it pertains to the archaic notion of biblical prophecy) would be outside the purview of scientific reasoning and humanistic teaching. Bad enough, some might say, that an alleged invisible God refuses to show Himself visible at the whim of a skeptic—why would God bother to communicate with any human as he or she slept?
I approach this subject of the unknown with great caution knowing with certainty I shall be misunderstood by some. But I shall tell a story I experienced and leave the reader to consider its merits. It offers no proof of anything to the skeptic. Yet it does defy scientific hubris and psychological specificity. And the story begins with an ending that I shall never treat as some obscure notion or flight of fancy.
A beloved mother lived for a time in the house next door to my family in Moreno Valley, California. As I recall, we greeted our new neighbors in their driveway in late spring of 2002. She and her husband had a teenage son and two small children: a boy age five, and a girl age four. Except for an occasional run-in between my two dogs and the younger children, my wife Linda and I had very little in common with our new neighbors and so our contact with them was infrequent yet genial. It was not until our teenage daughter Sarah became better acquainted with the mom, that we were alerted to an affliction with which she had been suffering from greatly: Crohn's Disease.
By November 2003, the mother's health was in severe decline. She was in and out of the hospital and dependent upon morphine to relieve the agonizing pain of her condition. Linda and Sarah were frequently next door helping the poor woman get in and out of bed, attending to her needs, and with babysitting the children. Having little more he could do for her, the woman's doctor authorized hospice care. Her family spent Thanksgiving at a small gathering of relatives at her sister's home in Yucaipa. She seemed to be holding up well until late that evening. Linda and I received a phone call from her sister that our neighbor had suddenly lapsed into a coma. We drove to Yucaipa to offer what assistance we could for the family.
Our weekend to remember became a death vigil. The neighbor went into a coma late Thursday evening and passed away the following Sunday morning. Though I had seen death in many forms during my law enforcement career, I cannot recall any passing as remarkable as her death vigil. What I had expected to encounter was not what I experienced. And what happened, which I was connected to in that long weekend, wove a curious tale.
Linda and I arrived at the sister's house mid-morning on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Our neighbor remained supine in her coma while reclining in the living room. Her sister, brother-in-law, husband, and hospice workers continued to check periodically on her condition. Medications were being dispensed on a regular schedule to insure the patient's comfort. As the hours wore on, all present were preparing themselves for the inevitability of her passing at any moment, making our vigil emotionally charged as well as tedious. Linda and I prayed often with the family. And though this mother was unconscious, we all spoke to her in the hope she could hear us and somehow be comforted.
Daylight faded into evening, and shifts were assigned to maintain administration of the woman's medications. Since I worked graveyard, I had volunteered to administer a shot at two o'clock in the morning. I believed I had understood the instructions of the hospice worker about the medication (shot) I was to give. What was supposed to be an optional medication, I began to administer thinking it was required. Her husband, brother-in-law, and I were standing near her bedside bleary-eyed and haggard. As I prepared the syringe, I moved close to my neighbor's right side. I hesitated a few moments trying to recall how I would inject the shot into her thigh.
Suddenly, the woman's right hand moved. It went straight to the waistband of her sweatpants. She grasped the waistband firmly, tugged down one side of her pants, and exposed the injection site. Even in a coma, this mom knew where her shot was to be received. So, I gave her the shot. Within ten minutes she was awake and talking with great urgency. We woke up the rest of the family to show them what had happened. Incredibly, our neighbor stayed alert and talkative for most of Saturday and into the wee hours of Sunday morning before passing away.
She spoke of having been to heaven, of seeing the future, and of her concern for her family. This woman saw angels flitting about in the room. She often spoke in a quick, unintelligible language, to someone we could not see, and then imparted information in English, as if acting as a translator. And perhaps it would have been easier to attribute her behavior to delirium, the medication, or hallucination—except that what happened later that afternoon gave credibility to the experience itself. For our neighbor offered specific messages for each individual in the room that related to the future and life with God. She announced that God was real. She had spoken to Jesus. Heaven was real. Later on, she began talking about her earthly father.
She insisted her dad was going to walk through the door in the next few moments. Her sister gently told our neighbor that she had spoken by phone to their father earlier that day, and that he was not able to come see her. However, the woman became more insistent and excited.
Daddy is coming here! He is right outside the door!
With tears in her eyes, her sister shook her head negatively. She knew better. Their father was not coming.
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
We were all startled! When the door was answered, their father walked in! How was that possible? How could this dying woman see through a wall (that she had her back to) and know that her father was approaching the doorstep? By all empirical standards, it was impossible for her to know something before it happened. When we asked her dad why he came, he said he felt something inside him, a voice telling him to go see his daughter. He was inexplicably compelled by something he could not produce for anyone else to examine. Her dad just took it on faith that he had to come, so he acted upon it.
There were other interesting and amazing stories from those who spent time that weekend at my neighbor's right side. The story I tell is merely from my own observations. A glimpse into the unknown from the actions and words of a dying woman. I have no reason to fabricate this tale, nor have I ever been viewed (by those who know me) to be ingenuous or a liar. I was merely a witness. And this account was what I saw.
The question of faith asks if you will believe in what you have not seen, and instead trust in what you have heard. Must one only see God in order to believe He exists? I pray this is not the case with you.
(copyright 2013, Gregory Allen Doyle)