MY BEST GUESS IS THAT ABOUT THREE MINUTES HAD ELAPSED. I awoke to a surreal din of extraneous audio, a cacophony of murmurs, cars, and even the wind echoing and blending together like the elements of a great soundtrack that had yet to be mixed.
It was very much the stuff of fantasies, and as the darkness slowly lifted, I was still confused and disoriented. Amid the shock and the jumble of thoughts, however, I didn’t realize that I was lucky to be alive.
So many times in my life, perhaps too often to recall, the Angels have been at my side. I have been saved countless times and lived through events I never dreamt possible —and in each case, I felt the hand of a powerful presence beside me.
One such incident came as a young man in my twenties as I returned from a Halloween party. It was late, somewhere around three in the morning, and as I made my way from the party, I approached an entrance ramp to the Expressway outside Boston. After a few seconds I approached a car — on fire and blocking the entrance ramp.
I panicked for a few seconds. Was there someone in the car unconscious or injured? I parked 50 yards away from the burning Chevy and approached the car cautiously.
I wrapped my hands in some rags and inched my way forward. . .frightened but just ignorant enough to continue. As I reached the car, I opened the drivers’ side door and backed off quickly, which allowed some of the smoke from inside the vehicle to dissipate in the chilly October air. Then I lunged into the front seat, yelling “Is anyone in here? Is anyone HERE?” I began by feeling around the front seat and floor, flailing my arms about like a mad man. The smoke and flames were awful, and quickly drove me back outside. I retreated ten feet, took a deep breath and dove into the backseat, frantically searching again.
I found no one, but I did hear a voice saying, “Get out NOW” and I obliged.
As I walked back to my car, coughing and wiping my eyes, the car exploded like something out of Hollywood pyrotechnics display.
That Halloween eve, I was dressed as Clark Kent — but on that night, Superman didn’t rescue anyone. The suit was ruined, singed by fire and smoke, but I had been saved — again.
It is one of probably two dozen times I can recall feeling a spiritual presence directing me away from or warning me of imminent danger.
IN JULY OF 2008, it happened again. I looked up at a dark gray sky, still groggy and filled with ethereal visions, when I heard my son’s voice. I was floating, it seemed, when a wisp of his voluminous hair drifted into my periphery.
“Dad,” he said. “DAD!”
The fact that I had awakened at all had not yet dawned on me, but I felt beautifully calm.
“DAD,” Gabe said again, more determined than ever to get a response. Finally, I could see him clearly and realized what had just happened. I was being loaded into an ambulance.
We had just been in an accident. . .forced into an unmarked, elongated pit. The two of us were on my beloved Yamaha 180cc motor scooter. I had successfully slowed down the bike — well aware of my precious cargo on the back — and had skillfully navigated the road that had engulfed us on the last 100 feet of our journey.
As we hit the back of the pit, I was catapulted from the scooter. My son, as any father would have planned it, landed on top of me, suffering only from some road rash on his forearm and some bruises.
As I lay in the hospital awaiting yet another MRI, the immensity of my good fortune began to overpower the physical pain I felt. I was alone in the room and had no idea that tears were streaming down my cheeks as the nurse entered the room.
“Ohhhh…” she said with obvious sensitivity. “You must be in a lot of pain right now.”
“I am,” I answered. “But I am just so grateful that my son is all right.”
I have rarely been a fearful person, but today I am much less afraid than I used to be. The process of wounding can awaken us to our strength — if we are willing to examine life through the lens of our Blessings, not our challenges. A life- threatening event can re-shuffle our values, and what emerges from our soul searching is scarcely about anything material.
It’s never about perfection or power — or the politics at work. For me, it’s always about love; whom we cherish and whom we can touch.
Knowing that we are vulnerable — and that our time here is limited — we’re free to choose a different path for ourselves. We’re free to live more passionately and to question what’s worth fighting for and who we really are in this world.
To me, our real strength lies buried in the depths of the wounds we have survived. It could be a tragic death, or it could be a divorce, but it need not take a life-threatening event to pursue a more meaningful life.
This time around, all it took for me was to see the wisp of my Gabe’s hair floating by as I was having a conversation with Angels. As I left their embrace, they whispered, “there is more to do.”
And so I thanked God for my son — and for my life — so very grateful that my path was illuminated so long ago.