November 13, 2011

On Sunday Morning One Month After Death


This morning at Atilla's The Weekend Word: Rejoice she has chosen Psalm 118. Why she has done so is a mystery to me, but then of late many things once clear and obvious have become mysteries to me. Many things but not Psalm 118. Psalm 118 is clear and obvious to me when I read:

The LORD hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death.

For me on this Sunday morning this is as true and as up close and as personal as a bit of scripture gets.

You see it was one month ago today that I lay down on my bed, died there, had my body pulled out of the bed and onto the floor of the kitchen five minutes later, my sternum and ribs pounded without mercy by a series of strong men, a tube rammed down my throat and into my trachea, and then my chest shocked and shocked again until I was, through His Grace, returned to life.

You can call this a miracle, as I do, since "luck" had nothing to do with it and the hand and will of God everything. And like some half-price, knock-off Lazarus in old jeans and a faded t-shirt I have returned to tell thee:

The LORD hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death.
And I will also say, in the words of Psalm 118,
Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the LORD:
This gate of the LORD, into which the righteous shall enter.
I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation.
The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.
This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

That last phrase, “This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it,” was carved into a stone wall near the entrance of my daughter’s school when she was very young. I saw it several times a week across a year or so and always thought it a “nice sentiment.” These days I think of it as an imperative and I endeavor to stand every morning on my porch and spend a few moments in prayer watching the dawn rise up over the roofs and in the windows of the neighborhood.

Psalm 118 is evidently not the only Psalm to play a role in my life in this last month in which the door of my life swung on its hinges. According to the woman who was staying with me when I died and who noticed I had stopped breathing and who called 911 and the people who returned me to life (Yes, that would be the woman who saved my life), she also heard in the background as my body was being beaten, pummeled, shocked and stirred back into breath, heartbeat and the light, the 23rd Psalm being recited somewhere in the room at the time. Recited by whom? By no one, by everyone, by something, by some Presence.... she’s not sure but she is sure she heard it.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.

As it has and as it does... every moment of every day when I am mindful enough to see it; a mindfulness I am trying to learn.

For what reason and for what purpose was I returned? Perhaps it is just to know the day and to praise it as, “This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” I do not know if it is that or more than that, but I pray that, in time, I shall find out.

Today, all I can tell you for certain is that this morning, one month after death, is as fine and as bright a morning as any I’ve seen and hope to see. Get up. Go outside. Take a look. Take a good look.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at November 13, 2011 7:58 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

I have looked, and thanks to your note this morning, seen.
I'm gettin' out there!
Thank you Gerard.


Posted by: jwm at November 13, 2011 8:59 AM

Gerard, there's no coincidences in God's world. Everything happens for a reason.Perhaps unfathomable to us, but then, we don't have to know.

Go look at my blog for today. Does it resonate for you?


Posted by: chasmatic at November 13, 2011 8:59 AM

I figure it this way: I have lessons to learn; I will be somewhere, touch someone, do something that will affect another. This is not all wavy-gravy mystical. Basic Baptist if you have to know.

My dad once told me "son, if you ever save anyone it will probably be by accident".

Posted by: at November 13, 2011 9:02 AM

Yup, the center of the universe.... and it sure isn't me. I'm just a witness.

Posted by: vanderleun at November 13, 2011 9:07 AM

Though no longer do you 'walk through the valley of the shadow of death', I would think that now colors will be more vivid, days will be brighter, and smiles will be warmer. What a gift to a truly talented poet.

"I think over again my small adventures.
My fears, Those small ones that seemed so big,
For all the vital things I had to get and reach.
And yet there is only one great thing,
The only thing,

To live to see the great day that dawns
And the light that fills the world."

Welcome Back, Jerry.

Posted by: Cond0010 at November 13, 2011 9:17 AM

Going out for a walk. See y'all here later.

Posted by: Jewel at November 13, 2011 9:58 AM

Today was Good Shepherd Sunday at my church. A Navy chaplain was given the pulpit for the day, and as he prepares to leave his family and go on tour with the Marines, he adjured each of us to follow where He leads, even into the valley if it must be so. For where He guides, He provides.

We sang,

"Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants
beyond my fears,
from death into life."


Life is fine
Fine as wine
Life is fine.
-Langston Hughes

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at November 13, 2011 10:08 AM

I imagine, when I remember to, that as we breathe praise into the darkness, the Spirit of the Lord is moving to and fro upon the face of the earth to seek such praise. I imagine that, if in no other part of the world is there raised a glad voice, then my poor offering shall be a rock that cries out, "He is worthy to receive power and glory and majesty!"

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at November 13, 2011 10:12 AM

I stumbled on your blog several months ago. Now I carry copies of The Missing and The Ship of State with me. I tried to relate The Name in the Stone to my wife today and couldn't do it without choking up. Okay, I'm an emotional sap but very glad you remain among the living this Sunday.

Posted by: Svenster at November 13, 2011 11:00 AM

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

- Albert Einstein

You were dead and now you are alive, you are a miracle. Happy One Month of Life Anniversary.

As to me I know of nothing else but miracles... Walt Whitman

Posted by: Sara (Pal2Pal) at November 13, 2011 11:27 AM

Thanks for sharing this, Gerard, and happy one-month-iversary. Luniversary?

I would say "God bless," but he already has, and you already know. And that is a wonderful thing.

Posted by: Julie at November 13, 2011 11:35 AM

How thankful I am (and so many other readers) that you were dead but are alive again. There is a certain clarity that comes with this pullback from the brink. You may remember that I posted about my own almost four years ago.

Welcome back from the brink, my friend. I think that now you will know what I have come to know: every day is a holiday and every meal a banquet.

Posted by: Donald Sensing at November 13, 2011 11:53 AM

There's something mysterious about heart attacks and Sunday morning.
Grace and two doctors saved my Mom as she fell with a major M.I. while climbing the steps of Trinity Episcopal Church on Sunday morning. My girlfriend lost her fiance (a 65 year old neurosurgeon) on a Sunday morning right after they'd made whoopee. She has a new fiance now.

My Sunday morning meditation included this quote:

We are born knowing nothing and with much striving we learn
but a little; yet all the while we are bound by laws that
hearken to no plea of ignorance, and measure out their rewards
and punishments with calm indifference. In such a state,
humility is the virtue of men, and their only defense; to walk
humbly with God, never doubting, whatever befall, that His will
is good, and that His law is right.

Paul More, Pages from an Oxford Diary

Posted by: MizzE at November 13, 2011 11:55 AM

Thanks for the notes from your heart.

The ways of the Lord are mysterious. Why me? Why now? Why here? The questions go on, but the answers remain elusive. You have had a peek behind the curtain. And that glimpse has warmed your heart, opened it to the miracle that is life. That, in itself, may be why you are still with us.

Posted by: Jimmy J. at November 13, 2011 11:57 AM

Does this mean you get 2 Birthday Parties a year, Gerard? :)

Posted by: Cond0010 at November 13, 2011 11:57 AM

Brings new meaning to sudden death overtime...

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at November 13, 2011 1:04 PM

emphasis on "IS", "The Lord IS my shepherd", it's about surrendering, finally!The best way IS His way. Being grateful for every second we have left here!My fave psalm also, got me through scary cancer trmts. I'm glad you are getting your strength back. We need you!

Posted by: pink lady at November 13, 2011 3:04 PM

My bride and I use Psalm 118:24 almost every morning. We even have a sign up with that verse so we see it as we leave each day.
Verses 22 & 23 tie into Matthew 21's parable of the evil tenants as well (33-45) with Christ as the cornerstone.
Welcome aboard. Enjoy the ride. It's a roller-coaster ride.

Posted by: RileyD, nwJ at November 13, 2011 3:52 PM

Life with all its crises is designed to push us more and more to the foot of the Cross. Everything that happens to us is the kindest alternative God has of infinite choices.

His urgings always start with a whisper to our souls, then if ignored it gets louder and louder, until it's a shout that we can't evade. Only you can know the messages He has for you, one day at a time. You must never let things get back to the old normal.

Glad you're feeling better.

Posted by: Webutante at November 13, 2011 4:10 PM

emphasis on "IS", "The Lord IS my shepherd", it's about surrendering, finally!The best way IS His way. Being grateful for every second we have left here!My fave psalm also, got me through scary cancer trmts. I'm glad you are getting your strength back. We need you!

Posted by: pink lady at November 13, 2011 4:31 PM

The Word loves His poets and storytellers so much that He took flesh and became one of them. It is fitting that the lady heard the psalm: perhaps from one of your guardian angels, perhaps from unsaintly St. David, king and singer.

These are the real though invisible things, which sometimes we are allowed (or compelled) to see.

Posted by: Maureen at November 13, 2011 5:45 PM


Posted by: Fat Man at November 13, 2011 7:47 PM

I am glad you are still with us. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

Posted by: bob agard at November 13, 2011 9:07 PM

A friend came up with a somewhat less Biblical way of phrasing this sentiment.

"Start each day by assuming it's your last, and try to live and act accordingly. Because sometime - and much sooner than you probably want - you'll be right."

Posted by: Fletcher Christian at November 14, 2011 3:14 AM

Gerard, As I have reiterated several times before, God has given you the rare talent to truly see the world and the even more rare talent to be able to put to paper, for other's enlightenment, wonderful descriptions of what you observe. Perhaps, as a reward for a job well done, your eyes have purposely been opened a bit wider.

Posted by: Roger Drew Williams at November 14, 2011 8:18 AM

Amen to all that. You've come back distilled.

Posted by: robinstarfish at November 14, 2011 8:25 AM

I'm glad you're back with us, Gerald. As for the woman who was with you when that happened, may God bless her aplenty! She was your angel.

Unfortunately, we are in a somber mode at our household today. We returned from a weekend trip last night to find our faithful and true 14-year-old kitty dead in our garage. From the looks of it, he fell asleep and drifted away into the next world. Our under-5 girls were asleep or close enough, and we didn't want them to see him like that, so we placed them into their beds and waited until they were totally out. Then, we found a burial place in our backyard and placed our faithful kitty there. It was all over before 1 in the morning.

We don't know how to tell our girls that faithful, toe-chewer, shade-rattling, fence-marking, dog-behaving kitty of ours is gone.

Posted by: newton at November 14, 2011 8:33 AM

" As for the woman who was with you when that happened, may God bless her aplenty! She was your angel."

Not a day passes when I do not reflect on that and believe it.

Posted by: vanderleun at November 14, 2011 9:02 AM

Thanks for stating what happened.
I thanked the Lord that you were able to stay with us.
Perhaps you are meant to write about health-care.
Ask your cousin about health-care, EMS, the emergency system and what will happen with national health care. Ask her about the abuses of our hospitals and emerg.rooms. Ask her about
health-care and the number of people who call
an ambulance for trivial things; some for just a ride. You were lucky to have a good EMS system and one not out on a false run and not available for you as a result in a timely manner. Ask her about all the regulations and frequent fliers.

Posted by: Grace at November 15, 2011 4:50 AM

Don't know what to say other than to thank our Lord and Savior for giving you the opportunity to continue.

Welcome back Mr. V.

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