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Ordinary Heroes Come Out of the Rain

 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. — Hebrews 13:2

[November 2011] They tell me to always try to do “more,” but never do “too much.” When you are recuperating from coronary arrest and a subsequent two-week time-out in the ICU these are difficult quantities to judge. My solution is to try to add more to what I did yesterday. Once around the block today means one and a half times around the block tomorrow. Tedious but true. Never a lot. Always a little more.

So anyway. . . .

Step by step, one by one,
higher and higher…

And sometimes that extra step leads you to a moment of strange revelation; revelation in which you do not know what it means other than that it may mean something; that it must mean something. Maybe something labeled in invisible ink “To Be Revealed Later.” Perhaps this life is just a series of encounters of matter moving randomly in the dark. Perhaps this life is something else entirely; something designed in some subtle way to keep you moving — climbing,

Step by step, rung by rung,
I’m climbing Jacob’s ladder.

So anyway…

Last night I decide to push myself and attend a Richard Thompson concert in the University District in Seattle. In a fit of optimism after being released from the hospital the previous week, I bought two tickets. I didn’t “feel” like going, but I don’t “feel” like doing much of anything. I do it anyway. It’s not really an option.

Step by step, rung by rung,
I’m climbing Jacob’s ladder.

While waiting for Thompson to come on I find I can’t really sit in the chairs comfortably and have to walk randomly about the Neptune theater. I do this every ten minutes or so. On one of these perambulations, for no real reason, I decide to go upstairs to the balcony. Then, for no real reason, I pause for a minute or so examining the CDs, t-shirts, and posters that make up the commercial back-beat of concerts today. Then I amble along the corridor and take the handicapped ramp down towards the main floor where the main entrance is. Outside it is a rainy night.

So anyway…

Then, for no real reason, I pause for a moment and pick up a flyer listing future concerts at the Neptune. That takes about three seconds. I turn to go towards the door to go back to my seat.

At that precise second, he comes through the door of the Neptune into the concert…

…. From sometime on the evening of the 13th of October to sometime on the night of what I think was the 22rd of October I have no memory. Ten days are expunged from my life as if they never existed. These were the days in which I was first effectively dead; then the days in which I was, thanks to a team of extraordinary ordinary heroes in the ICU, returned to life itself. 

…. he comes through the door of the Neptune into the concert. At that precise second.

I take one look and know the man as well as I know my brother. This man was my “respiratory therapist.” His was the first face I saw on waking from my coma. He was sitting at the end of my bed in the ICU with his chin resting on his hand like Rodin’s Thinker. He was wearing green scrubs and I think he had some broad bands of a Maori tattoo around his biceps. He glanced at me. I think he said, “I’m deciding whether or not we can take that tube out of your lungs now.” Then I drifted back into my drugged haze.

He did decide to remove the tube.

Soon after that, I could leave the ICU.

Soon after that, I could leave the Hospital.

Soon after that, I could leave my home to attend this concert on a rainy night in Seattle.

Soon after that, I could walk past the door at the precise second he comes through the door of the Neptune into the concert.

What do you say to a man like that?

For my part, I said, again, “Thank you for saving my life.”

He recognizes me and says, “You’re welcome but there were a lot of us involved. I’m glad to see you are doing so very well so soon. Don’t try and do ‘too much.’ Take it step by step.”

A bit more small talk and then a handshake and he moved off to find the person he was here to meet on his night off from saving the lives of strangers delivered to him high above the street at the Harbor View Medical Intensive Care Unit.

I make my way back to my seat and soon the main attraction comes out and begins to play. Thompson’s good. Surprisingly good. But at the same time, I think I’ve already seen the main attraction of the evening and I leave about two-thirds of the way through the concert.

At three that morning I wake in my dark quiet bedroom and I think, “A couple of seconds either way and I would have missed thanking the man who saved my life.”

And in that dim room with the day still far off I think, “What did that mean? What could it possibly mean? Does it mean something or is it just random?”

The only answer I have so far is, “I. Don’t. Know. But I do know what I want. I want more life.”

All I want from tomorrow 
Is to get it better than today

Step by step, one by one
Higher and higher 
Step by step, rung by rung
Climbing Jacob’s ladder…

[First Published November, 2011]

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Scullman October 17, 2017, 11:40 AM



  • Terry October 17, 2017, 3:27 PM

    I don’t know what I would do without American Digest. Hang tough Gerard.

  • pfsm October 17, 2017, 3:45 PM

    I agree, there are no coincidences….

  • Howard Nelson October 17, 2017, 4:11 PM

    The doctor is pleased that you permitted him to practice on you. The doctor’s subsequent patients are similarly pleased. You must be pleased, as a subject of his practice, as having served to hone the doctor’s expertise serving so many others later on. Well done and rare!

  • CCW October 17, 2017, 5:20 PM

    For my part I said, again, “Thank you for saving my life.”

    I said that a lot back in 1994 when I was crushed by a wall on a construction site.
    I went to see the paramedic who called for the helicopter before she even got out of the ambulance. She was very happy to see me alive. I visited with the helicopter pilot who flew me to the trauma center that day. After I was transferred out of ICU, the ICU nurse who was on duty the day of my injury came to see me. She expressed her amazement that I had survived. They had not expected me to make it through the night.
    I believe that the angels that work tirelessly to save lives really rejoice when someone beats the odds. I give thanks for every extra day I have had since that day in March, and am most grateful for the chance to see my sons become honorable young men.

    • MMinWA November 13, 2021, 5:27 AM

      very cool

  • R Daneel October 17, 2017, 5:50 PM

    Synchronicity does exist.

  • ghostsniper October 17, 2017, 6:06 PM

    Excellent. You came back. It wasn’t time. Yet.

  • Snakepit Kansas October 17, 2017, 8:02 PM

    You appear to be semi-agnostic. I do not judge. I only hope you come to realize and recognize our Lord. His yoke and burden are light.

    As usual, you are correct. Our time does not necessarily need to be over now, but we do not get out of this alive. There certainly are some good folks here at American Digest.

  • Deana October 17, 2017, 9:09 PM

    Snakepit Kansas –

    I agree. The people on this site are calm and sane. Thoughtful. Just normal people sharung thoughts. It’s lovely.

  • Chuck October 18, 2017, 6:13 AM

    I too agree. American digest is the first thing I look at while having my first cup of coffee. Often, what I find there illuminates the rest of my day.

  • Joyful October 18, 2017, 8:13 AM

    Maybe means you both have excellent taste in music…

  • Outdoorspro (former) October 18, 2017, 10:33 AM

    And at a Richard Thompson concert no less… Poignant in so many ways.

  • ed in texas October 18, 2017, 4:31 PM

    OK, GV, smartass comment of the day: How does one do one and one-half times around the block? By my mathematical acuity, that would leave you on the other side of the block Trips around the block need to be in whole numbers if you plan to sit on you porch afterwards.
    (I’ll stop now…)

  • Vanderleun October 18, 2017, 4:57 PM

    Well, on that particular day in the recovery I got one and a half times around the block and ran out of energy and had to call home to be picked up.

  • Casey klahn October 18, 2017, 6:32 PM

    Weird spiritual things do happen; the thing is to notice them.

  • Howard Nelson October 23, 2017, 6:32 PM

    In Proverbs, 3rd or 4th chapter, there are lines that say, ‘ lovingkindness and truth will not abandon you, tie them about your neck, write them on the walls of your heart.’ As you’ve lived you’ve done so.
    You may wish to blame your mother.

  • gwbnyc April 6, 2021, 3:04 AM

    prior to 21 June ‘83 I was never in the right line.

    in the turn of a moment thereafter, I was somehow never not in the right line.

    so began the “no coincidences”, and so it has remained.

    if it’s available to me, it has to be available to anyone.

  • Annie Rose April 6, 2021, 6:10 AM

    My husband shared a story that when he was 19 in the late 70’s, he was working as an EMT and taking classes at a community college. Before class one day, a student sat down next to him, glanced over, and said “You’re the guy! You’re Keith! You saved my life! Thanks man!”

    As they talked, this guy told him that my husband had saved his life at a construction site during the previous year when a wall in an unshored deep ditch collapsed on him, trapping him under a heavy pile of dirt six feet underground. By the time he was dug out, his heart had stopped. My husband was the EMT working on him to get his heart beating. He worked on him in the back of the ambulance all the way to the hospital, finally got his heart beating again, and released him to the emergency room doctors.

    Here’s the miracle part: this guy was at no time conscious. He was dead, then brought back to life, but never opened his eyes in the ambulance. So how did he know that my husband had saved his life?

    He told him that while my husband was doing CPR on him, he was watching from overhead as if in a dream. He could see my husband working on his body but was outside of his own body. He described in detail what my husband was wearing, what he did, and what was said. He knew that his name was Keith, because he heard the guys on the ambulance call him by name and saw his name tag. Miracles do happen. God is good.

    • MMinWA November 13, 2021, 5:31 AM

      wow, way cool

  • Jack April 6, 2021, 7:21 AM

    I bump every other comment today. AD is my favorite site and disagreements of opinion or not, we are a group of sane folks who are fortunate to have arrived here.

    There are no coincidences. Beyond our human ability to sense or to understand, our lives, if we yield them, are guided by the Hand of a Kind Creator.

  • Terry April 6, 2021, 7:26 AM

    Annie Rose,

    Wow! What a wonderful story. You have brightened my life. Your husband is a true Hero indeed.

    Thank you for posting this event.

  • Bear Claw Chris Lapp April 6, 2021, 7:52 AM

    Yes there are no coincidences, but what it really means is God is not done with you or me yet. Been on bonus time over a year now and life is grand thanks be to God.

  • CC April 6, 2021, 8:01 AM

    Ed in TX – I suppose he could have walked 3/4 of the way around the block, then turned around & walked back, equaling 1 1/2.
    I’m just happy we are all still upright!

  • Vanderleun April 6, 2021, 8:07 AM

    Annie Rose… great tale. Greater husband. Thank you.

  • Annie Rose April 7, 2021, 3:45 AM

    Thanks Gerard. My husband is my living miracle and hero. Eight years ago this coming Father’s Day, his own fire department guys saved his life when he suddenly started collapsing at home. Half his heart had suddenly filled with blood clots and to this day his doctors have no idea why. They think it was from the stress of his job of over 30 years as fire chief of our town. I was told at the hospital that he luckily had been brought in under the magic 45-minute window. Otherwise he would have died from what they call the widow maker. I guess God wasn’t ready for him yet.

  • jwm November 13, 2021, 6:43 AM

    How often it is, that small gestures bear the seeds of great trends in our lives. The tiniest decision can spin out events in a vast web of coincidence that catches us up, and connects us with others in ways we never imagined possible.


  • SteveS November 13, 2021, 10:36 AM

    “Divine appointments” is how I look at them. They’re everywhere, all the time, whether we are open to them or not, although awareness is always a good thing.

  • Dirk November 14, 2021, 8:37 AM

    Luck plays a huge part of living/life.

  • rabbit tobacco November 12, 2022, 9:02 PM

    Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful, with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my seventy-five years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence, has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained. In other words, if it ever were to be possible to eliminate affliction from our earthly existence by means of some drug or other medical mumbo jumbo … the result would not be to make life delectable, but to make it too banal or trivial to be endurable. This of course is what the cross [of Christ] signifies, and it is the cross more than anything else, that has called me inexorably to Christ. malcom muggeridge

  • mistersurefire November 13, 2022, 5:49 AM

    “All you touch and all you see, is all your life will ever be”…Pink Floyd, Breathe (In the air).

  • Tellurian November 13, 2022, 7:07 AM

    What stood out most to me in this remarkable story is the doctor’s attitude. Consider the man who had responsibility of someone else’s life laid on shoulders. Consider his response to thankfulness for a job well done and a life saved. I’m not sure if I’m more impressed by his voluntary humility or willingness to adhere to the truth of the matter at his own expense. It’s ironic how true humility increases the measure of a man.

  • ghostsniper November 13, 2022, 11:55 AM

    At three that morning I wake in my dark quiet bedroom and I think, “A couple of seconds either way and I would have missed thanking the man who saved my life.”

    And in that dim room with the day still far off I think, “What did that mean? What could it possibly mean? Does it mean something or is it just random?”

    It’s ghostly man.
    Not exactly the same thing, but a similar theme:

    For so many different directions
    Our separate paths might have turned
    With every door that we opened
    Every bridge that we burned