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The Day I Almost Died Article
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The First Miracle
Summer 1975 / Texas Gulf Coast ________________________________________________
Waves capped white
Breakers roar
Sea shelled sand
Tide washed shore
Windblown green
Dunes piled high
Shorebirds preen
Seagulls sigh
And time looks back at me.

…Not knowing was bad. But the waiting to find out was worse. Almost a month passed before my local doctor’s nurse called. He wanted to see me right away. I was there within the hour. The waiting room was more crowded than on the previous visit but they ushered me right into his office. A few minutes later he was behind his overloaded desk, trying to look casual but fooling no one but himself.

He opened a file and studied it for a minute. “Raymond,” he said, his voice softer than usual, “I’m afraid we’ve got a worse problem than we thought.”

“It’s okay,” I said. “I can live with one ear. The hearing's perfect in the right one. I’ll just have to remember to wear the earplugs.” I had already had time to steel myself for the news I was permanently deaf in my left ear.

“It’s worse than that.” He picked up a weathered book from his cluttered credenza, walked around the desk and sat in a wingback chair across from me. Opening the book to a marked page, he studied it a moment then looked directly into my eyes. When he finally spoke his voice was almost a whisper. “You have an acoustic neuroma.”

“A what?” Now I was really getting nervous.

“A tumor on your acoustic nerve.”

Tumors meant cancer. Cancer meant death. My stomach knotted.
Seeing I was rattled, he moved to a chair beside me, put his hand on my shoulder, and gave me time to compose myself.  I hardly heard him continue. “It’s probably not malignant, but it has to be pretty advanced to have pinched off your eighth nerve that suddenly. The problem is, if it’s not removed, it may pinch off other more critical nerves at any time.”

“Wait a minute Doc, you’re going too fast," I almost shouted. "What do you mean, pinch off other nerves? You said it wasn’t malignant. Can’t you fix this thing?”

“I can’t. It would take a neurosurgeon, a really good neurosurgeon, using state of the art equipment.” He said, handing me the open medical book, pointing to a paragraph as he read.

My mind was reeling.  My eyes blurred as I stared at the page.
ACOUSTIC NEUROMA: Benign tumor …eighth nerve…compressed cranial ventricle…loss of hearing then loss of…heart, breathing…eventual death due to primary functional failure.  Probability of abatement at advanced stages rare.

My voice sounded like it was coming from the bottom of a well. “Are you telling me I’m going to die?  And you can’t do anything about it? What kind of a doctor are you? What kind of a friend are you? What am I supposed to do?”
Hearing the outbreak, the nurse came into the office and closed the door behind her. “Maybe we’d better call your wife,” the doctor suggested, nodding to the nurse.

I turned to the nurse. “No. Wait.  I need some time to think this through.” Before they could respond I was racing down the hall. I could hear the doctor following closely behind me.

“I’m sorry Raymond. Procedures for microsurgery of this type are still in the experimental…”

I was out of the door and in my car, throwing it into reverse and flooring the accelerator.  I skidded out of the small parking lot, almost running over the teenage couple crossing the drive. It was like a bad dream. I was in a state of disbelief.

Soon I turned to outright denial. There was no way that doctor could be right. I was thirty-three years old, in the prime of my life. I was young, strong, and bulletproof. I had a beautiful wife, two wonderful kids and a sick mother-in-law who depended on me. I had a promising career. There were things I wanted to do. Things I needed to do. My life had hardly begun. There was a lot of living left to be done.

Somehow I ended up at the beach. Rolling down the car windows, I stopped on the sand. My favorite refuge seemed alien and gray. The sky was overcast, misty, darkened to the point the horizon of sky and sea became one. The water was muddied, the waves heavy with foam. The beach, littered with seaweed and trash, was devoid of life. No shorebirds, no seagulls, not even a scrambling sand crab. It smelled of death. The humid gulf breeze, suffocating as it saturated the car, bore the taste of stale salt.

By then I was mad. It wasn’t fair. I had done nothing wrong. Why was God letting this happen to me? I scrambled out of the car and headed for the sea. Forgetting my new pinstriped suit, fancy patterned leather shoes and red power tie, the uniform of choice for a young and aspiring company vice-president, I walked right into that pulsating surf. Hot and grasping, the swallowing swells were soon at my waist. Gritty sand eroded beneath me. The unseen undertow pulled at my pants legs. Raising a shaking fist into the air, I shouted to the heavens. “God, I’m going to beat this thing!” Then, the wind out of me, I almost went down. My life was over, my dreams destroyed, my hope vanquished. My destiny was no longer my own. This time the challenge was bigger than me.

Head down, defeated, I returned to the car. Slamming the door, I turned the key and stomped on the accelerator. The car didn’t move. Stuck! I was stuck in the sand. With life running out, suspended in time, in a place all alone by the sea. Folding my arms over the steering wheel, I put my head down and cried.

How long I wept there, I do not know, but by the time I looked up the world had changed.  Rays of the setting sun filtered through breaking clouds, now a crimson red. The white capped waves were dancing dunes of gold. Sliding remnants of the surging surf caressed the silvered sand, a silent serenade to the passing day. Searching seagulls drifted near and far. Shorebirds skittered in and out of the water along endless tide-swept shore. Never had I seen a more beautiful end to the day. Perhaps, I thought, God had heard my plea. No longer angry, just drained, I got out of the car and walked back out into the surf.

Tears and sea mist mingled as one as I lifted up my open palm to the glorious heavens above. “God,” I said prayerfully, “If it’s your will, we’re going to beat this thing.” As I watched in awe, the clouds parted and the magnificent orange ball of the sun slowly settled below the glowing horizon. No longer afraid, I waded back toward the beach. Reaching the shoreline, I turned about once more, shouting toward the darkening sea and sky. “And when we do,” I promised, “I’ll tell the world.”

The moment those words left my lips something changed. I no longer felt afraid. I no longer felt alone. And I knew, I knew in my heart and soul, that with God’s help whatever was to come we would handle together. My salvation was no longer up to me. God was in charge and God’s will would be done. And I would live to tell the story.

Even with that revelation, for a very brief moment I hesitated, wondering how I could be so sure that God really heard. God’s answer came instantly and the proof wasn’t far behind. The heavens didn’t open up, and thunder didn’t roar, but a gentle peace enveloped me. The pounding of the surf became one with the rhythm of my heart. The evening breeze, chilling my wet body only moments before, became a warm caress that urged me on my way.

Returning to the car, forgetting about being hopelessly stuck, I started the engine and drove off that lonely beach toward the waiting arms of my family. As I felt the tires grip the solid surface of the paved asphalt road, miraculously free from the sand trap of moments before, it dawned on me what had just happened. God had set me free.

His plan for me was already in action. The miracles were underway…

Publisher: Ambassador International
© 2009 Raymond L. Burroughs, God Smiles for Me

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