A Season of Hope
By Tim Tron
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, …” – 2 Timothy 1:7
Kevin was early for his shift at the big box store Thursday morning. His wife, Janelle, of just five years, had made him a surprise breakfast in bed. It wasn’t his birthday, nor any other reason to celebrate other than that she was like that – always finding ways to make his seemingly mundane life joyful. She planted a kiss on him before he walked out the door, handing him his lunch bag and pressing a little trinket into his hand. After walking back to the loading dock where the semi-trucks were waiting to be relieved of their cargo, he took out the little gold chain that contained a heart-shaped locket. As he started to open the golden keepsake, a forklift operator and four other men walked past him into the rear of the nearest trailer and began to unload pallets of groceries. Kevin began walking and joined them, taking his place deep inside the dimly lit cavern of the cargo container. He started to put the surprise back in his pocket when the sound of rushing wind came from above. Before he could look up, the weight of an entire pallet of flour and oil, nearly a ton, came crashing down upon his body. There was nothing left, no time to react. There was no time to fear death, only an instinctual bracing against an onslaught that no human should survive.
“That thing that is unknown yet known to be, will always be more or less formidable.”
Crushed beneath the massive weight, unable to breathe, the youthful life began to slowly ebb from his being. As the soul clung to the last vestiges of existence, the light within, that lifeform known as the spirit, no longer found reason to remain. As one preparing for a journey to a new home, the floors were sept, the bed was made, and the last details finalized as the door began to be closed one last time. But, in a reprieve of his terrestrial life, the door did not shut. Minutes later, the oppressive mass was slowly lifted. Breath, once obliterated by that immense weight, began releasing its deadly grip. While the spirit returned to his soul, the shelves made barren would take time to restock. A clean slate had been granted. It was now up to him to cast out all life’s burdens and anxieties – to accept his fate and testimony as unique as his name. The name that is only known by him and God. “And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone, a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”
The chopper landed in the parking lot of the store. Crowds of onlookers gathered, hoping to catch a glimpse of the reason for the unusual sight. The Flight EMTs raced from beneath the spinning blades, stretcher between them, as they rushed to the victim. Loading him, they returned almost as quickly as they had left, and once in the transport, it lifted off, headed for Charlotte. Gordon, the lead technician, began checking vitals with his teammate, Jackson, a routine they knew by heart. They were seasoned paramedics, having seen almost anything and everything in their long careers. The patient was intubated, an IV was inserted, pain meds were administered, and the neck brace was secured. Once stabilized, they had a few minutes to reflect as the chopper flew at breakneck speed for the best trauma unit in North Carolina.
“This one didn’t look good,” Gordon thought to himself. He’d seen all sorts of accidents where victims had been crushed in automobile accidents and construction sites, but this was a first. The patient didn’t have any contact information when they picked him up, so for now, they had nicknamed him, Asheville. Gordon knew from the vitals when a patient probably would or would not make it – he had somber doubts about the future for this one. If Asheville made it, he definitely would be a vegetable for life. The pressure on the young man’s body had been so extreme his eyes had been nearly pushed out of his skull, and blood had been pushed through his sweat glands. Gordan shook his head no as he looked over the body of Asheville at Jackson, who was seated opposite him. They tried not to get their hopes up. Early on, they had learned this mistake the hard way.
As the chopper flew intensely toward the big city, Gordon happened to look down at the side of the patient. Though they had secured him tightly to the stretcher, he had noticed that the young man cradled something in his still-clutched hand. Leaning in to get a better look, the aircraft hit a small air pocket, and the cabin frame bounced. Asheville’s hand opened slightly as Gordon saw a small golden chain begin to slip from the grasp. Not wanting to lose a patient’s belongings, Gordon gently pulled the locket from his unconscious fingers. He held it up, showing Jackson, then gently opened the locket. Inside was a tiny picture of a beautiful young woman on one side and a cross on the opposite. Underneath the cross was a tiny engraving that read, “Love is the Greatest Commandment, Love, Janelle.” Although he always tried to maintain a breadth of separation between him and their patients, this one suddenly found a tight spot in his throat. He looked over at Jackson who by now realized something was up with his buddy. Jackson shrugged his shoulders, saying in the headset, “What’s up?” Gordon gently lifted the chain and locket over to Jackson, who did the same, opening the tiny gift and revealing the message and image inside. He then gently handed it back to Gordon. Both seasoned First Responders sat in silence, each looking but not looking at one another.
“Darn it,” Gordon spoke under his breath, looking down at his flight boots, trying to regain his composure. When he could finally look up, he noticed Jackson doing the same. They sat in silence, periodically checking Asheville’s vitals as they prepared for their approach to Atrium Hospital, neither wanting to talk about the young man that lay before them. A young man who would never be the same if he lived at all.
Once the tracks of the Life Flight landed on the roof of the hospital, Gordon and Jackson had the still-unconscious Asheville unloaded and rolling to the ER. There, they were met with a trauma team already prepped and ready to perform surgery as needed. Gordon lingered as Jackson filled out the usual paperwork before leaving. The ER team confirmed Gordon’s fears, brain trauma likely with definite signs of brain bleed. “This one will be lucky to survive the night. If he did,” the doctor leading the team said, “He’ll be comatose the rest of his life.” They immediately began performing the scans needed to determine how to start the operations to save Asheville’s life if it were to be.
“Doctor,” a nurse called, “the family is here.”
“Bring them in.”
From all his time in the paramedic corps, Gordon had seen all kinds of despondent family members wailing and weeping at the sight of their loved ones. But this one hit him harder than usual. The beautiful blonde, the one in the image of the locket, came around the corner screaming, barely able to stand, being supported by two older women. Her attractive form was now marred with uncontrollable crying, the mascara stains running down her flushed cheeks. He knew this had to be Janelle. He turned to leave but watched out of the corner of his eye as the doctor and his team tried to comfort the distraught woman. “Ma’am,” the ER doctor spoke calmly and assuredly to the young wife, “I’m not going to give you any false hopes. He will likely be a vegetable for the rest of his life. I can tell you right now he’s got all the signs of a brain bleed. If he lives, he will never be the same.” The young woman collapsed on the floor as the medical team began to try to revive her ailing, slender frame.
“This will be another one that’ll be hard to forget,” he told Jackson as they headed out on another call. Jackson nodded, looking away as they ran toward the waiting bird. The chopper lifted off, gaining altitude as Gordon looked out the side window as the roof of Atrium disappeared from view, and beneath it, that family mourning the pain of their beloved. “Did he even have time to fear the death that awaited him,” Gordon thought to himself, “Or did he realize it and know that this was the end? Was he prepared?” Gordon watched the city pass below as they raced to the next accident, and one last thought came to mind. “Am I ready, and will I fear it when death comes?”
Two days later, Gordon and Jackson were working the day shift when they were called for a Life Flight back to Atrium. “Hey, you wanna check and see if Asheville made it,” he called to Jackson as they loaded the next patient into the chopper. “Sure, I’m curious, but dude, don’t get your hopes up,” Jackson responded. Gordon nodded in agreement.
Gordon found it hard to sleep the night after they had dropped off Asheville. In the scene of the young woman falling to the floor, all hope seemed to have left her body. The opposite of what the doctor had been trying to convey. But then again, what was hope? He had pulled his old college Bible off the shelf, turning to Romans 8:28, and read, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Then he found a bookmarked page and turned to it, reading, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment.” It was then Gordon realized how much he had forgotten to lean on God. There was a continual sense that the aircraft they flew in each day had a short life expectancy for its occupants, crew, and pilot. Then, the danger of entering disaster scenes. All of which required him to push away the thought of fear, but not in a healthy way. They were nothing more than self-imposed avoidance of the truth. After all these countless hours of rescuing others, he had almost lost what was most important: his relationship with God. That night, be prayed before slipping into bed, thanking God for his life and reminding him what it meant to cast out all fear with that perfect love.
After checking their patient into the ER, they checked the hospital patient registry. Sure enough, Asheville was listed in room 3153. “Hey, he’s still with us,” Gordon called across the room to Jackson.
“Asheville, the man with the crush,” he mused at his teammate. It was a kind of trench humor that one had to adopt in their line of work. “
“Let’s go see him. We’ve got a break until 1500 hours.
“Cool, let’s go.”
Before entering the room, each man tried to mentally prepare himself for what they would see. They had already been pleasantly surprised to find the young man they thought would surely be dead to still be alive. This was just a bonus. No matter what state he was in, they would at least be able to see the family, if there was any, and give them their encouragement about him making it this far after what they had seen. Each man knew for sure that they would see either a comatose patient or, at best, a mentally impaired shell of a man.
Yet, Gordon and Jackson were unprepared for what awaited them in room 3153.
As they entered, the talk in the room abated, leaving the door open for Gordon and Jackson to introduce themselves. As they did, Gordon’s eye caught the patient update board. Asheville’s real name was Kevin. He nodded at the update to Jackson, who likewise realized Asheville had a name. Feeling a little overwhelmed with the attention, Gordon shoved his hands into his pant pockets, a habit in times of stress. The moment he did, he felt the coolness of the chain against his right hand. Terror struck his heart. He realized he had never returned the precious keepsake to Asheville, who he now knew as Kevin. Not wanting to forget it, he quickly drew it out, keeping it in his closed fist until the time was right. But for the moment, his attention was drawn to what was before him.
There, sitting upright, alert, and talking to those family members gathered around him, was Kevin, their Asheville. Physically, he looked like he had been hit by a Mack truck. His face told the story. The blood that had been pushed through the sweat glands had coagulated, making a freckled pattern around the black-and-blue eyes, still slightly swollen and bloodshot, with vast swaths of blood replacing the whites of his eyes from the intense pressure they had experienced. But what was even more amazing was that Kevin was conscious and aware of his surroundings.
“This kid should be dead,” Gordon thought inwardly. He had no more thought of the words when Kevin looked directly at him.
“Don’t I know you?”
“I doubt it,” Gordon replied, somewhat taken aback, “You weren’t in any condition to recognize me when we met a couple of days ago.” The others, including Kevin, chuckled at this.
About that time, a young woman walked into the room, followed by an older gentleman, “Probably her father,” Gordon contemplated. Gordon then realized she was the image in the trinket he still clutched in his hand. She was Janelle.
Gordon could feel the lump rising in his throat again as he fought it back down. “We came to see how Asheville, I mean Kevin, was doing. We were the first responders who airlifted him here last Thursday. He didn’t look too good back then.” Gordon looked at Jackson, who then continued, “We can honestly say we didn’t expect to find you looking quite,” he paused, “well, this good.” An older woman chimed in, “Praise God!”
Gordon then lifted the locket, “You almost lost this, which we meant to put in your personal belongings, but with all the chaos, we forgot.” He gently slipped it into the bandaged hand of the bedridden, bruised Kevin.”
“What’s this,” he asked, looking back at Gordon.
“It was something you had in your hand at the time of the accident.”
Kevin looked at it with a question across his brow. “I don’t remember having this,” he said, then turned toward Janelle, who now stood at his bedside. She then softly picked it up from his open palm and, with tears in her eyes, opened it and showed him the image and engraved words inside, “Love is the Greatest Commandment, Love, Janelle,” and gently placed it around his neck.
“It was the last thing I gave to you on your way to work last Thursday,” and this, as she leaned in to kiss him on the cheek, as she whispered the words, “I love you more than you can ever know and ever forget.” Kevin wrapped his bandaged hands around the love of his life and held her tight.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Gordon could feel the moisture on his cheeks as he looked toward Jackson, who was also fighting back his emotions. After they had shared their experience and thanked the family for allowing them to visit, the two men left the room. They walked in silence as they headed back to the helideck to catch the next flight. Each man thinking inwardly of what they had just seen and witnessed. There had been no brain bleed, no fractured skull, not one broken bone. It was Jackson who spoke first, “A darn miracle, that’s all I can say,” he paused, looking up from his boots into the eyes of Gordon. “You know what I mean.”
Gordon nodded. Words had not yet formed to match what his heart was saying.
All Gordon could think was that there before them, lying in that hospital bed, was proof of something beyond this world, beyond the understanding of the most talented, intelligent doctors he knew. God was the only answer to what they had witnessed. He was real. He was there. It was the proof he didn’t need, but he welcomed it. He would never take for granted again those moments when he needed that support, that shoulder to lean on in times of trouble – for he was there with them, even now. Gordon didn’t say it, but he was certain that God was working in his life at that moment more than ever before.
“Endless must be our terror, until we come heart to heart with the fire –core of the universe, the first and last and the living one!”
Two men climbed into the waiting chopper to fly to another disaster, another life in the balance, but with something different in each of them – a hope for tomorrow, an awareness that they were not alone, that God was with them. They were forever changed.
Thanks be to God.
Timothy W. Tron lives in Collettsville, NC. with his family. He is currently the Systems Administrator for the Computer Science Department at App. State. Timothy is the former Director of the Trail of Faith in Valdese, where he still volunteers and helps with tours. He is the author of a new Christian series, “Children of the Light”, with the first book being, “Bruecke to Heaven”, revised as “Bridge to Heaven”, and his recent book, being the second, “The Light in the Darkness”. He is an active blogger, artist, and musician. Timothy also has a BSEE from UF, and is a Lay Speaker. He is currently acting as the Faculty/Staff Liaison for the Ratio Christi campus ministry at App. State. He can be reached at email@example.com You can visit his website at //www.timothywtron.com/ or see more of his writings HERE