Sleepers Unbound #4: A Pastor, His Mother and the Hand of GodDec 6, 2016
Posted August 02, 2016 10:01 PM
It took believing in miracles for me to believe in God—and it took witnessing a miracle for me to believe in them. I’ve been preaching the Word of God since my mother died and came back to life.
It started as a hit-and-run.
My father worked at an industrial plant on the outskirts of town where he built hydraulics for large-scale vehicle braking systems. He was working his way up the ladder, and hoped to be shift supervisor by the end of that summer. The factory had once been a tire manufacturing facility before it was bought out by its current owner. For years, father would come home with black tire dust mixed in his thinning hair like dandruff. It would fall out of his pockets and boots when he changed clothes. I could always follow a trail of it to the bathroom, and it was my job to vacuum it up while father took a shower.
The mail usually arrived around 4:30—right around the time my father was washing the tire dust from his scalp and I was unraveling the vacuum cord and plugging it into the wall. We lived on the corner of Brummett and Quincy at the time, in a little boxed country house with high ceilings and a wrap-around porch. There was a big tree in the front yard (that would some years later come down on the house during a heavy Spring thunderstorm). It just so happened that on this day, while my mother was out fetching the day’s Burma Banner, the police were engaged in a high-speed chase with Victoria “Fanged” Flanagan, the infamous Vampire Killer, en route on Quincy.
We went through many vacuum cleaners while father worked at the plant. All but the Electrolux model could pull father’s work dust from the hallway carpet. It was a beast of a machine, and it roared like one, too. I never heard the police sirens, or the tires screech as they rounded the corner and pulled away from our tiny country house. To this day I still wonder how much time Officer March spent pounding on the front door before he finally decided to kick the door open. He pulled the vacuum cord from the wall. I thought I had simply stretched the cord to its apex. Only, having cleaned the rug the same way for years, I should have known better. I was already re-holstering the cord when I realized I wasn’t alone. I could hear the man breathing behind me. And then I saw the blue and red flashing against his face through the window and the blood on his hands and uniform.
“Is your father home, Cal?” he asked, looking straight through me. I didn’t understand it then, but I do now. Funny how clear the past becomes the further away it gets. Officer March was crying, right there in the hallway with my father in the shower and my mother’s blood as red as strawberries on his badge.
I think we stayed like that—frozen—for as long as it took my father to wash away ten hours of labor from his body; neither one of us knowing quite what to do about the other. That summer most people called Officer March by his more collegiate name: Coach, and in my book, it was his only name. When I wasn’t playing second base, I donned left field (truth-be-told, it was the position I preferred to play on account of I could flirt with Marci Higgins through the fence, and in the third grade, most boys couldn’t hit a ball to save their life, much less all the way out to left field). Coach had a way of making the game seem larger than life. Not in a competitive sort of way, mind you; but in the sort of way that it became an escape for most of us boys. He didn’t take the game too seriously, and I guess we enjoyed ourselves better for it. He used to say something along the lines of, “Baseball is about swinging a bat and hitting a ball, and it’s about throwing that same ball to someone else so they can catch it.”
However, the man standing before me wasn’t Coach March. I’m not quite sure he was Officer March, for that matter. He was someone else entirely. A shadow of both, perhaps. I don’t presume to know. All I can say is during those eternal minutes, I didn’t see a man I recognized.
Finally, when the bathroom door creaked open and my father appeared, half naked and the other half wrapped in an orange, raggedy towel, he didn’t quite know what to do about it either, it seemed. All of us, frozen in purgatory—a world between what needed to be spoken and what couldn’t be understood. (Most of us find ourselves stuck here, between worlds.)
It was my father who opened the box and let the evil in; he said, “March, who’s blood is that?”
Coach was crying like a child at this point, shaking his head from left to right, unable to give an answer. My father took a step forward. Each muscle on the small of his back turned to concrete. Beads of water crashed into the towel around his waist. “Who’s blood is it?” he asked again, this time not waiting long enough for an answer. He pushed passed Coach, knocking him to the ground. His towel slipped from around his body and fell into the man’s lap. I had never heard my father make those kinds of sounds before. I had never heard any man make those kinds of sounds.
The first time I saw my mother’s lifeless body was six hours later at St. Methodist’s in the basement with the rest of the dead bodies. It was after ten in the evening, and it was a school night. Father left the room and closed the door so I could say my goodbye’s. He said it was important that “I spend some time with her now, before…” (He never finished the sentence.)
The plaque in the hallway called this room the MORGUE. It was a comparatively small room, with three steal examining tables in the center and a rack of metal cupboards on the far wall, each of which were covered by square doors of the same material. There was a rectangular desk in the far corner with a stack of papers and a half-full carafe. No windows.
My mother was lying on the middle examining table. She was a mound of gray, boneless meat. Her skin was cold as ice and whiter than snow. I held her hand, squeezed it, even. But for the life of me, I couldn’t get myself to cry over her. I wanted to. I needed to cry, to feel some semblance of remorse. My mother was a beautiful woman. She had taught me how to play the piano; how to read in the car without getting carsick. And I loved her for those things and more. But I couldn’t cry for her. You know how terrible a feeling that is as a ten-year-old boy? Couldn’t even cry over his dead mother’s body?
But honestly, I felt the way a person feels when he loses his favorite comic book or baseball card or favorite thing—whatever it is. I felt angry and stubborn and bossy. Mostly, though, I think I felt like it wasn’t over. Like I was going to find my mother again. Slipped between the cracks in the sofa, or behind a dresser, or in my closet. Misplaced.
I remember even smiling at the notion as I held her palm in mine. I remember kissing her hand and saying, “I’ll see you at home, Mother.” And then I said something else, a line in a Psalm my mother kept by her bedside at home. She had taped it next to her jewelry stand and a stack of books. Just a simple piece of paper with an unsuspecting line in the middle, highlighted. It read: Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
My mother came back to life that night. She was dead, and the Lord brought her spirit back to this earth. He brought her back so I can tell His story. It is more obvious to me now than ever before. I was convinced my mother wasn’t dead. I believed it in my bones. I’ve spoken with my fair share of specialists, and they tell me I was in shock. That I hadn’t yet come to terms with losing my mother. That’s why I couldn’t cry for her. But that’s not true. It was faith. I had the faith that I’d see her again. Utter faith.
And that night, my mother’s body was resurrected.
For the past two decades, I’ve performed many miracles in the name of the Father. It’s time I share God’s glorious miracles to the world.
© Elliott J. Scott 2016. All Rights Reserved.