What Really Matters

In November of 2017, I nearly died -- twice -- in just over two weeks. The first, a motorcycle crash, left me with massive internal injuries and profuse internal bleeding. I survived that -- barely -- and some suggested I made it through because of how tough I am. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We know this life is finite. Every year on Ash Wednesday, Christians commemorate the truth that we are from dust and to dust we shall return. At the end of that service that begins the season of Lent, we wipe away the ash and return to our daily routines, with little or no further thought to our mortality. But as I lay on that roadside, the sand on which I lost control blowing across and pelting my face, my life was literally bleeding out. Paralyzed by pain beyond comprehension, unable to speak, unable even turn my face away from the sand-blasting wind, the reason I survived had nothing to do with being tough. Rather, it had everything to do with the God who at his birth as man was named Immanuel, God who is with us: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).” (Matthew 1:23).

Miles from cell service and even further from a hospital, my head cradled in the lap of a good Samaritan named Paul, I lay for over an hour on the side of that Colorado mountain road, drifting closer to death. In the deepest prayer of my life, I prayed scripture from the garden of Gethsemane, "Father, if it be possible, let this pain pass from me: nonetheless, not as I will, but as you will.” I prayed it over and over and over.

And He was there.

During the 45-minute ambulance ride to the hospital I prayed. When the trauma surgeon at the hospital explained that the category 4 laceration to my liver might not stop bleeding and since livers can’t be stitched, he couldn't save me, I prayed. And when time slowed to a stop and the room went silent, the surgeon and nurses moved in slow motion, then stopped moving at all and stared at the monitors above my head, I prayed. I don’t know how much time passed as I watched them watching the monitors. Then one of them smiled. Another fist pumped. When the third clapped his hands, it was as if the “play” button had been pushed, sound “turned back on,” the slow motion revved up to normal speed, and everyone went about their tasks. I prayed.

And He was there.

More now than ever, how unworthy I am frightens me. What I know pales before the complete knowledge of this God who created the heavens and the earth – He knows the true depths of my unworthiness. That terrifies me.

Yet still, He was there.

I was airlifted from the trauma center in Pueblo to a hospital in Denver where I spent a few days in ICU and then a couple of more days before being released late that Wednesday, five days after the wreck. But just two weeks later, I nearly died again in my home, when I went into septic shock. While the friend caring for me dialed 911, convulsions wracked my body so violently that the couch shook. At the peak of those potentially fatal convulsions, I hoarsely whispered the words, "Father, please help me. Father, please help me. Father, please help me…”

And He was there. The God of the Book of Genesis – the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph – the God promised by the prophets and incarnated by the Holy Spirit of the Blessed Virgin. He is God the Son, given for us by God the Father that all who believe in Him shall not perish but shall have eternal life. He was, is now, and always shall be Immanuel, God among us.

For that, we should all be eternally grateful. And of that, ever mindful.

Mike Kirkwood has authored What If…, a collection of short works and Fathers, a novel. Both are available at www.amazon.com.

In November of 2017, I nearly died -- twice -- in just over two weeks. The first, a motorcycle crash, left me with massive internal injuries and profuse internal bleeding. I survived that -- barely -- and some suggested I made it through because of how tough I am. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We know this life is finite. Every year on Ash Wednesday, Christians commemorate the truth that we are from dust and to dust we shall return. At the end of that service that begins the season of Lent, we wipe away the ash and return to our daily routines, with little or no further thought to our mortality. But as I lay on that roadside, the sand on which I lost control blowing across and pelting my face, my life was literally bleeding out. Paralyzed by pain beyond comprehension, unable to speak, unable even turn my face away from the sand-blasting wind, the reason I survived had nothing to do with being tough. Rather, it had everything to do with the God who at his birth as man was named Immanuel, God who is with us: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).” (Matthew 1:23).

Miles from cell service and even further from a hospital, my head cradled in the lap of a good Samaritan named Paul, I lay for over an hour on the side of that Colorado mountain road, drifting closer to death. In the deepest prayer of my life, I prayed scripture from the garden of Gethsemane, "Father, if it be possible, let this pain pass from me: nonetheless, not as I will, but as you will.” I prayed it over and over and over.

And He was there.

During the 45-minute ambulance ride to the hospital I prayed. When the trauma surgeon at the hospital explained that the category 4 laceration to my liver might not stop bleeding and since livers can’t be stitched, he couldn't save me, I prayed. And when time slowed to a stop and the room went silent, the surgeon and nurses moved in slow motion, then stopped moving at all and stared at the monitors above my head, I prayed. I don’t know how much time passed as I watched them watching the monitors. Then one of them smiled. Another fist pumped. When the third clapped his hands, it was as if the “play” button had been pushed, sound “turned back on,” the slow motion revved up to normal speed, and everyone went about their tasks. I prayed.

And He was there.

More now than ever, how unworthy I am frightens me. What I know pales before the complete knowledge of this God who created the heavens and the earth – He knows the true depths of my unworthiness. That terrifies me.

Yet still, He was there.

I was airlifted from the trauma center in Pueblo to a hospital in Denver where I spent a few days in ICU and then a couple of more days before being released late that Wednesday, five days after the wreck. But just two weeks later, I nearly died again in my home, when I went into septic shock. While the friend caring for me dialed 911, convulsions wracked my body so violently that the couch shook. At the peak of those potentially fatal convulsions, I hoarsely whispered the words, "Father, please help me. Father, please help me. Father, please help me…”

And He was there. The God of the Book of Genesis – the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph – the God promised by the prophets and incarnated by the Holy Spirit of the Blessed Virgin. He is God the Son, given for us by God the Father that all who believe in Him shall not perish but shall have eternal life. He was, is now, and always shall be Immanuel, God among us.

For that, we should all be eternally grateful. And of that, ever mindful.

Mike Kirkwood has authored What If…, a collection of short works and Fathers, a novel. Both are available at www.amazon.com.