If you passed me on the street, you would never guess I nearly died at ten. My clothes would not reveal that I’ve stood amid ruins of ancient cultures and spoken three languages. In fact, my appearance would fail to inform you that you’re better off not knowing anything further about me. And yet, you clicked on this page, so I’ll divulge a little.
I’m the third child of a missionary couple and spent my formative years in Rome, immersed in the language and culture. Following a church service one balmy Sunday evening, I made the fateful decision to ask my dad if I could go get my bike. My older, and much taller brother was playing a rousing game of basketball with the other kids in the courtyard. They viewed me as a nuisance, perhaps because they didn’t see me right away and tripped over me. At any rate, I wanted to do something fun, so biking was on the docket.
I hurried home, up a steep hill, past half-built apartment buildings and down a less steep incline to our apartment. After getting my bike, I raced back to the large hill, zooming down, feeling the stiff breeze flap through my hair and buffet my face with fresh, Italian country air. These were the days when wearing a helmet was simply not done. I don’t remember how long I cruised in and out of the courtyard, hazing the basketball players, but my fun did come to an end.
Exiting the gate, witnesses heard a crash and saw bikes fly into the air. Soon after, a boy with a bloody nose came running. My body lay convulsing on the asphalt, my mouth full of bile, my lungs filling with vomit.
By the time my dad reached me, I wasn’t breathing. Having learned CPR in the Navy, he got me breathing again and I was rushed to the hospital. A large sub-cranial bruise had formed, pressing in on my brain, leaving me in a coma.
At the hospital, doctors drilled into my head to relieve the pressure and I spent the next few days in intensive care, comatose.
I remember the blue walls of that dark place. I remember being wheeled down the hallway when I awoke. More than anything, I remember the square needles they used to stab into my right butt cheek every day leaving perforated holes. Once, with tears in my eyes, I requested mercy and asked that they inject me on my left butt cheek. The nurse smiled, nodded and said, “Of course.” Except she said it in Italian. Naturalmente.
Then the witch skewered me on the right once more.
My time in Italy wasn’t all bad. In fact, this event gave me a front-row lesson in the brevity of life. I began reading my Bible daily and praying. I studied and decided I’d become a missionary one day.
I also enjoyed the food. Quite a bit.
I have fond memories of the Roman Forum, the Catacombs, the Colosieum, the leaning Tower of Pisa and the various castles in Asisi. I remember good friends that I made, the sleepovers, the swim lessons and trying to set up a comic book sales stand in the middle of a busy square. We actually made some money … then spent it on candy right away.
I believe God ordained the events that lead to my accident. I believe He directed that boy to come racing down that hill to hit me. In fact, throughout my life, I’ve seen God’s hand in many things, not all of them good. As Job said, “Should I accept the good from the Lord, and not the bad?” Truth is, He’s set his intention of love on me, and that means that all things work together for good.
I didn’t end up becoming a missionary as some define it. Instead, God has led me to lead what most consider an ordinary life. I don’t stand on a platform or get calls to headline events. I don’t give alter calls. Instead, I write stories and blog posts. I urge people to think about things they might otherwise ignore. Through this, I hope God will use me for His glory–which is the good that all things work toward.