I’ve always been able to pinpoint exactly who I was angry at. When my parents got divorced when I was six, I was angry at my mom. When she remarried a guy totally the opposite of my dad, I was mad at her and the new guy. When the perpetrator destroyed my innocence, I was mad at him. When I kept making decisions as a young adult that I knew were really, really self-destructive, I was mad at myself. I don’t have a problem knowing who I’m angry at. I own it.
But through all of life’s hurts, I never once got angry at God. It would be fair to say that I understood the concept of free will from a really early age, and didn’t blame God for what people did that hurt me. Until the Motorcycle Accident.
On June 11, 2005, I was involved in a really bad motorcycle accident. A group of us were travelling down one of Oklahoma’s country highways when a van turned left in front of us. I was on the first bike that hit. It was a fluke that I was on this bike, as I usually never rode with anyone but my husband. But on this day, because I wanted to get pictures of him driving his bike, I was riding in the front with a friend….Two bikes hit the van, and three bikes were “laid down”, which means they basically slid on their sides to avoid impact. My husband, who had been bringing up the rear, was the only one who didn’t crash. Instead, he had the poor misfortune of watching his wife and friends all get hurt.
When the bike I was on hit the van, it catapulted me towards the top of the van, and the frame broke all of my ribs….all of them. Some were broken in more than one place. The broken ribs, in turn, punctured both of my lungs in several places. Needless to say, I was dying, and rather quickly. But, as luck would have it, two off duty paramedics happened to be at the convenience store right there, and had seen the whole thing happen. This is in the middle of nowhere at a tiny, franchised Joe’s Convenience Store kind of gas station. Talk about God hedging my bets! (You Rule, God!) They rushed out, and kept both me and another woman hurt really badly (Rose), alive until the helicopters and ambulances arrived.
My body was really torn up. On top of the lungs and ribs, I broke my collar bone, fractured my neck, bruised my heart, lacerated my liver, and fractured my spine and pelvis. And I was in a coma….thank God! I woke up twice briefly that day just long enough to pull the ventilator that was helping me breathe out each time, thus damaging my larynx. And soon after all of this, I developed ARDS and pneumonia in both lungs. I was dying. The whole experience of being in a coma was terrifying…I wish there was a better word for it, but words can’t express the confusion and terror….
Everything I just wrote had to be told to me by other people, because what I remember is something a lot darker. I was caught in hallucinations. It has long been debated that there are several levels of consciousness between life and death, and I agree. I just want to skip all of those next time and go straight from being alive to being dead. Just saying, God…
I still don’t like to talk too much about what my brain thought was going on. I will say that for the first few weeks, it was nothing good. I was caught in rooms with no doors and no windows, with strange red-lipped women. I was going to be killed by a terrorist cell. Some nurse was trying to rape me…It goes on and on. Had it gone on much longer, I would have probably just gone on and died. It would have been preferable.
While I was caught in Dante’s head, my husband was not pleased with the doctors taking care of me. And when Don isn’t pleased, he can be a very big pain in the butt. Three times they had taken him into the family room and told him to get my affairs in order. And three times, I just kept hanging on. Don had basically parceled out our three teenagers, and all but blew off his job. Medication couldn’t keep my blood pressure from soaring to dangerous heights, but his voice could. So, he rarely left the hospital — for months.
Three weeks into this whole ordeal, Don had had enough. He and a friend went on a quest and found out that the top pulminologist in Oklahoma lived right here in Tulsa. Her name was Dr. Grace Kennedy. That is another long story, but for times’ sake, lets just say that Don sweet talked her into taking my case, bullied the hospital into giving her rights to practice there, and threatened my team of doctors if they didn’t “invite” her to lead my case.
Dr. Kennedy, after visiting me once, decided to take a risk. She told my husband that all that movement I was making might not be pain; instead, it might be a reaction to morphine. She changed up everything — my bed, my antibiotics, and THANK GOD — my pain medication. She put me on Demerol instead. Immediately, I began to heal. Turns out, I was allergic to morphine and all those horrible hallucinations were being caused by that medicine. Every time I would twitch or moan, the nurses would give me more, launching me straight back into hell.
I have a few vague memories of coming to, but it is really hard for me to separate what really happened during that hospital stay and what happened in my head. Until one morning, a really loud voice said, “CATHERINE, WAKE UP!!” And I was awake. I mean, really, really awake. One, because the voice was really loud. And two, because only my dad calls me “Catherine”. It has always only been used when I was in trouble.
I was alone in the room for a minute, and I realized I was in a hospital room. Just then, a female doctor walked in. (Another miracle. How often do you actually catch a doctor in your room??) She seemed startled that I was awake. I motioned to her that I needed something to write on, and she handed me a pad of paper and a pen. I wrote one word, “thirsty”. She explained I couldn’t drink being on a breathing machine. I wrote a second word, “out”. This is another long story, but in the end, they took me off the breathing machine that very hour, and after several months, my numbers stayed where they were supposed to be. They didn’t drop even one point. Remind me to tell you about the moment my husband came in after that…It is just the most romantic story ever…
But I digress. One really significant thing changed about me the day I woke up. I realized I was angry. No, the word “angry” just isn’t graphic enough. I was pissed off. And I was having trouble understanding why.
The anger was just building and building. I was released from the hospital about a week later. I was supposed to stay on oxygen and cart around this tube of air…yeah, I don’t think so. I was a 37 year old woman…too young to be doing that. I tried going back to work, but lo and behold! I transverse numbers now..This is unacceptable for a bookkeeper. My life had been permanently interrupted.
I didn’t talk to God much those days. This is odd behavior for me. I chat with Him all day long. Well, I mean, He doesn’t chat back, but as you’ve probably guessed by now, I am a talker. That was my first clue back then that there was a problem.
Finally, I had to mentally set myself down and examine my feelings. You can’t begin to fix what you won’t acknowledge. And I admitted to myself that I was mad at God. Why? You aren’t going to believe this one….
It wasn’t because I was hurt so badly, or because my hallucinations scared me to death, or that my poor children had all been farmed out for months to people that were relative strangers to me. Oh no. Nothing that noble, or even understandable. I was pissed that God didn’t allow me to see Him or His angels during a near-death experience. My spirit didn’t get to hover over my body, and I felt like it was the least He could have done for me. Seriously.
Have you ever had to have a conversation with your God that you know is just about one of the stupidest conversations you will ever have??? Well, I did. I told Him I needed help getting over my anger. I thanked Him for what He had done for me and my family, and then I tried to explain to Him why I had wanted that so much, as dumb as it may sound.
You know what? He understood. He showed me that it was okay to be honest with Him and with myself. He can handle me being mad at Him. He showed me that there will be a time that I will be in His presence, but that had He given me a glimpse, I might have stopped living here on earth doing my job, and pined instead for what I had seen. He assured me that some people need the “push” that comes from seeing the other side, but for someone like me, who didn’t need that, it could have worked against His purposes for me. And lastly, He let me know that even this accident would be used to reveal His glory. I felt like He was thanking me for going through it.
It is the one time I have ever been angry at God. I doubt anything could make me angry at Him again. But should I ever feel that way again, I can take my concerns and disappointments straight to Him. He isn’t offended by my anger. He can take it!
Thank you again, Jesus!!