So we are up to the chapter than includes the portion that was put in my head when I prayed for God to help me become a movie maker. As stated before I had started writing this as a script but couldn’t get it right and I think this is working better. It may never become a movie or even a real book but I’m happy that people are so interested in it.
Previous chapters can be found in the hover menu at the top of this page.
More Than a Neighbor
It was bad enough that Nelson had brought food over but what was worse was just how good it was. I had been eating the frozen lasagnas for so long I had forgotten what a good homemade pan could taste like. It was irritating how good it was. Not the kind of Sunday that makes you feel ready for the coming Monday.
I didn’t wake up to my alarm that morning and was running late. I rushed Kora out the door to catch the bus for school and then ran around trying to get ready for work. I ran out the door and can’t tell you if I even remembered to lock the door.
And of course, Nelson was out there. “Good morning neighbor. Hope you enjoyed the lasagna yesterday.”
Of course he would bring that up first thing. “Oh yes, it was very good, still appreciative.”
He chuckled today, “Oh I didn’t doubt that. I was just worried if it would turn out good at all. I haven’t done a lot of cooking since my wife died.”
So then he wanted a pity party? I didn’t have time for that, “Oh no it was very good. I’ve gotta run though very late for work.”
“Ok then, have a great day.”
“Yeah you too.” I threw everything into the passenger seat and started the car just as my phone went off. Vivian was texting me as the salon was busy already. I started replying to the text as I was backing out. ‘Yes I’m on my way,’ was all I sent back. I didn’t look up to watch where I was backing out to because I’d done it every day for years.
Because of that I didn’t see the grill of the Dodge pickup bearing down on me. I had pulled all the way across the road and it was heading straight into my driver side door. I faintly remember hearing a horn blare but otherwise everything just went black.
When I came to I was sitting in my car but I couldn’t really move very much. I wasn’t in pain, necessarily, but I knew I must be pinned somehow. I looked up and saw someone standing across from me surrounded by a great light.
“YOU’VE GOT TO REACH OUT TO ME!” the person said to me, voice booming.
“Why should I reach out?”
“I’m trying to SAVE you, please reach out to me.”
“Save me from what?”
“At this point, I’m trying to save you from yourself.” The voice boomed a little quieter and seemed a little more familiar, so familiar I knew just who I was talking to. My HEART knew who I was talking to.
“I can’t save you if you don’t reach out to me.”
The light shifted and God took form. “Wait, you’re my neighbor.”
“I am only what you make me, no more.”
“But why are you my neighbor?”
“Jillian, I am your Father, King, and Savior. It is you who are my neighbor.” I must have looked confused because he continued without me saying anything else. “You occasionally say hi to me in the mornings. You hang your head in shame when you’ve sinned as you head into the protection of your home. You call on me only when you really need something yet you talk bad about me when you are doing well. The real question is why are you MY neighbor?”
“But what about all those things in my life? Above all Danny beating me and deforming Kora.”
“You feel I wasn’t with you because you think I let it happen. But rather things were happening and you failed to realize all the opportunities I gave you to get out. I delivered you into your mother’s arms after your daughter was born and yet you went back to the house that had driven you away from me.”
“But all the bad in my life…”
“Was not my fault. There is evil in this world, when the evil comes at you do you want me as a neighbor or a Father?”
“What do you want me to do?”
“I WANT YOU TO TAKE MY HAND!” The light moved around and again the figure was surrounded by a glow and the booming voice was back. I was scared and not ready to leave everything behind.
“I’m not ready to go.”
“I’m here to SAVE you. TAKE MY HAND!”
“I AM NOT READY TO GO!”
“You are the most stubborn lady I have EVER met.” Suddenly fire spread all around and it became very warm. A hand reached out and grabbed me and pulled on me and I was sure it was over. I had chosen wrong. Pain finally did sweep over me and everything went black again.
I was waking up. No wait, I wasn’t waking up. Was I awake? Was I dead? Why am I cold? Why is it so dark? I struggled to find something familiar. Instead thoughts and memories swirled through my mind without any sense of correlation to one another. Many memories of my dad and I fighting that just ended with me screaming at him. Often the memory would be escalated way beyond reality and I would see myself grow in size and my father would shrink and cower into a corner. I wanted to cry at these memories and scream ‘that’s not what happened’ or ‘I’m sorry’ but I couldn’t speak or affect anything going on.
These memories would morph into a more fantasy like scenario of me screaming at Danny for all he had done to Kora and myself. I wanted to cheer myself on but instead I would be screaming at him and lose my voice and not be able to continue.
As it went on, more and more memories, thoughts, and these weird fantasy dreams were just me being angry and yelling at everyone and no one was safe. I yelled at my mother for telling me to talk to Danny. I yelled at Nelson for talking to me. I even yelled at Kora for being so nice and forgiving. I was a monster.
This all seemed to go on forever until I was having another memory of yelling at my father when a beeping occurred. It was faint at first and then got louder and louder. I started yelling at father telling him to stop beeping but he just shook his head and started crying and told me he was proud of me. I yelled at him again for leaving me and the beeping got louder. Then it hit me what the sound really was. That stupid beeping machine in the hospital with the haunting reminder that his life was hanging in the balance would happen every time a memory of my father came up.
This went on for a long time again until the beeping started occurring in every memory. No matter what it was or who I was yelling at the beeping, the horrible beep of death, would be getting louder and louder.
During another memory the beeping grew so loud it was all that I could hear. There was no memory, no anger, no dream, just beep; beep; beep.
“So the truck and car were kind of stuck together and a fire had started in the engine of the truck spreading towards her, consuming her, and her neighbor pulled her out to keep her from getting burned.” The voice of my long time friend Vivian echoed around my head.
“It’s such a miracle he was there.” Now my mom’s voice spoke up and inside I wanted to scream out, TRIED to scream out that I was there. Please wake me up.
“It’s funny, in a dark sort of way, that she was always so mad that he was always outside in the morning trying to talk to her and it turns out that because of that he was there to save her.”
I screamed louder, or tried to, but the voices faded away and the memories and dreams and my own haunting screams came flooding back. Somewhere inside me I knew I was in a hospital and it was my beeping, not my fathers that I was hearing.
I continued to hear conversations from friends and family float in and out of my head. Sometimes it would just be the conversation backed by the beat of that stupid beeping machine. Other times the conversations would seemingly interweave themselves into my dreams.
I learned a lot in those snippets about what people knew or thought about me. They prayed for me a lot and wished me to get better. They were happy that Nelson had saved me yet he never seemed to be there. Kora believed God would save me and kept telling Amy May about how she thought I was one of the strongest women she had ever known.
It was when everything was silent, with no voices and no memories and no dreams but rather just the rhythmic beeping of that machine going that I felt myself moving. Not just inside myself but my body, my body felt like I could dance if only it weren’t for all the pain. My fingers tingled and I started to wiggle them around. Then my eyes started to open and a soft light coming from the door started to show up.
A hand grabbed onto my wiggling fingers and my mother’s voice, tired and weak yelled out, “NURSE! NURSE SHE’S AWAKE!”
Waking up from the coma was one of the hardest things I had ever done. It made me realize that even though I was in a customer service field and talked to customers all day I really hated people. I realized that at the salon the customer was usually the one talking and I was just listening and nodding my head which was what I did over the weeks following waking up.
I also realized I was terrible at remembering names of people I hadn’t seen in years. Family members, friends, coworkers, people from Kora’s church and people from Mom’s church even drove up to say how happy they were that I was OK, I suppose they used the relative form of OK as I had been in a coma for over 2 weeks and they were able to drive and walk around and sleep in a real bed and eat real food. I’m sure they also smelled better.
If I’d thought that listening into short snippets of conversations taught me anything I was blown away by the news that Nelson was thankful for being able to help me. Can you believe him? He saves me and then thanks me for doing it. He really is too much. Anyway, he had been praying to God for direction since his wife died and he really didn’t know what he should be doing. Now he’s applying to train to be a firefighter.
Kora and my mother never left my side and I got each of them to have different ways of explaining to all the many people coming through the doors that I wasn’t feeling up to talking very long. My room was filled with hospital flowers and while there were way too many for the small space I was in I was at least thankful that they weren’t graveyard flowers.
People I did know got the story of myself talking to God during their visit. The first people were Vivian and my Mother who, even though my mother is very spiritual, both pointed out that most of the conversation was actually part of the exchange between Nelson and I. The part that we didn’t say they assume is when I had passed out for a moment before he was finally able to pull me out.
Kora believed me and I loved her more for it though she didn’t understand why I kept apologizing for yelling at her.
Everyone else had one of two basic reactions. The first being the same as my mother and Vivian and the other just that of looking as though talking about God talking to me made them uncomfortable. The look that says, ‘you should probably have them scan your head one more time before you leave.’
The last person I told I hadn’t set out or planned to tell or even ever talk to. It was Kora’s pastor.
His name was Jason and he was very young to be a pastor in the experience I had throughout my life. I questioned how he could even be old enough to be out of college until I found out he had a wife and 2 kids. When she told me he was coming I was worried that he was just going to talk about how I needed to submit myself to Christ and be thankful for all I have been given but he turned out to mostly talk about Kora and how much she talked about me that he felt like he knew me. I learned a lot about a part of my daughter that I didn’t know like she would occasionally sing on stage and even though she didn’t sound perfect she sang with the spirit of God and she sang for God. He told me about how the first time she sang on stage she was so scared that people would say something about her scars or her voice but went out anyway. He had told her not to worry about it but ‘you know how kids are’ is the way he put it.
It turned out that she instead asked to speak about her scars before service started so he and the worship director said ok and let her talk. She spoke for about 2 minutes quickly yet nervously explaining that she had been burned by a hot bath her dad had given her when she was young but she prayed that he was doing well and she had forgiven him. She then helped the band sing Hosanna and Jason said no one had a dry eye including the band, his wife and himself.
She had told me how she liked to sing at church but had never really gone into details that she would occasionally get up with the band and encouraged other kids to take part in the program that had gotten her to sing on stage where the worship team tried to get kids to show off their talents on stage. Most had been scared even if they were better than Kora yet seeing her courage led them to try and one week they even had every position filled and played by children under 12 except for the drummer who was 14.
He had me in tears throughout most of the conversation even though he didn’t mean it as I realized that everything I had talked about being bad habits from this church of hers were things I loved the most about her and he, God, the church were all more of an influence on her than I ever had been. I told him that and he stopped me saying, ‘where do you think she got the strength to get on stage in the first place?’
So it came down that I decided to tell him about what I had seen. I told him about God talking to me and then all the dreams and visions and memories of anger that I was now feeling so ashamed of. I asked him if he thought I had talked to God and if God was speaking to me and totally expected him to just say ‘Yes and He wants you to come to church.’ Instead he surprised me again and gave me the following scenario.
“Let’s say you have two young men come in here today and you tell them both the story. One man was raised by a preacher and is very spiritual and he says it is a miraculous sign of God’s work in your life. The second man was raised in a house without God and had never been to church. He tells you that it was a dream and is nothing more than what you make it to be.
“Now twenty years later you see those same two men and they have forgotten the story so you tell them again. The man who was raised in a spiritual home has had a hard life and tells you it was just a dream and means nothing more than what you make it out to be. On the other hand the man who was raised without God has since found faith and tells you it is a miraculous sign of Gods work in your life. Jillian, what changed with these two men?”
I thought very hard about this and a lump grew in my throat. Whether he knew it or not and whether he meant it or not this simple scenario touched a deep place in my soul. A tear crept out of my eye and tried to sneak down my cheek but like an emotional ninja I quickly and slyly wiped it away thinking he wouldn’t notice this relapse into tears over a simple hypothetical question and replied, “I don’t know” rather meekly.
“Life. When it all comes down to it we are so consumed by ourselves that we will make any event in our life mean more or less than it really does. If we are negative and angry we will project all of our problems out to other people and even God. If we are being blessed or are generally happy we will tell people how good we are doing on our own without anyone’s help or maybe even tell them we thank God for his help though we rarely privately talk to God and humble ourselves before him to say ‘thank You for showing me weakness’ or ‘thank You for Your blessings.’”
“So, you’re saying I should thank God for speaking to me and showing me my flaws? So you think I did talk to God?”
“Honestly, what I think about that doesn’t really matter though I will say you obviously touched on some deep emotions no matter what. Feeling that you keep your God at a distance as a neighbor, almost on a leash basically says a lot not just about how you feel about your faith but also how you feel about all relationships in your life.”
I was silent. I had no choice but to be silent or admit to him how right he was though I’m pretty sure he knew just how right he was even though he didn’t flaunt it like I would have and tended to throughout my life.
Instead he just ended with, “The real question is do YOU think God was trying to tell you something?”
He spoke a little more about church and he did invite me although he really just said ‘you should come and see Kora sing next month’ which had been scheduled for this month but they had to move because of what had happened. I agreed with that statement and realized he had invited me to church without inviting me to church.
I laid my head back before mom and Kora came back into the room and thought hard about what he’d said until I started to cry as I realized how horribly I really had treated everyone in my life, including and certainly not in the least God, my daughter, and myself.