|Word Count C-9 = 3,207||Montgomery|
As Pierce entered the ICU, Geoff could see him from inside of Luke’s room. Jumping up to greet Pierce, Geoff grabbed the sides of his broad shoulders. “A miracle has happened, Pierce! A miracle! Come look!”
They entered Luke’s room together. To Pierce’s utter astonishment, Luke was sitting up in bed—fully conscious and disconnected from all of his tubes and lines! Pierce had had no clue as to what Lt. Müller’s affirmation of her belief in miracles had meant, and he certainly had not considered that it could mean this! He had assumed that he would not see Luke again in his lifetime.
Dr. Cohen, who had been talking with Luke, turned to Pierce, exclaiming, “I don’t know what you did, Mr. Nevin...but it worked! I haven’t seen a recovery like this in over thirty years of practicing medicine!” Again he addressed Luke: “You should be able to be transported to a regular room within the hour, as soon as the results of the tests and x-rays we just took become available.” On his way out, the doctor gave Pierce a pat on the back.
Pierce’s mouth remained open, in utter astonishment, as Luke smiled at him across the room. Then Luke extended his hand. Pierce had a difficult time shaking the feeling that he was in a dream, but finally he forced himself to walk over to shake Luke’s hand. As he did, Luke expressed, “Thanks for bringing me back...Tank. God is proud of you.”
Pierce now looked puzzled, as well as astonished. “Why did you call me ‘Tank’?”
Luke laughed. “Years ago, at the gym, before I knew your name, you reminded me of a steel ‘tank’ wherever you walked. You always leaned slightly forward, with marked confidence and determination, as though nothing was going to stop you from getting from ‘here’ to ‘there.’ I envisioned you, even back then, as a mighty warrior of God rolling boldly through enemy territory, scoring victory after victory for the Almighty.”
Geoff laughed. Pierce grinned and commented, “I sorta like that name...‘Tank.’ But don’t thank me for your recovery, Luke...thank Jesus!”
“Oh, I assure you, I already have, and I always will,” returned a grateful Luke.
Geoff remarked, “Well, this is a sight to behold! I think you two guys have some interesting discussions ahead.” Pierce and Luke smiled at each other, nodding. “Hey, Pierce, you haven’t said what went on at the police station.”
Pierce gave Geoff and Luke a full account of the proceedings, which had transpired earlier in the interrogation room at police headquarters. When he finished, he looked at Luke and stated, “It sounds like all the members of the Lacey family are unfortunate prisoners of ‘Pride Island.’ I’ll be praying that they can escape.”
“Yeah, me too,” agreed Luke. “I’m glad you indicated to Darius that I probably have forgiven him, because I do. Although he is culpable for his actions, no matter how dysfunctional and torn-apart his family is, I think he should be given another chance at life.”
Geoff knew that the forgiveness of Darius, demonstrated by his two friends, was heartfelt and genuine. “Hey Pierce...now Luke has an account to tell which will utterly amaze you.”
“Oh, yeah?” Pierce’s curiosity immediately was sparked. “What’s that?”
“Well...after my heart stopped, my spirit left my body. I observed the earth tremor, saw how you laid your hands on my chest, and watched the police arrest you. The next thing I knew, I was...well...in heaven!”
“You’re kidding?” Half-jokingly, Pierce queried, “So who met you up there...Saint Peter?”
“No...,” responded Luke, “actually, it was Abraham. He was a thick-barrel-chested man with a magnificent robe. He proclaimed, ‘Go with this angel; you have an appointment at the throne of the great God, Jehovah.’”
Pierce’s eyes opened wide.
“As I walked along, I did not crush the resplendent flowers in my path; my feet just...passed right through them! There were perfectly formed blossoms of radiant white, along with every possible color and hue. I recall thinking that, if I could have spent an eternity sitting in that flower garden, gazing upon the infinite spectrum of rainbow tints and inhaling the indescribably rich aromas, it would have been reward enough.
Pierce continued to stare at him, entranced with his account of heaven.
I particularly remember the roses, gardenias, and jasmines, along with the exhilarating fragrances emanating from each. All of the flowers, in concert, produced a low, musical humming sound and gently turned toward me as I passed by them. The Holy Spirit of God permeates every plant—and, in fact, all things in heaven—and is the Power which galvanizes everything to Life.”
“I think Geoff here was wondering about those jasmines!” Pierce pointed at Geoff. “Sorry, Luke...go ahead. This is pretty astonishing!”
“Well, I lagged behind the angel and beheld rolling hills and meadows, radiating the most brilliant greens I’ve ever seen. Majestic mountains, some with snowcaps and some without, towered above wide, deep valleys. The regal peaks ranged in hue from intense purple to creamy blue, according to their distance away. The crisp, clean air enabled me to see extreme detail on their jagged sides, even on the ones appearing to be hundreds of miles away.”
“Hey, Luke, let me ask you something before I forget,” Geoff interrupted. “Did the angel who guided you have wings?”
“Yeah, two; but some angels had none,” Luke replied. “Next, my attention was captivated by the clattering of water in a rivulet, as it swirled around polished, multicolored gems. I had to stop to examine it. The rushing water sounded like...like a million tiny hands, applauding with exceedingly great joy! It was similar, on a smaller scale, to the exuberant clamor made by the trees as their branches swayed in the breeze. I had to dip my hands into the brook and capture some of the crystal clear water.”
Pierce was thoroughly intrigued. “What was it like?”
“This smooth, velvety fluid, passing over my tongue and down into my stomach, felt like...like liquid ecstasy!” Luke reached over, poured some iced water, and sipped a little. “And it was indescribably tastier than this! I wanted to stay awhile, but the angel urgently compelled me to continue on.”
“What else?” Pierce entreated.
“Along this enchanting journey, I heard birds chirping and singing, all in silvery, melodious concert. Animals of every imaginable variety leaped and frolicked, as though suddenly having been...‘freed from bondage’! People of all races and colors talked, laughed, sang, and danced. Children vaulted high into the air and floated down, arms uplifted, with squeals of delight.”
Pierce’s mouth was open, and for a few seconds he even felt a wave of exhilaration rushing through his stomach. “Wow!”
“Yeah, I know!” agreed Geoff. “But you haven’t heard anything yet! Go on, Luke.” In eager anticipation, Pierce drew closer to Luke.
“I remember being amazed that there were no shadows anywhere. I asked the tall, blond-headed angel why nothing cast a shadow. He told me, ‘God is light, in Whom there is no shadow or darkness.’” Luke held up his hand for a few seconds, seeming to observe the shadow it cast upon the white sheet covering him. “Oh, yeah...I noticed that many of the people I saw were clothed with white gowns, while others wore gorgeous robes. The robes were thicker and more luxuriant than the gowns and were covered with elegant, ornate stitching. Those wearing robes walked straight ahead, without straying, on the same path I was taking; however, those wearing gowns eventually veered off the main path, smelling flowers and leaves and playing with some of the animals.”
“What was the difference between those groups of people?” Pierce inquired.
“I asked the angel why some people had gowns and others robes. He replied, ‘All have appointments at the throne of the great God, Jehovah. Some receive gowns of salvation, others robes of righteousness. The former did not live to the fullest glory of God. But the great God is merciful; they will attain. The latter have taken on the righteousness of the Lamb and are worthy to approach the throne now.’”
Geoff suggested, “Maybe some with gowns, although saved, accepted their salvation just before death and, in effect, were ‘snatched from hell’s flames’ at the last possible moment.” Luke agreed that this could be the case. Pierce recalled the unearthly orange light—cast by hell’s unquenchable flames, he supposed—flickering amongst the black shadows of the abyss in his dream. He thanked God, silently, that he would be spared from that.
Luke continued. “Then, suddenly, people began to announce repeatedly, ‘He’s coming! He’s coming!’ I looked and...”—Luke gazed upward at the ceiling, as though into heaven again—“and I saw Jesus walking toward us!”
Pierce sat down on the side of the bed, his eyes riveted to Luke’s.
“He wore a pure white robe with a wide, golden sash around His waist. The robe looked like...it’s hard to put into words...like...a billion sparkling diamonds reflecting the light of a billion suns shining on them! As Jesus approached, I fell helplessly at His feet, like a limp rag. Through the holes in his upper feet, I could see light from the other side.
“You mean where the nails went through?” Pierce asked, almost incredulously.
“Yes. Then the angel put his hand on my shoulder and picked me up. I looked at Jesus’s face, and it shone like...the sun...and His eyes were like...individual torches of blazing fire, piercing the darkness of a black dungeon. I had to look away. Then Jesus said, ‘I brought you here to give you a message: Go tell my people I am coming.’ I was perplexed and replied, ‘Lord, they know that.’ But Jesus exhorted me sternly, yet gently, ‘No...they are not fully aware. Go tell them I am coming.’ Then numerous little children ran up to Jesus, grabbing and hugging him and singing exquisitely beautiful songs.”
Pierce was in awe. “Wow...I can’t believe you saw...Jesus! I mean...I believe you...it’s just that....”
“I know, I know! I assure you, I’m more overwhelmed than you are!”
“Tell him what happened after that,” Geoff urged.
“Then...I witnessed the most extraordinary phenomenon. I’ve always believed in the Trinity, but I never really quite understood it. I saw Jesus being transfigured into a mass of extremely intense energy and light! Somehow, I knew that He was becoming One, in form, with the Father. I perceived a...like a...white-hot cluster of effulgent, powerful light—Jehovah Elohim—shielded by smoke, alternating with an outward human, corporeal projection—Jesus. Jesus and the Father were one...yet, at the same time, two...and the Holy Spirit permeated their essence, completing the Trinity. I could not fathom the profound Love which I clearly perceived to exist in Their midst. I wanted to enter into this fascinating amalgamation; but I sensed that I could not exist inside of it—at least, not in my present form.”
“You know,” Geoff pointed out, “the image you just described reminds me of the transfiguration of Jesus described in Matthew 17, where Peter, James, and John saw his face shining like the sun and his clothes becoming as white as light.”
“Yes, exactly what I was thinking,” concurred Luke. “And do you recall, in that biblical account, when a bright cloud enveloped all of them standing there, and a voice out of the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!’?”
“Yeah, that seems to correspond very closely with what you saw.” Geoff smiled. “I can’t wait to get to heaven to see it for myself!”
Pierce prodded, “What else did you see, concerning God or heaven?”
“Well...while I was beholding the fullness of God, my attention was drawn to four creatures, covered with eyes in front and in back, each with six wings. The creatures flew around the throne, declaring harmoniously, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.’ I knew that these creatures had been doing this continuously for untold eons of time, and it suddenly dawned on me how it could be that they never tire of making the same revolution around God, over and over again.”
“How?” quizzed Geoff.
“Each time they circle the infinite, multifarious God, they behold a facet of Him that they’ve never seen before! Not only do they never grow weary; I suspect they look forward to each orbit with even greater anticipation than the one before! As soon as I realized this, I knew that all people existing in God’s Kingdom, forever, will be anything but ‘bored’!”
“Funny,” remarked Pierce, “I guess I always viewed ‘heaven,’ if there were such a place, as one big, continual party. And, even in my younger days, I’d get enough of ‘partying’ for awhile. So, I never could see what the big deal was all about. You’ve really opened up my eyes, Luke...buddy.”
For a few moments, Luke could not believe that this person—who had rejected his friendship for years—now had saved him, twice, and was calling him “buddy.” His throat tightened, and his lacrimal glands went into action. He grabbed Pierce’s wrist tightly and reiterated, “Thank you for being willing to be God’s tool to save me. I appreciate it...Pierce!”
Pierce grasped the wrist of the hand holding onto his own wrist. Through a few joyous tears of his own, Pierce responded, “You’re welcome. And thank you for being so persistent...and patient...with me. I fear I would have been lost, forever, without the endeavors of you and Geoff here.” Geoff sat down on the bed and gently pounded Pierce’s shoulder a few times with his fist. Pierce continued, “I just wish I had...accepted your friendship sooner, Luke. I’m sure we’ve both missed out on a lot of good times.”
“Yeah, maybe, but at least there’s an eternity ahead to catch up on what you guys’ve missed,” Geoff laughed. “Hey, Luke...wasn’t there more?”
“Yeah, where was I now?” He and Pierce released their mutual grips.
“Uh...the creatures orbiting around God’s throne,” reminded Pierce.
“Oh, yeah. Then my angelic guide told me it was time to return. On the way back, I saw a family of five sitting on some grass, having a picnic. I asked the angel about them. He explained that all of them had died, at once, in a car accident. Then he said, ‘But the great God Jehovah is merciful, and all of them are here together. One of the children had not been born yet at the time she had died; now, her parents are teaching her the precepts of God.’”
Pierce never had wanted a family, always having regarded himself as “too independent” for one. Now he mused, I wonder if I could have one...with Vanessa. Oddly, for the first time, the thought did not spook him.
“That’s about it...well, except for what that big, robust angel told me right before I left, at the same spot our brief expedition had started. He advised me, ‘Remember this, Luke: The Blood of Jesus has not covered your sins; it has removed them. Now, go and tell His people that He is coming soon.’ The next thing I knew, I was lying here, with Geoff on one side and Doctor Cohen on the other. And I felt absolutely great...still do!”
Jerry Wells cleared his throat. Pierce stood up and turned around. “Hey, Jerry, you just get here?”
“No...”—Jerry shook his head once to each side—“actually, I heard most of his description of heaven. Pretty fascinating!”
“Jerry, you know Geoff here,”—Jerry and Geoff nodded to each other—“and this is the amazing Luke Steen.”
“Hey, Luke!” Jerry waved. Luke waved back. Then Jerry noted, “It looks like you’ve made a pretty phenomenal recovery!”
“Yeah, you might say that! How’re things goin’ with you?”
“OK, considering that my world has been turned upside down in just a few days! Hey, Coach...what’s the lowdown on Raquel and Coach Young?”
Pierce briefly related what had taken place at the police station. “So, I guess Raquel and Steven are in the same boat now—although not in the boat they ever expected to be in, I’m sure.”
Jerry disclosed, “You know, I heard today from two of Raquel’s co-cheerleaders that she and Coach Young had made plans to elope! I suspected for some time that she was seeing someone else besides me. Recently, I thought it was Darius. I never would’ve guessed that it was Young! Anyway, I’m sure I’ll get over it. There are other fish in the pond!”
Pierce approached Jerry and slapped his opposite shoulder. “That’s the right attitude, Jerry! You’re a true optimist.”
“You know, Coach...I just wanna tell you that you’ve set a good example for me ever since you came to Foothill High, and I’m not the only one who feels that way. Everybody looks up to you, because you’re a solid example of integrity and persistence, among other things. You sorta remind me of...like an armored tank, determined to get where you wanna go in life.”
“Thanks, Jerry. I appreciate the compliment.” Pierce squeezed Jerry’s shoulder for a couple of seconds. Then he looked over at Luke and laughed, “Now, I guess I’ll really have to live up to the name of Tank!”
Suddenly, a pale Dr. Cohen, his hands trembling, appeared at the doorway. He said nothing for a few seconds, as though trying to get a grip on reality. Then, walking over to the x-ray viewer and clipping on three film plates, he articulated, “Luke, you aren’t going to believe this. I can’t say that I myself, as yet, have accepted it.” Removing a pen from his pocket, the doctor shakily pointed to the location in each of the three x-rays of Luke’s heart where a bullet should have been—but was not. “See?...no bullet!”
“Could it be that these are someone else’s x-rays?” Geoff proposed.
The doctor removed the middle film and put up another one in its place. It was identical to the film on its left, except that it clearly showed a bullet imbedded in the left ventricle, plus it showed edematous tissue not present on the other x-rays. Dr. Cohen insisted, “Believe me, along with the x-ray technicians and the other doctors here, I have considered every conceivable alternative. Very simply, we no longer can detect a bullet inside of Luke!”
Luke lowered the sheet and opened his hospital gown. All that could be seen, at the spot where the bullet had entered, was a tiny, barely perceptible indentation in his skin. Everyone else present approached Luke to examine it more closely. Jerry’s mouth hung open in astonishment. Luke, repressing tears, exclaimed, “Thank you, Jesus!” Pierce and Geoff repeated Luke’s words in unison and then “high-fived” each other.
Dr. Cohen took a seat, seemingly before his legs collapsed underneath him. He related, “I am a Jewish man, and I’ve never cared to hear a word about...‘Jesus.’ But, now...I guess my curiosity has overcome me. Would anyone care to explain to me what Jesus has to do with any of this?”
And, on that wondrous day, among five special men, was commenced a close, personal friendship which would continue throughout eternity.