This story is by Matthew A. Nieland and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The greatest lesson in life I ever learned, I learned when I died.
It was a cool, fall Saturday and I got home from the shooting range around lunchtime. I greeted my wife Sandy. I put down my pistol case and gave her a kiss. “I love you,” I said.
She gave me a warm smile and said, “I love you, too! How was the range?”
“Good,” I said. “My marksmanship keeps improving. Going early was a good call. It got crowded before I left.”
I took my pistol and cleaning kit outside to the patio, sat down at the table, and quickly disassembled the weapon. I gave it a thorough cleaning. I reassembled the pistol, loaded it, and put it in the holster inside my waistband at the small of my back. I pulled my sweatshirt down over it.
I went inside and said, “Sandy, do you want to go to that new sandwich shop on Broadway for lunch?”
At the sandwich shop, we got our food and went outside to a table where we kept socially distanced from other patrons. As we sat down, Sandy quietly said, “Mac, fix your shirt. I can see your gun.”
I pulled my sweatshirt down and said, “Maybe it’s not so bad for people to see it. Criminals are less likely to attack someone they believe to be armed.”
Sandy said, “I still don’t know why you carry that thing.”
“I got the concealed carry permit to protect us,” I said. “With these protests turning into riots, I just want to make sure we’re safe. If they defund the police, we’ll be on our own to defend ourselves. The only way to stop a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun.”
On the drive home, I glanced over at Sandy and she gave me a warm smile. I put on my turn signal, checked my mirror, and looked over my left shoulder to make sure it was clear, then changed lanes to prepare for an upcoming left turn. I stopped at a stoplight. The light turned green and I drove into the intersection. A movement to the left caught my eye. I looked out the side window and my eyes went wide.
A red light runner was two feet away and coming fast!
Everything went into slow motion.
I screamed as the Dodge Ram truck smashed savagely into our car.
Our windshield shattered as the car folded around the pickup and slid sideways.
Twisting metal pressed into my side and pinned me.
I blacked out.
When I came to I was still in the car, pinned under twisted metal. Blood surrounded me. There was an eerie silence. I looked through foggy eyes at Sandy. She was looking at me and I saw her mouth in slow motion saying, “You will be all right,” but I heard nothing except the ringing in my ears.
The next thing I knew, I was in an ambulance. Fear thundered down on me with the ear-piercing wail of the siren. My throat tightened and the plastic oxygen mask over my nose did little to relieve my anxiety.
Later at the hospital, I heard the ER doctor say, “Get him into surgery, stat!”
They rolled me into a surgery room and six people lifted me off the gurney and onto the operating table. Doctors and nurses scrambled. I heard the ‘beep, beep, beep’ of the heart monitor. They put a plastic cup over my nose and I lost consciousness.
During surgery, I flatlined.
I left my body. I floated to the top of the room and watched the doctors grab paddles and try to shock me back to life. The heart rate monitor changed to a steady ‘beeeeeeeep.’ A frantic doctor said, “We’re losing him!”
I had no fear, no pain. I felt peaceful. A dark tunnel appeared and I floated through it. It led to a bright crystal garden with beautiful flowers, green bushes, and crystals as big as me. Clear quartz crystals, purple amethyst, blue sapphire, red ruby, and other large assorted crystals adorned the serene garden with brilliant colors. A vibration of limitless, unconditional love flowed through me that was off the scale and more intense than any earthly love.
A tall, smiling angelic man waited for me beside a crystal bench. He looked familiar, but I couldn’t place him.
He said, “Hello, Mac! Have a seat.”
We sat down and he said, “Do you remember me?”
“I’m Raziel, and we’ve met before.”
I asked, “Am I dreaming?”
“No,” he said. “This is not a dream.”
I asked, “Am I having a spiritual experience?”
“You are not a human having a spiritual experience,” he said. “You are a spiritual being having a temporary human existence.”
“What do you mean?”
“You are a limitless spiritual being!” he said. “You wanted to experience a temporary life on the physical plane. You chose this life.”
“I don’t remember choosing this life.”
“Your soul is immortal,” Raziel said. “Before you crossed over from the spiritual plane to the physical plane, you met with other souls and agreed to a life plan. You met with the souls of your parents and your wife and made agreements for shared experiences in the physical world. Once you were born, your soul became trapped inside a human body and amnesia set in. That started a lifelong search for who you really are and what your life’s purpose is. You set your life’s purpose before you were born. You decided the life lessons you would experience for your soul to evolve. You chose your family, where and when you would be born, and your death.”
“I chose my death?”
“The day you will leave your physical body and return to the spiritual realm is predetermined,” he said. “You picked it. You chose the date and circumstances before you came into this life. Once you fully accept that this was decided in a higher realm, you lose the fear of dying. You will see through the illusion of death and realize that your soul lives on.”
“You said I chose my life’s purpose?” I asked.
“Your purpose is to evolve spiritually,” he said. “True happiness and fulfillment do not come from money, titles, or material success, but from service to others. You evolve by helping others and bringing peace to the world.”
“How do I do that?” I asked. “It’s hard to spread peace amid the pandemic, economic upheaval, and violent mobs.”
“These are great opportunities for spiritual growth,” he said. “You are boundless and can help others. Find the loving nature in everyone you encounter and help them. The more peaceful and caring you become, the more you evolve spiritually.”
“Not everyone has a loving nature,” I said. “What if I encounter someone who wants to kill me?”
He smiled and said, “Remember that you are immortal! Responding to violence with violence resolves nothing and just continues the vicious cycle. That keeps you asleep and unaware of who you really are. Instead, abandon the instruments of violence and feel the spirit of oneness. Remember that we are made of energy. We are all part of a moving, flowing ocean of energy! We are all connected!”
He said, “You must go back now.”
I woke up in a hospital recovery room. I opened my eyes and saw Sandy sitting beside the bed holding my hand. She smiled broadly and said, “Welcome back! How are you feeling?”
“I’m okay,” I said.
We hugged and melted into each other. Holding her tight, I felt her heartbeat. Tears streamed down my cheek. She kissed me.
A doctor came in and said, “We almost lost you.” He checked the bandages around my torso and the cast on my left arm. He put his stethoscope to my chest and listened to my breathing. He said, “You’ll make a full recovery. You are very lucky.”
After the doctor left, I looked at Sandy and said, “I’m going to stop carrying a gun. I realize now that my desire to carry a concealed handgun came from fear. I feared not being able to defend us. Seen through the lens of fear, everyone is a potential threat. Now I know there is nothing to fear. Now I want to help people.”
“I am glad to hear you say that,” she said.
Sandy glowed. A golden light shined all around her.
“Your soul is evolving,” she said. “You are awakening to who you really are.”
That was the first time I saw her wings.