When I first conceived of writing this essay, my memory of reliving it was so extreme that it vividly transported me back in time to that event. I made contact with the emotions surrounding it, and the way things smelled during the experience. I also relived how the rain felt on my body, as well as the sounds it made. The event itself was not all that spectacular but my reaction to it was vast and visceral. It was magnificent to behold as I watched it unravel and develop. At one point I just stood in the middle of a field with face pointing skyward, catching raindrops in my wide-open mouth.
The reason this experience and subsequent memory of it is so fantastic is because all five of my senses stored the experience in their own unique way.
But the main reason this essay is still so powerful to me (even to this day, even this moment) is because of the philosophical and/or spiritual understanding which accompanied it. And it came as a direct result of an existential moment I had during the encounter. I can still remember what it felt like to surrender. Surrender to what, you may query? To the inevitable, I would note.
But what I’m truly trying to describe through this incident is that my total surrender to the situation, to the moment, led to a feeling of overwhelming peace. And it was the first time I had experienced anything like it, but not the last.
Several years back I had a brush with death where I said goodbye to my life after relinquishing “control” of it to the God of my understanding. I surrendered my will and my ego to something greater than myself. This total surrender led to the kind of peace that passes all understanding (per the apostle Paul). So, as I laid dying, I felt an overwhelming sense of wellbeing before my world turned black. What happened to me during this near-death experience was otherworldly. And I have written extensively about the experience, and I may one day share it with you.
I woke up subsequently in a hospital intensive care unit room filled with hoses and wires, many of which were attached to me.
In the 60s, kids in Greenville were safe to pretty much wander around anywhere, anytime, and be completely safe in doing so.
The following experience occurred in 1960, approximately; I was ten years old at the time. I rode my bike to a nearby grassy field a few miles from home. I parked my bike under a nearby bridge and took off with a single purpose. I was a hunter that day. I walked along a small creek for over a mile looking for frogs. I was equipped with a frog gig and BB gun. I fancied myself, Bwana, the great white hunter.
On that particular day, I did not spot a single slimy croaking frog. I was just about ready to pack it in when I noticed the air cooling. It started to smell like rain was on the way. I looked toward the western sky and noticed an exceedingly large ominous gray cloud elbowing its way through the more benign smaller puffy ones. There was a major storm brewing, and I was a mile from my bike and a two-mile bike ride from home.
It was a late summer afternoon, and the air was still warm. I started to jog towards my bike. Within minutes the rain started to fall – slowly at first, but steadily increasing its pace. I started running at this point. The rain was coming down harder and stronger by now; the drops got bigger and closer together. The rain was warmish to the touch, but the drops were so large that I felt every one of them crash land onto my sprinting little physique.
Somewhere about midway back to my bike, I slowed down to a trot. Running no longer mattered. I was running initially to keep from getting soaked but by now I was drenched from head to toe. Even my underwear was thoroughly soaked. Eventually, I stopped trotting and started to walk. I could feel the water squish around in the bottom of my PF Flyers with every new step, but I no longer cared.
At some point, I stopped walking and just stood there and soaked up my surroundings. I didn’t know it at the time but what transpired in me was surrendering to the inevitable. My goal of somehow keeping dry completely evaporated, in direct proportion to the ubiquitous water filled air.
As I stood there and looked skyward, the rain pelted my face and body. And then a calmness surrounded me. This was the first time in my life that following a surrendering event (after a well-fought battle) I was overcome by the sensation of peace. I had a slight concern at the time that my BB gun might rust but I didn’t care. I had a paper route so I could always buy another one.
I stood next to a bend in the stream. I watched the rain hit the water. I watched for a few minutes and then proceeded to my bike. This brief encounter with the storm and stream is a memory so deeply burned into my psyche that it seems like it happened last week. I can still see the field, stream, and storm clouds rolling in. I can still smell the rain, as well.
Let me tell you why I wrote this essay. All of us have vivid memories of our past life adventures. And sometimes these memories involve just us. I am the only human being that had this one specific experience, yet it was real. It was real to me and no one else. I have many beautiful memories of solitary happenings, as do all of you. We are all deeply connected, I believe, but life is also a solo event in which we experience countless unaccompanied flights and harrowing adventures. Do you have a happening in your past that still feels like it occurred last week? Can you recall it with all five senses involved? Can you relive it in any way?