My baby sister, Jenn, is having a baby- a boy named Jack William. Baby Jack’s due to come into the world on April Fool’s Day, so we’re hopeful he’s already been blessed with a good sense of humor. Although my sister is understandably nervous about the process, I have to wonder what the miraculous experience will be like for my little buddy, Jack. It brings me back to a short piece I wrote some years ago. Sometimes, changing one’s perspective can shed an entirely different light on life…
It was like heaven, or at least as close to heaven as I could have ever imagined. Life was so simple back then and unbelievably kind. My room had plenty of privacy and not a soul bothered me. I basically stayed to myself for that period of my life. I suppose some people would say it was, “A time to find myself.” For me, it was actually just a wonderful time of personal growth.
Each night, the soothing sounds of waves crashing into nearby rocks gently lulled me to sleep. It was warm- like a summer night after a much-needed rain shower. And I can’t even remember feeling the thirst or hunger pains that I’ve felt since. At times, from a distance, I could hear the foreign tongue of a woman singing the sweetest notes I had ever heard. That was my favorite! She had such a lovely voice and there were many nights her soft melodies put me to sleep. She must have kept to herself because I never saw her face. Even so, I knew she was an angel and quickly came to rely on her to quell my smallest worries. It really was a heavenly time.
And then it happened! I can only hope that time will erase the memory from my mind…
I was waking from one of my afternoon siestas when a time of sweet dreams suddenly turned into a horrifying nightmare. All at once, the walls felt like they were closing in all around me. I didn’t know whether it was my imagination, a bad dream or just something I wasn’t ready to face when I heard a distinctive pop. The waves that usually brought on serenity began to rage out ferociously. Instinctively, I closed my eyes, while my head began to throb. As if it was placed in some invisible vice, the pressure was so great that it made me want to vomit. For whatever reason, the world had abruptly turned to confusion. I had no idea what was going on, but I knew it couldn’t be good. For the first time in my life, I was paralyzed with fear.
An incredible force pulled at my tense quivering body, drawing me in one set direction. At first, I fought desperately to go back. And then I saw it. It was a light; a bright light that came from a door I never even knew existed! To my own bewilderment, I was strongly attracted to the light and for more reasons unknown, I began fighting to reach it. My breathing quickened and my heart felt as if it would beat completely out of my chest. Still, I forged on.
Searching for that gentle voice that always calmed me, instead, I heard the most horrid screams coming from the other side of the door. Just then, the whole world began to shake and tremble and I knew I was not the only one in trouble. There was pain everywhere; in my body, my mind, my heart. The screams outside the door were far worse than anything I could have attempted. That alone scared me close to death. Still, some powerful force pushed and pulled me forward. I probably should have pinched myself, but the longer the experience lasted, the less it felt like a dream. Without knowing why, I went with it. The half of me that never wanted to go eventually gave way to the braver half. Call it curiosity, fate, whatever- something beckoned everything inside of me to go. So I did.
What a mistake! No sooner did I have my head outside the door than I knew it was a mistake. The light, that had attracted me so strongly just moments before, was now the most intense, obnoxious glare. It burned into my pupils and made my sweating head pound harder. I also remember the cold. No, not cold…it was freezing.
Finally managing a squint, I spotted the faces of strangers who didn’t look at all friendly. Some poked me, others prodded and then I looked down and saw it. It was blood. There were puddles of blood everywhere. “Oh, God,” I thought, but it was too late. Someone lifted me in the air, turned me sideways and slapped me. I screamed bloody murder. What injustice! I’d done nothing to deserve that!
And then I heard her. It was the gentle voice that had always sung me to sleep. She was back and at a whimper, she announced, “It’s a boy, Herbert, and he’s so beautiful. Light hair, blue eyes, ten fingers, ten toes…” but she couldn’t finish. She was crying and it made me feel horrible. Then she pulled me to her. At that moment, no matter what we’d just gone through, I knew everything would be fine.
As if breathing for the first time, I was laboring for air when I heard another familiar voice. This one was deeper and not as compassionate, but I still knew it. I shifted on the woman’s chest to listen.
The man said, “He looks like either a Jack or a William to me.”
My new lady friend began crying again, but eventually responded, “Then Jack William Fazzina it is!”
And as they say, the rest was history in the making. I was born and the journey had begun…
Steven Manchester is the author of three #1 bestsellers, including Pressed Pennies. Visit his website.