“So, Will.  What do you do for fun,” Pastor Morgan asked.  I was back at the church, same office, same everything.  A cup of cooling coffee sat on the table next to me.

“Lot of things,” I said.  “I read a lot.  I take long walks.  I still like to run when I can.  Hang with Jewell a lot,”

“Do you ever go out?  Like to clubs and things like that?”

I shook my head.  “They’re too noisy for me.”

A puzzled look crossed his face.  “What do you mean?”

“I mean it’s hard to talk to someone when you can’t hear what they say,” I explained.  “I’m not a big fan of clubs, bars, and the like. Way to crowded. I end up watching people too much.  And where’s the fun in that.”

He smiled, “And why’s that.”

I noticed he was writing some stuff down.  “Well, for openers, I’m a cop.  You never know when something’s going to go down, or who might be gunning for you.”

“You ever had something go down in front of you?”

“You mean like pull a gun, or something in front of me when I’m off duty?  No, can’t say they have.  But for all things, there is a first time,” I answered.  “Besides, I just don’t like those settings. One beer is my limit.  And from what I’ve seen, people drink to excess and when they do, they do things which usually mean problems for me.”

“What kind of things have you seen people do?”

I thought about it.  “Fights are always good.  Domestic violence.  Kill people.  The quickest way I can think of to become a murderer is to drive drunk.  And it’s a real nice way to commit suicide, too.”

“You’ve seen this?”

I shook my head as if I was trying to deny having seen it, but I had, and I replied, “Too many times.”

“What was the worse one?”

I thought about it, and then put my chin in my hand.  “It was almost ten years ago. It was just a couple of days after Christmas.”  I let myself drift back to that night.

For such a cold winter, we hadn’t had much snow yet.  But you don’t hear Bing Crosby singing about a Brown Christmas, and it had just been cold.  I was a patrol deputy with the Sheriff’s Office, and I’d just come in from patrol to get a cup of coffee.  It was the Saturday after Christmas day.  The Sheriff’s Office Christmas tree was lit, and the windows were frosted with the spray on snow spelling out “Seasons greetings”.

In Antonito, Romeo, and Capulin, the bars were full.  People were dancing and partying.  I’d made my presence very known by doing a walk through or two, greeting people (especially those that were frequent flyers when it came to getting into trouble.  it was my way of letting them know that I was watching them.), and just generally keeping an eye on things.  Christmas was often times one of the few occasions where whole families got together, and everyone seemed to be making the most of it.

Surprisingly, everyone was having themselves a good time.  The night had been problem free, and I hadn’t had to arrest anyone yet.  I didn’t expect that hold true through the night, but one can always hope.

I took a sip of my coffee, and asked Little Joe, the dispatcher how things were there at the jail.  “Everything’s quiet,” he said.  “I let them (meaning the inmates) set up and watch television.”

I nodded, sipping the coffee and began heading for the squad room.  I was reflecting that my parents and I had had a conversation a week before.  They told me that my job was a cake walk.  That all I did was ride around and look important.  They couldn’t understand that every time I left to go to work, there was a chance I wouldn’t be coming back.  I’d also tried to explain to them that my day could go to hell with the ring of a telephone.

Like it was about to.

The phone rang, and I saw Little Joe straighten as he picked it up.  A sudden serious look came over his face, and he quickly began writing stuff down into the log.  He told whoever was on the other end, “Hold one, please.”  Then he looked over his shoulder and said, “There’s a bad wreck, right in front of the Rainbow.  A semi hit a car.”

I put the coffee down and headed for the door.  I ran to my patrol car, got in, and started it.  The minute I was on the road, I hit the over heads.  The night club was less than a mile away, and I had my foot in the carburetor, the big 440 screaming with power.  I was already on the radio, calling the Colorado State Patrol (the wreck would be their jurisdiction).  “Alamosa, Conejos 4, I’ve a report of a 10-50 at 285 near county road 13.  I don’t have any more info, but you better page out fire and EMS.  A semi hit a passenger car.”

“Copy that Conejos 4,” the state police dispatcher replied.  “Paging fire and EMS out now.  Let us know what’s going on when you get there.”

By this time, I was rolling up on the wreck.  “Alamosa, Conejos 4.  I’ve some info already.  Semi is jack knifed in the middle of the road . . .” And then I saw the car.  “Oh, God,” I radioed.  “He didn’t hit the car.  He ran over it!”

The car, a blue and white two door, had once been a nice car.  Now the engine compartment and the front of end of the drivers compartment was crumpled down like a box an angry person had stomped down. This was going to be a nightmare for traffic.

“I need Antonito PD to assist by blocking northbound traffic.   This is going to be a mess.  Show me out at the location.”

“Roger that, Conejos 4.”

I stopped the car broadside in the road, and flipped on the spotlight on that side.  My overheads were already on, warning oncoming traffic.  I grabbed my flashlight, and the hand held radio.  I ran to the car.  Two girls cowered in the back of the car, both of them scared out of their minds.  Already a crowd had gathered.  All the partyers spilled out of the nearby night club, attracted by the sight of something out of the ordinary.  It was a chance to see chaos exemplified, and maybe even see someone die.  I shook my head and reminded myself that I was dealing with a species that had tossed common sense and logic into the trash can thousands of years before.

Then I saw Pat Wheat standing there.  If there was one person who could help me right then and there, it was him.  “Pat,” I yelled.  “I need your help.”

Calling his name changed him from a spectator to someone involved in the action.  Little did I realize that I’d just changed his life.

The week before, Pat had been an inmate in my jail, serving a month long sentence for some minor offense.  He had a rep of being a tough guy that really didn’t stand once you got to know him.  Once you got to know him, he was one of nicest guys in the world.  Of course we made him a trustee, and he’d helped keep the place cleaned up, prepared meals, and the like.

While he was doing his time, the Red Cross had come in to get us all recertified on First Aid and CPR.  He was watching, and asked me, “Can I take this?  Seems like something I should know.”

“What the hell, I might need your help someday” I’d told him.  “I’ll pay for your class and testing.”

And so the county inmate took First Aid and CPR alongside us Law Enforcement types.  He took his test, got his card, and he thought that was pretty cool.  I don’t think he expected “Someday” to arrive so quickly, nor my being serious about collecting.  But he stepped it up anyway.

“What’s up, Will?  What can I do?” He asked, running to my side.

“You’re going to help me.  That’s what.”  I held my flashlight up, and peered into the car.  I couldn’t see the driver, the car was crumpled around him, but the passenger was sitting in his seat, his head bowed.  He was covered with blood, and every time he took a breath, his head would come up, and then go down.

I flashed the light into the back seat where the two girls seemed relatively unharmed except for cuts from the broken glass.  “Ladies, are you OK?” I asked.

“Get us out of here,” one of them cried, her face twisted with shock.  She knew something terrible had just happened, but was too sure what.

“I think my leg is broken.  I can’t move it,” cried the other.  Pain at least gave her some focus in her world, though it was clear she didn’t realize just had bad things really were.

Damn, I thought, that’s all I need.  Getting her out would be challenging and would have to wait for the proper extrication equipment.  But flashing the light over her leg, I realized that the seat had been shoved backwards, pinning her in a bit.

“OK.  Pat, let’s get this door open.  Let’s get them out.”  I pushed on the door release, felt it unclick, and then we both yanked on the door through the shattered window.  It gave a little.  “One more time,” I said.  By now, a couple of more guys had joined us.  “On Three!” I cried.  “One . . . Two . . . Three,” and we all pulled sharply on the door.  With a groan it gave way and opened, nearly toppling the injured passenger out, but I stopped him with a quick, steadying hand.

I glanced around, and I could see the truck driver and a woman in the cab of the semi.  They looked OK. I looked at one of the guys and said, “Run over there and ask him if I can have some blankets from his sleeper.”  He did and a moment later came back with a couple of thick quilts and a blanket.  I asked him to stand by with them.

Pat read my mind and with bare hands, quickly began pulling the broken glass from the back window.  “Careful Pat.  Don’t need you losing a couple of fingers here.”

“Trust me, I’m being careful.”  He answered.  He’d gotten most of the glass out, and I used my night stick to knock everything else down.

“OK, Ladies.  Here’s what we’re going to do.  We’re going to get you out one at a time.  OK,” I said.  “If it hurts a lot, tell me, and we’ll stop.  OK?”

I bent down and reached in, taking the first girl under her arms.  “Put your arms around my neck.  Ok, here we go.  Somebody keep him steady (meaning the passenger in the front seat) and mind the glass.”  With a slight whimper, she came out okay, and one of the guys tossed a blanket around her.

The other girl was wedged in a bit and I realized I was going to have to help her.  I crawled into the car, and crouched next to her.  There was busted glass and some blood all over the back seat.  “We need to get this pressure off your leg.  I don’t think it’s broken, just pinned,” I said.  “Here’s what we’re going to do.  I’m going to push as hard as I can against the back of the seat with my legs.  Pat, you’re going to have to help pull her out and pull her over me.  Some of you guys help him!”

Pat said he was ready, and I asked the girl if she understood.  She did.  “OK, here we go.  On Three!  One . . .Two . . .Three!”  I pushed with everything I had and the seat move shifted forward a little.  She felt it move and twisted her legs best she could.  Pat had reached over me, and had his arms under hers and was pulling slowly and steadily.  She cried out in pain, and then she was loose.  They drug her over me and out of the car.

I remembered her perfume as they drug her over me, and I’d think how strange it was that she smelled so good in the middle of so much death.

Now what, I thought.  “Pat, give them both a quick going over.  Let me know what if anything’s wrong.”

I reached through the crumpled ruins of the car, trying to find the driver.  I touched steel, fabric, and then something warm and wet.  I felt around and realized I’d found the drivers neck.  I could feel him breathing and a pulse.  The car was crushed around him, and he was still alive.

I glanced out, noticed that the girls were shivering with cold and shock, and tossed Pat my keys.  “Pat, put them in back of the car, and turn the heater on high.”

I looked at my hand.  It was covered with blood.

Pat hurried to comply, leaving me in the back seat of the car.  Several of the guys hustled the girls over to the patrol car.

A voice called to me though the broken window.  “Deputy, what can we do to help?”  I looked up and recognized him and a couple of others as local truck drivers.  You can always count on the modern cowboy to help out.

“Got flares?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Get me some traffic control going, shut down the road, and start sending traffic down towards Conejos.  If one of you wants to go down that way and direct them down towards 17, I’d appreciate it.”

“We’ll get on it,” said one, taking charge and giving instructions.

I had the pack set with me, and let State Patrol know that truckers were getting me some traffic control going and would be sending traffic down to Conejos and from there to 17.

With the initial response done, I was reduced to monitoring the situation.  Getting the driver out without Jaws of Life was out of the question, and the passenger looked so injured that the only way I was going to move him was if I had to.  So I was going from one to the other, just making sure their airways were open, and they still had a pulse.  I glanced at my watch.  I’d been on scene five minutes.  That put fire close, EMS still maybe 10 minutes away.

“Rich,” Pat yelled.  “I’ve got them in the car.”

“Hang loose,” I said.  “I might need you.”  I’d been going from the driver to passenger and back, just monitoring them.  I’d just gone from the driver back to the passenger, I checked for a pulse.  Nothing!  I checked again.  Still nothing!  “Pat, pull him out.  He’s in full arrest!”

Pat pulled him out of the car, laying him out on the ground.   I got out of the back of the car, looked at him.  He was ready.  “Just like we practiced,” I said.  “You compress, I’ll breath.”

He nodded, and I gave him a couple of quick breaths, and Pat started compressions.

Want to find out what kind of shape you’re in?  Do CPR.  We started, and kept going.  After a couple of minutes, we were both covered in sweat in the cold December air.  “Switch,” I cried.  Now Pat gave a couple of quick breaths and I took over compressions.  We just kept on, switching every couple of minutes, the sweat dripping off us, our shoulders aching and everyone stood around and watched, enjoying the spectacle of two people doing everything in their power to keep someone from dying.  Later I’d just be filled with disgust and rage over a people who would just stand and watch someone die without lifting a hand.

“Switch,” I cried.  In the distance, I could hear the wail of a siren.  I glanced briefly; Fire and EMS were both coming in.  Antonito fire was coming in from the south, and from the north, Romeo Fire and the Conejos EMS service.  The Ambulance pulled up, and one of the EMTs jumped out.  “Who’s worse,” he cried!

I pointed down.  “He is,” I yelled back, pointing down.  The EMT knelt down next to Pat, and said, “Switch”.  I continued to push air into him.  The EMT must have pushed too hard, because suddenly vomit came into my mouth.  I gagged on it.  It tasted of beer and cheeseburgers, and my stomach lurched.  Turning my head, I vomited next the man we were trying to save.  I got control of myself.  I had to continue breathing.  Quickly I swept his air way to clear it of vomit, and tried to continue giving him breaths, but couldn’t.  My stomach was heaving, and I started to gag.  A fireman pushed me out of the way, taking over for me.  I sat back on the cold pavement, my stomach heaving, and then rolled on my knees.  I threw up again.

Pat hadn’t seen me throw up the first time, but he saw the second time, and when he saw me throw up, he began throwing up.  Shaken he leaned against the front of the ambulance trying to use it for support.  His legs and hands were shaking from cold and fatigue.  From the crowd, a man started laughing at him.  “What’s the matter, Wheat?  Can’t take it?”

It was the worst thing he could have said.  Pat’s head jerked, up, hurt and pain in his eyes, and I saw it coming.  Pat doubled up his fist.  I don’t know where he found the strength, maybe it was pure anger or pure frustration, but he punched the guy in the face, and knocked him to the ground.  In a second, I was up, pushing Pat away from the guy.  “Leave him alone, Pat.  He’s not worth it!”

Pat was looking me in the face, his eyes wide, and then he said calmly, “Jesus Christ!  You look like Hell!”

He didn’t look any better.  He looked like he’d just marched through a slaughter house.  His face, hair, and clothing were smeared with blood and sweat.  Some of it was dry, some still glistening wet.

I looked down at myself.  My hands and arms were caked with blood, and my uniform was ruined from the blood and vomit all over it.  Some distant part of myself whispered, “You two just went toe to toe with death, and lost.”

And then the guy Pat had punched was on his feet.  “He hit me!  I want to press charges!  I want to press charges!”

I glared at him.  “Get the hell out of my face,” I heard myself hiss.   Then I found myself yelling at him. “Where the hell were you when I needed you?  When he needed you,” I demanded nodding towards the man on the ground.  The EMTs had moved away.  He was gone.  “Take a good look.”  He looked, and went pale.  “Get out of here before I finish you myself!” I growled.

Suddenly there was a hand on my shoulder.  State Patrol Officer Al Parks had arrived.  “Will,” he said quietly.  “I’ve got the scene.  Why don’t you two put the girls in ambulance and then go to the Sheriff’s office.  Get cleaned up a bit.”

And his suggestion made all kinds of sense.  Pat and I did what he suggested.  We got the girls transferred to the ambulance and then drove quietly to the Sheriff’s office.  When we got there and walked in, the dispatchers eyes went wide at our appearance.  “What the . . .,” he gasped.

“Joe,” I said.  “Can you get us some towels and wash clothes.”

“And soap,” Pat said.  We went into the kitchen, and sat down at the table.  For a long minute we just stared at each other, trying to come to grips with what we’d just been through.

“I’m hungry,” Pat said.  And I realized I was to.  I stood up, washed the blood from my hands, and opened the fridge.  I pulled out ham and cheese, mayo, and a loaf of bread.  I put them on the table, grabbed us each of a bag of chips.  So there, both of us, still covered with blood, we made sandwiches and ate.

Joe brought in the towels and washcloths, and I told Pat to go ahead and get cleaned up.

“In a minute,” he said.  He made himself another sandwich, and wolfed it down. After about ten minutes, he got up and washed himself in the squad room bath room.  He came out a few minutes later and when I stood to go wash up, I found my knees were shaking.  “And I’ve a cake job,” I muttered, remembering what my parents had said.

“Screw ‘em,” I said.  “Joe, grab the Polaroid.”

“What?”

“I want a picture of me,” I said.  “The next time someone tells me my job is easy, I can show it to them.”

Joe got the Polaroid and took a picture like I’d requested.  The picture looked like something out of a slasher film.  You weren’t supposed to be covered from head to toe with someone else’s blood.

I went into the bathroom and washed the blood off my face.  When I came out, Pat had made coffee, and had poured us each a cup.  We sat back down to drink it.  About half an hour later, Al came in, got statements from us.  “The Fireman had to tear the car apart to get the driver out.  He’s in really bad shape,” he told us.  “Flight for life is on its way.  The guy you were working on didn’t make it.”

“How are the girls doing?” Pat asked.

“Cuts, bruises,sprains,” he said, cataloguing what was wrong with them  “They’re hurting but not hurt bad.  They’ll be in the hospital overnight.  They’ll be flying the driver to Denver.  He’s in bad shape.”

Odd, I thought.  A few hours ago, they were full of life.  Now one was just so much dead flesh, the other fighting for his life.  Our mortality never ceases to amaze me.

I nodded, and after an eternity I said, “What the hell happened, Al?”

He swallowed.  “Well, you know the kids.  They’ve been dragging Main and the Antonito cops have been writing a lot of tickets because the kids would get up to the city limits, do a U turn, and come on back down,  and keep cruising.  So they just came a little further out into the county to do their turn.  Apparently they didn’t stop or notice there was a semi right behind them.”

Pat leaned forward, his head resting in his hands.  “I know those folks.  To die that way . . .”  I heard a sob escape his lips, and then another.  A second later he’d just broken down and cried.  After a few minutes, he got himself together.  “I need to get home.”  He said.  “I think I’m too shook to drive.”

“I’ll take you,” Al offered.

Pat nodded, dried his tears, and stood up.  “I’m ready,” he said.

Al stood up, looked at me and said, “Rich.  Can you get home?”

I nodded.  “I’m leaving now.”

I drove home, the heater on high.  I remember looking at the stars, trying to feel something beyond the pure exhaustion I felt.  But nothing came.  I was tired and I felt like a wrung out dish rag.

I got home, took a hot shower, and then threw my uniform in the washing machine on cold to soak the blood out.  On impulse, I put the picture Joe had taken on the kitchen table.  I was living at home at the time, and it was best place to put it.   I thought, let my folks tell me I’ve got an easy job.

I stopped telling the story to Pastor Morgan, and looked up.  He had his pencil on his mouth, nodding.  “But that wasn’t the worse of it,” he said.  Again, I wondered if I was just that transparent or if God was whispering something in his ear.

I smiled and shook my head.  “No, it wasn’t. The driver ended up dying two days later.

“But the worst happened a couple of weeks later.  I had a chance to make some extra money by working a basketball game at one of the schools.  I’d gone out to check the parking lot, and had just stepped back in when suddenly there’s this little cheerleader standing in front of me.  She sticks out her hand, introduces herself, and said, “I want to thank you for trying to save my brother.”

I wiped a tear away.  “Pastor, to this day, I don’t know what to say to her!”

He nodded, handing me a Kleenex.  I wiped the tears away, and then sat up straight in the seat, my hand banging the arm rest.  “A bunch of kids out there with no clue they’d just seen their last Christmas.  Drinking, driving.  They killed themselves in the name of having of a good time!”

To his credit, Pastor Morgan didn’t say anything right away.  He just reached across, put a hand on my shoulder and let me cry it out.  What I hadn’t realized at the time was I’d just given him the key to what made me tick.

Finally he spoke.  “How did all this make you feel?”

“It tore me up!” I exclaimed.  “How am I supposed to feel about?”

“Tore me up isn’t a feeling.  It’s a result of your feelings, your emotions.  How did you feel?”

I had to stop and think about it for a bit.

“Lot of hurt,” I said finally.  “A lot of anger.”

“Hurt and anger at what?” he asked.

“The people,” I answered.  I thought about that night.  “They just stood there enjoying the show.  Like it was all some pre-staged drama just for their entertainment.”

“And they just stood there?”

“They just stood there.” I confirmed.

He nodded.  Finally he said quietly, “What did you want them to do?”

I paused.  “I don’t know.  Something!  Instead they just stood there.  If I could have sold popcorn and peanuts, I’d have made money that night.  They were entertained.”

“And because they did nothing except watch, what do you think of them?”  he asked calmly.

“That each and every one of them were spineless, cold blooded Sons a’Bitches,” I heard myself say to this man of God.

He smiled and I knew I’d just given him another key.  “Do you think that’s a fair assessment of the crowd?”

I walked right into his cross hairs.  I knew he had to take the shot, but I said, “I don’t follow you.”

“Let me put it another way.  What’s your name?”

“William Diaz,” I answered.

“Anywhere in your name is God the Father, God the Son, or God the Holy Spirit mentioned?”

“No,” I answered.

“Here,” he said, flipping through the tattered Bible he used for these sessions.  “Read this out loud to me please.  Matthew, Chapter two, verse 1.”

I took the Bible and read it to him. “Does not judge or you too will be judged.”

He nodded.  “Now flip over to Luke six, verse thirty seven.”

I turned to the Book of Luke, the pages rustling under my fingers like dry leaves.  I found it and read it out loud.  “Do not judge and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn and you will not be condemned.  Forgive and you will be forgiven.”

I knew where this one had just gone.  “Steel on target, Pastor,” I said.

“Do you see what was going on?” he asked.   “You resented that the crowd didn’t help.”

I nodded.

“But that’s not exactly true, either,” he said.  “There were people who helped.  There were the guys who helped you and Pat open the car up and get the girls out.  You had a guy who got blankets.  You had the truckers who stopped and got traffic control going for you.  Isn’t that true?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“So not everyone just stood there.  Some helped.  Others didn’t, and that’s who your anger is directed towards.”

I nodded, following what he was saying.  “Go on.”

“You’re angry because they did nothing.  Has it occurred to you that they didn’t know what to do?  The only two people in that crowd equipped to do anything was you and Pat.  You at least had a starting point.  You’d been there before.  And Pat didn’t even have that.  This was something so outside his comfort zone, he didn’t act until you told him to.”

I blinked.  I’d never thought of that way.  “Gee,” I heard myself say.

“And how about the fact they died.  Are you angry at that?  Was there someone in that crowd that could have done something to stop that?”

“I don’t know,’ I answered.

“Look at this way.  You and Pat, a whole team of EMTs, and the resources of one of the most advanced trauma centers in the world couldn’t save them.  Is it logical to expect someone else could?”

“It’s not,” I admitted, quietly.

“Let it go, Will.  No one except God could have done anything that night.”

“Did he?” I asked.

“We’ll get to that in a second,” he said, clearly one step ahead of me.  I made a mental note to never play chess with this man.  Like a lot of “Simple” cowboys, the man was sharp as a tack.  “But before we go there, I want to finish with you.  Was there any hint of betrayal you felt that night?”

“From the crowd?  How could I feel betrayed?” I asked.

“Betrayal can take a lot of forms,” he said quietly.  He leaned forward.  “We’ve known each other for how long now, Will?

“Since first grade,” I answered.

He nodded.  “That about right.  We’ve drank a lot of coffee together, ate at the same table, prayed together.  Rode horses together, fixed fences.  You get to know someone pretty well when you do that.”

“Agreed,” I said, wondering where he was going.

“Well, in all that time, I’ve noticed something interesting.  You’d like to think that people are basically good and they’ll always do the right thing.”

“I’d like to think they would,” I answered.

“Well, the reason I bring up betrayal is that the crowd violated one of your most cherished beliefs.  That people are good and will do the right thing.  And I think that accounts for the anger more than anything else.  They took something you want desperately to have proven to you and they didn’t.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” I said.  Because no one had taken action, I judged the whole crowd for violating my belief that people would take action to help.

“The crowd isn’t to blame.  They didn’t know what to do.  They needed a leader and you got them moving in the direction you needed.  And don’t sweat their being a few yahoos in the bunch.  The world is adequately equipped with them.  But you already know that.”

“I know,” I said, still reeling from my anger and resentment I’d felt over the crowd.  It made sense.  This event was so far outside their usual lives, they couldn’t have reacted any other way.

“There are a couple of other people you need to let off the hook here,” he said.

“Who’s that?”

“How about the driver of the car?  You made the comment that it was just a bunch of kids out to have a good time.  He didn’t mean to get them killed.  It was a moment of carelessness,” he said.  “I’m going to tell you something you already know.  We live in a world where things happen.  They don’t always make sense, but you can be sure some good came out of it.”

“What good came out of this?” I asked.

“Well, were you the leader today that you were before that happened?”

I had to stop and think about what he’d said.  “I sure wasn’t,” I answered.

“I’d say that was the night you became the person you are today.  Let me ask you, could you have led soldiers in Iraq without that night?”

“No,” I answered.

“How about tackling that guy at Shipton.  Could you have done it without that night?”

I had to admit I couldn’t have.

“Because of that night, you became the man you are today.  A take charge, leader of men.  God took something terrible and used it to remake you.”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” I admitted after a few seconds thinking about it

“People learned that you were someone who could be counted on.  When the chips were down, you’d be in their corner fighting death itself if that’s what it came to.

“And how about Pat?  What happened to him?”

I smiled.  “He joined the Fire Department, and later became a councilman.”

“He became a leader too.  The town screw up became a man among men because of what happened.”

I nodded.  I actually hadn’t thought about how God used the tragedy to bring good out of it all.

“And before we pray about this, there’s one last person you need add to the forgiveness list.”

“And just who might that be?” I asked.

“Why did you react to the cheerleader like you did?” he asked, instead of telling me.

“I didn’t know what to say,” I answered.

“Did you think if you had been better trained, or had better equipment at the time, that you might have saved her brother?”

“No,” I answered.  “No one could have saved him.”

“Exactly.  No one could have.  And God used the incident to change you and Pat into the people you are today.  And because of that night, there are people alive today who might not have been if it hadn’t have been for that night.

“So, before we get going on praying, add yourself to list of people to forgive.  You did the very best you could have that night.  Let yourself off the hook.”

“I understand,” I said.  “I see I’ve looked at this thing through the wrong end for a lot of years.”

“One last thing, are you angry at God about this?”

“God?  No.  It wasn’t his doing.  Pastor, I’m very much a fatalist in that respect,” I explained.  “I’ve walked out of messes I didn’t have a right to have been carried out of.  I look at the world as when it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go and nothing can change that.  It was simply their time.  No, I can’t hold God accountable on this one.”

“Interesting,” he said.  I wondered what he found interesting about it.  “You ready to pray?”

I nodded, and we prayed.

“Father, I want to thank you for this time today.  It’s been interesting, especially the revelation of anger and hurt towards some of your people.  I judged them unfairly, saying they were useless.  I see now that they didn’t know what to do and needed leadership.  I forgive them.  I forgive the driver for what happened that night, and I ask for forgiveness myself.  I put myself on the throne and judged them, the driver, and myself.

“I’m leaving that here today Father, and I don’t ever want to pick it up again.  Help me to grow in you each and every day and to be the man you want me to be.

“Amen,” I said.

I wiped the tears that had flowed from my eyes, and smiled at Pastor Morgan.

“Same time next week?” I asked.

“Same time next week.” He confirmed.

 

 

 

 

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