My continuing apologies for not being able to deal with graphics on this old computer--my laptop is STILL in computer repair land on the East Coast, and I am told that those experts have not yet figured out the problem nor made a decision what to do. In the interim, Word does work, and so I am hard at work on my next book, in and around travels and real work. I have completed six of nine chapters, and chapter seven is nearly done. As promised, here is an excerpt. It is a just-finished section of chapter 7, which I will post on all my blogs for which the topic is pertinent.
As a child and through his teenage years, our mentally challenged son, Doah, had a habit of slinking off, mainly from curiosity or because he wanted to go somewhere and there was no one to take him at precisely the time he wanted to go. It was not the kind of disappearance that a fully mentally competent child of the same age would make. Rather, it was a matter of marrying “want” with “immediate fulfillment” prompted by naivete and complete trust in the safety and kindness of the surrounding environment associated with the simplicity of mental retardation. Usually, we would find Doah a couple of aisles away in the grocery store, in the backyard on the swings, or at a neighbor’s house. Scarier disappearances, however, did occur, like the time he decided to walk down the middle of Lee Highway, the main thoroughfare in Arlington, Virginiua.
One Sunday morning when Doah was twelve years old but the size of a seven-year-old and with the mental age of a seven year old, I emerged from the shower and could not find him. I checked the entire house. No Doah. I checked the backyard. Empty swings. I checked with the all the neighbors. No visit to their homes that day. Frantic panic set up, and I began walking the streets in our subdivision, calling his name. Neighbors I had never before met told me that they knew Doah. Really? He had been wandering farther afield than I had known. When? I suppose I will never know the answer to that question. At the time, though, I was more interested in how far his wandering might have taken him. I returned home to Donnie empty-handed.
“Why are you losing time by walking all over the neighborhood?” he asked me. “Just think where he is.”
“Thinking” actually referred to what I often knew about my children from unexplainable sources. For example, I occasionally “knew” in advance that one or another would get hurt at school that day, creating a dilemma in that I had no way to tell a teacher to be careful and try to prevent the accident. No teacher would believe me, yet each time the child in question in woulds indeed return home with some minor injury. If I were sitting quietly, thinking about nothing at all, sometimes an image would appear of the child, either where the child was at the moment or what would happen to the child in the immediate future.
“Nothing comes to mind about Doah,” I told Donnie.
“Just calm down and think for a minute,” Donnie advised.
I emptied my mind and, blast!, in came an image of Doah, clothed in white with a blue belt. He was standing, surrounded by white. White everywhere. Well, one can imagine the worst possible scenario from that.
“I think he’s dead,” I told Donnie. “Everything around him is white.”
“What else?” Donnie pressed, knowing that I am one to miss details. “There has to be more. What is he doing? Is he saying anything? Is there anyone else there?”
Ah! I could not see whether or not there was anyone else there, but he was standing and clapping! Clapping? Church!
Although Donnie was agnostic and I atheist, we did allow our children to attend church services if they wished. Doah had taken up recently with a church downtown, about a mile from where we lived. He would get there by bus, or someone would pick him up. If the latter, the van driver would always come to our door, and that had not happened this time. Still, I knew Doah was at the church.
Donnie and I drove to the church apprehensively. What if he were not there? Then what?
I walked in the door and immediately knew I was in the right place. The inside of the church had been painted—all white. I wandered through one of the rooms, heard some singing, and moved in that direction. As I turned the corner, I saw another white-walled room, and there in the front row was Doah, standing and clapping, dressed in white clothes, with his blue money belt around his waist. Thank God!
I do not know how to interpret these out-of-the-ordinary experiences in my past. I find it hard to believe that such “help” would come from something demonic. Yet, clearly most parents do not find their missing children by emptying their minds and allowing an image of the location of their children to enter. In some ways, these images presaged how nowadays I approach contemplative prayer. Perhaps back then they reflected God’s way of dealing with an atheist in the only way she would (or could) accept.