A story of tragedy
Gary passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of eighty-three. He rose from his body and went toward the light.
An angel, a petite and beautiful woman with silver hair, greeted him at the threshold.
“Hello, Gary. We’ve been expecting you. My name is Ava. I’m here to reorient you to your new life. But before we do that, we help you understand your past life completely. You can’t progress until you understand your past clearly. Do you have any unanswered questions about your past life, anything you don’t understand about your experience? Anything you’ve been dying to ask God?”
She flashed a mischievous smile and added, “Forgive the pun.”
Gary returned her smile. “Yes, there is. It’s the same question I’ve been asking Him for years.”
“I thought so,” said Ava. “You want to know why He allowed you to get hit by that car when you were fifty-one years old. You are a good man, Gary. You have always tried to serve Him. You were a pillar of your community. You served on several non-profit boards and helped to raise millions of dollars for shelters and orphanages. You secretly funded the orphanage for refugees in Africa for years with your own money.
“And in one accident, almost everything was taken from you except for your life. It took you two years to fully recuperate physically. Your wife left you. You nearly lost your insurance business. You had to give up so much of what was important to you.
“You want to know why He allowed this to happen when you were such a good person and when you could have done so much more for Him.”
“Very well. Come with me,” Ava said.
They walked down a long, brightly-lit hallway. Ava stopped at a white door and opened it, ushering Gary in. The white room was empty except for a dark green chair in the middle of the room.
“Please sit down,” Ava invited.
Gary sat in the chair.
“Close your eyes,” Ava said.
Gary obeyed, and instantly he was transported to the scene of the accident. He saw himself running along the side of the road. Black shorts, gray shirt with sweat on the chest. Headphones on. He remembered exactly what he had been listening to.
Then he saw the silver Dodge truck coming down the road. He wanted to scream at himself to jump out of the way. Just as the truck passed him, it swerved and smashed into him. He watched as his body was tossed like a rag doll twenty-five feet and lay in a crumpled heap. He felt the excruciating pain as if it were happening in the moment.
He watched as the ambulance arrived, saw the EMTs move his body onto a stretcher.
“Open your eyes, Gary,” he heard Ava say. “What did you see?”
Gary relayed the vision to her.
“Yes,” she said gently, “all you have ever seen for all these years is your own pain. Close your eyes and look again. This time, I want you to search the scene for more.”
Gary closed his eyes and the scene began from the beginning. This time, he saw the truck driver’s face. He zoomed in on it.
As he did so, instantaneous understanding flooded through him. The driver’s name was John. Thirty-six years old. Married with three kids, a daughter and two sons. Gary saw their faces and knew them in a flash. He knew how deeply his wife loved him.
John was a loving husband and an amazing father. He worked hard to provide for his family as a general contractor. He had injured his back on the job and had gotten addicted to pain pills.
He had gone to a rehab center and been clean for two years when a recession tanked his business. Desperate that he wouldn’t be able to provide for his family, he had turned back to the pills.
Gary felt John’s desperation as if it were his own. Then, through the awful weight of the desperation, he felt a light. He immediately understood that it was coming from John’s wife.
He turned his attention to her and saw her kneeling beside her bed in tears, just before John had hit him. He heard and felt her pleas to God to help John with his addiction and his work as if he were the one pleading. “Please, please save him for me,” he felt.
At that moment, the truck struck him again.
Gary jerked and gasped and his eyes flew open. Ava was standing there, a gentle smile on her face.
“Are you beginning to see?” she asked.
“Yes,” he whispered.
“There is more,” she said. “Go back.”
He closed his eyes again. He saw John scream, slam on his brakes, jump out of the truck, and run to his body. He saw him call 911. He felt John’s terror.
He saw him being led away in handcuffs. Saw his jail time. Felt his deep remorse. A million details about John’s life were revealed in an instant. The closing scene was John with his family, happier than he ever had been.
Gary knew that the accident had saved John’s life, his marriage, his family.
He opened his eyes.
“Do you see now?” said Ava. “You saved him. You were the answer to his wife’s prayer. Now that you know that, would you want to change anything about that experience?”
With all the love John had for his family flooding through his entire being, Gary said in complete surrender, “No. It was an honor and a privilege to take part in that miracle.”
Ava smiled. “There is still more to see. Close your eyes.”
Gary closed his eyes again. This time, he was transported to his bedroom. He saw himself in a wheelchair. He remembered this was the darkest time of his recovery. His wife had just left him.
He was sobbing as he wheeled himself to an easel upon which a canvas frame sat. Painting had always been his true love — insurance paid the bills, but his heart had never been into it. He had always painted in his free time but had never pursued it beyond that.
He began painting through his tears. He remembered the feeling — it was if the act of painting was a prayer. His agony poured through his fingertips and bled through the paint.
He painted what he so desperately wanted. An anguished man reaching up to the heavens for help. And a hand reaching down to uplift and strengthen him. He remembered how clearly he had seen the hand and arm reaching down, how precise the details were — if he were to see that hand, he would instantly recognize it. He had thought it strange at the time that it was a woman’s hand, but he had painted what he saw without questioning it.
It was a masterpiece, the best thing he had ever painted in his life.
“Do you remember what you did with that painting?” he heard Ava ask.
“Yes. I donated it to an orphanage.”
“And you know what that painting did for you?”
“Yes. It was discovered years later by the owner of an art gallery. It opened the door to my painting career.”
“Do you know what that painting did for anyone else?”
His attention turned to the painting hanging on the wall of the orphanage. And then he saw a girl staring at the painting. In an instant he knew everything about her.
Her name was Abby. Seventeen years old. Her father had abandoned her and her mother when she was five years old. Her mother had gotten addicted to drugs. Had been used and abused by a series of men. Neglected Abby. Died from a drug overdose when Abby was eleven.
Abby had been in and out of foster homes. Felt worthless. Had a sense of destiny that her life would turn out just like her mother’s. At fifteen she became suicidal. By sixteen she had tried to take her life.
She was ready to do it right this time when she was transferred to the orphanage where Gary’s painting hung.
Gary saw her staring in rapt attention every day, sometimes for hours at a time. Abby’s life unfolded before him. Graduating college. Meeting a good man. Mothering three children. Happiest family you’ve ever seen.
Gary was flooded with the most overwhelmingly peaceful and joyful feeling he had ever felt.
“Yes,” Ava nodded in understanding as she watched his emotion. “God needed you to paint that to save Abby’s life. And you never would have painted it had you not been hit by John that day.
“Unfortunately, humans rarely see the purpose behind what they call ‘tragedies.’ If they could see the work God does through them, they would never call them tragedies. They would see the eternal miracles unfolding through the temporary pain.”
Ava reached out her hand to wipe away Gary’s tears. Gary was stunned to recognize her hand.