A Most Unexpected Visitor, Book Excerpt

Author’s note: this is a true story.  It happened to me over the July 1st long weekend, 1985.  I have been reluctant to publish it, thinking it was too ‘out there’, but it did in fact happen.

“We’re sending you to New York – Newark, New Jersey. Your group leaves from Toronto at 8:00p.m., Friday night,” said the dispatcher.

“You mean driving all night?”  Having driven tour buses in the Canadian Rockies, I knew mountain driving, but an all-night, 500 mile drive scared the hell out of me.  I was only 24 years old and a recent graduate from the University of Western Ontario.

I was so anxious about this trip, I couldn’t sleep the night before, so by the time I picked up the youth Choir of ‘The People’s Church,’ in Toronto, I was already tired from worry.  Regardless, with 45 excited youth on board, we headed for the U.S. boarder at Niagara Falls, New York.

After it got dark, to be sure I stayed awake, a chaperone chatted with me the whole night. Arriving at a hotel in New Jersey at 7:00a.m., Saturday morning, the kids checked in. I had been awake for 22 hours straight.

After breakfast, the kids got back on the bus and we drove 20 miles down the Jersey Turnpike to Six Flags Amusement Park.  The plan was for me to find a hotel, and sleep all day, but having never done this ‘all-night’ thing, I didn’t know the routine.  So exhausted was I, I parked the bus, walked down the aisle to the back of the bus, and stretched across a row of seats. My mind swirling like the rides in the amusement park, no amount of fatigue could induce me to sleep.

By 8:00p.m., the park closed and we headed back to the hotel. I was in bed by 10:00p.m. I had been awake now, more or less for 34 hours.

The following morning, Sunday, feeling somewhat refreshed, we drove to  an old redbrick Baptist Church in an urban Newark neighbourhood.  The congregation was mostly African American and the choir, robed in shimmering royal purple gowns, stood in tiers 3-deep behind the pulpit in the sanctuary of the church.   The preacher delivered a fiery sermon, eliciting hearty shouts of Amen!” and “Alleluia!” from the people.   By the end of the service we were dancing in the aisles.

That afternoon, we drove to another church where the kids sang for the congregation.  After that, we drove to a third church, this time in a wealthy white neighbourhood, and the kids sang again.   At 9:00p.m., the students climbed back on the bus for the long all-night drive back to Toronto.

Somewhere in Up-State New York, at 2:00 in the morning, I got a speeding ticket from an N.Y. State Trooper.  Only the chaperone and I knew of the infraction.

We arrived in Toronto at 8:00a.m. Monday morning, parents waiting anxiously in the parking lot for their children to return safely, oblivious to the fact that the driver of their children’s bus had had only 10 hours real sleep in the past 3 days.  Sleepy headed kids, dragging suitcases, pillows tucked under arms, trudged off to their homes.

The coach now empty, I drove west on the 401 to London, calculating that I had driven 1,000 miles and had, maybe, 10 hours of sleep in 72.  Home at last, I stripped off my clothes, lay on my bed, and immediately fell into a deep sleep.

3 hours later, I had a most unusual experience. I woke up, but I was not ‘awake’ in the usual sense. I was fully conscious, but physically my body was still sleep. Suddenly, a brilliant light shone on me, in front of which stood a woman in silhouette. She wore a veil over her head and a mantle that cascaded down her arms.  Her hands were turned towards me, palms upright, and open. Though I could not see her eyes, I knew she was looking at me, and gesturing with her hands, she said, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”

With each “Jesus,” my body, my mind, my whole being, exploded in ecstasy. Over and over again, she said, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” the name triggering geyser-like pulses of indescribable love, joy, and pleasure. Each “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” so intense, so wonderful beyond anything I could imagine – or tolerate – I shouted at her, “Stop!  Stop! Stop!”

In an instant, I was awake, lying on my bed on Naomee Crescent, London, Ontario, afternoon light streaming through my bedroom window.  My immediate thought was, “That was incredible!  It’s too good to be true.”  But it was true.  It’s not that I didn’t believe it, I knew it had happened, it’s just that it was so far out of my conscious self to internalize, to rationalize, didn’t know how to incorporate it into my sense of self, nor into my sense of reality.  As such, I told no one about it for years.

At that time of my life, I was not particularly religious, I was certainly not pious, nor even concerned with Christianity.   In fact, 2 years later, I abandoned my Catholic faith for Zen Buddhism, as if the ecstasy of “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” never happened – even decrying Catholicism as just a bunch of thinking and singing. Yet, 4 years later, my encounter with a most unexpected visitor would influence my return to the faith in mysterious and unseen ways .

Categories Blog Post | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Posted on December 18, 2014

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