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StalkedBy The Light
A person who has a cat by the tail knows a whole lot more about cats than someone who has just read about them. Mark Twain
Since being struck by lightning in 1975, I have had a special ear for thunder. As far as I am concerned, every storm is a stalker, every bolt of lightning is a possible killer. I can't help thinking of lightning that way. Even the roll of distant thunder makes me uneasy, filling me with painful memories and uncertainty. "I liked being dead, because it felt so alive," I have often said. "I just didn't like using lightning to get there."
On a summer day in 1994, I almost became a victim of lightning again, without even knowing it was close to me.
It happened at a time of peace for me. I had just returned from five months of lectures and publicity for my first book, Saved by the Light, and finally I had a chance to be alone. In order to savor this quiet time, I went to house-sit at a friend's farm near my home in South Carolina.
On this particular day, I had brought with me a box of letters from people who had read the book. For the first time in months, I planned to be alone and do nothing but read and relax.
As I put my feet up on the couch, I noticed that a gentle rain had begun to fall outside. The weather set a relaxing mood, and before long I was dozing off to the rhythm of the rain.
Then the telephone began to ring. It brought me out of a deep sleepand into a fog of semiconsciousness. Had it rung three times? Four? I didn't care. Whoever it was could wait. This wasn't my house, anyway. I decided to just let it ring.
As I started to go back to sleep, I noticed that the rain had begun to fall so hard that it nearly drowned out the phone's ring. Tough day for the toads, I thought. And then it happened. A flash of lightning sizzled in the room, accompanied by a cannon shot of thunder. The telephone ring stopped dead.
Again? I thought. Suddenly I was upright on the couch, perspiration from this jolt of fear beginning to dampen my shirt. I could smell the burned air and could even taste its acidic flavor as I began to pant for the oxygen that my frightened heart demanded.
I stood slowly and walked across the room. The telephone was on the floor. Where did it hit? I wondered.
As I scanned the room I could see that nothing looked damaged. I looked out the window at the telephone box. Its door was sprung open and steam was rushing out.
I swallowed hard.
It happened again, I thought, returning to the sofa. Am I ready?
I sat down slowly and pondered what had just occurred. I closed my eyes and let my mind run backward. Without having to die this time, I envisioned vivid details about my life.
I thought about the precious things in my life. My mother and the rest of my family immediately came to mind. I considered all the personal trials we had weathered, yet we had managed to remain friends. I thought about the strange journey that my near-death experience had started me on, and the many people I had touched with my story. My mind ran backward through my search for meaning until it reached 1975 and the date of my phone call from God.
I now remembered the moment of that strike vividly. With my heart pounding, I slipped so deeply into myself that I shut out the world around me. Inside my mind, I relived the event that had changed my life as though it were happening again.
In my mind it was September 17, 1975, the day on which my life was forever changed. I was twenty-five years old, in the best physical shape of my life. It was seven at night, and in the next moment I would be dead.
Outside I could see lightning streak across the sky, making that sizzling sound before it popped.
"Artillery from God," someone in my family had called it. Over the years I had heard dozens of stories about people and animals being struck and killed by lightning. As scary as ghost stories were to me, the lightning stories my great-uncle would tell at night when the summer storms rumbled and the room would fry with bright flashes were even more terrifying. That fear of lightning had never left me. I wanted to get off the telephone quickly.
"Hey, Tommy, I've got to get going, a storm's coming."
"So what?' he said.
Just having returned from a trip to South America only a few days earlier, I had to take care of some business matters. As the rain fell outside, I was finishing one more phone call to a business partner before getting off the telephone. "Remember, if you get a phone call from God, you have a good chance of becoming the burning bush," I think my great-uncle said, but I am sure he meant it as a joke.
"Tommy, I gotta go. Mother always told me never to talk on the phone during a thunderstorm. "
'What's the matter, tough guy, do you always do what your momma tells you?" he asked.
And that was it. The next sound I heard was like a freight train coming into my ear at the speed of light. Jolts of electricity coursed through my body, and every cell of my being felt as if it had been bathed in battery acid. The nails of my shoes were welded to the nails in the floor so that when I was raised into the air my feet were pulled out of them.At Peace in the Light. Copyright © by Dannion Brinkley. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.