I Smile Back
Some dare to ask: What was it like to nearly die? Did you see light? Or move outside the flesh? Did you see Him? Did you find joy? And I said: Nup, just shut down. While they worked on with sweat and tears and tubes and drugs, inflating, cutting, draining, metal valve inserting, stripping flesh, and staples, tubes and drugs. I just shut down. Except, (I haven’t mentioned it till now) there was a happy hour the night they first released me to a ward, at 1:00 a.m. Above the empty bed across the aisle I lighted on the number 24 and gradually I understood that this meant Christmas Eve, and “Unto You, a Child...” The Child was there and even now I see him clear, strong smile and energy and life. With it there came a sudden spirit lift. No words can recreate the glow of other-worldly peace and goodness all around. It lasted. Then I slept. Some might say: That’s interesting or even weird. Except I know this Child essentially is the heart of God, and Christianity derives from that, and Christmas is forever worth the feast. When I remember ‒ I smile back.
John Sabel was a pastor of the Lutheran Church in Townsville and Maryborough in Queensland and on Kangaroo Island. He has been a chaplain to university students in Adelaide, chaired the management committee of the Kangaroo Island Rural Counselling Service, and was one of the initiators in 1989 of the Kangaroo Island Dudley Writers’ Group. Holidays at Baudin Beach on the Island’s Dudley Peninsula from 1973, turned into living there permanently from 1987. Today’s poem comes from John’s poetry collection, “Sonrise on Kangaroo Island”, printed by Flinders University Press, with a preface by the university’s Professor Norman Habel.