Sometimes life gives us an experience that raises our eyebrows in wonderment at the nature of reality. We get the feeling that life is much bigger and more connected than we ever imagined. I have two short stories and a reflection to share.

I was standing in Montreal’s Laval Airport in a busy and bustling crowd during the winter of 1979. At that time, I was an experienced ICU and ER nurse and advanced cardiac life support instructor.

A woman ran up to me from the crowd and literally tossed her very young infant baby into my arms. The baby was blue and not breathing and she was speaking to me rapidly in French.

I immediately did what I knew how to do, and the baby pinked up quickly and started crying loudly. The mother reached and took the baby into her arms and turned and walked away, almost in a trance, and without saying a word.
I was completely baffled and amazed. How in the world did she choose me out of this entire crowd?

Three weeks later I was still in Montreal, now in the large underground shopping center, and in another bustling crowd. Suddenly, a woman is shaking my arm, again speaking in French, and I turn to see her toddler purple and choking. Whack-whack-whack on the back, and out pops a hard candy, and the child can breathe again.

Holy moly, once was amazing. This has happened twice in three weeks! And it feels mysterious, and I ponder guardian angels.

You know the type of close friend you may have that even if you don’t talk for some period of time, it doesn’t matter because you just pick up with each other as always? That’s how my best friend ever, Ken, was to me.

We hadn’t spoken for a few months in the autumn of 1980 after I had moved to California. I was working in a 60-bed intensive care unit at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Long Beach. It’s a huge busy trauma and cardiac surgery center, hopping all the time. I had just received a fresh post-op cardiac surgery patient. He was unconscious and on a ventilator.

You know those hospital bedside tables? I was sitting right next to Mr. Post-Op’s bed, using the table as a desk with my phone right there. You can probably picture the old-style rotary phone, the heart monitors, the IV poles, and hear that swoosh-swoosh of the ventilator.

My job was to record Mr. Post-Op’s vital signs, heart rhythm, urine output, and chest tube output every five minutes. He was running as smooth and stable as a Swiss watch. I was quietly busy, when suddenly, out of nowhere, I was seized by the completely irrational impulse of “I HAVE GOT TO CALL KEN NOW!!!”

I mean, that was crazy, but it was completely undeniable. “I HAVE GOT TO CALL KEN NOW!!!”

I got an outside line and dialed Ken’s number … many rings, no answer. I dialed again … no answer. Still … “I GOTTA CALL HIM NOW!” No answer.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. What about Mr. Post-Op?

I was right beside him, watching everything, and I was on top of it. But I had to call. This went on for almost 30 minutes, then the feeling subsided, and I figured I’d call him later after 3 o’clock when I got off my shift.

Weirdly, it didn’t occur to me to wonder WHY I had such a panic about needing to reach him. It was just a feeling I was following.

I got home to my apartment and called. Ken picked up, sounding groggy and half out of it.

He said, “It’s so strange you’re calling me right now. I was working on an electrical outlet and shocked myself unconscious. Kathy called the EMTs and they brought me over to the Central Maine Medical Center ER.”

CMMC was where I went to nursing school, and I worked in that ER before going to California.

“When I was in the ER, I had a dream that you came to help me. And here you are now, calling me.”

And so Ken and I talked about this experience, and I told him my end of it and why I was calling him.

“So what time did you shock yourself?” And accounting for the time zone changes, with California three hours behind, the times matched. It had been between 11 and 11:30 in the morning for me, and 2 o’clock in the afternoon for him.

This was a life-changing experience for me, giving me a powerful sense of connectedness to something greater, and that our world has a love intelligence operating in the background. How could I deny a cross-country phenomenon like that? How can there not be a loving god?

Last week I felt heartbroken, depressed and my personal philosophy punctured over the death of 15-year-old Isabelle Manahan.

It was yet another tragic car accident of teenagers who made a poor decision and paid the ultimate price, leaving behind parents, family and friends in that worst of all grief and pain, the premature death of a blossoming child. I can see my own ebullient 15-year-old granddaughter caught up in the excitement of the moment and making the same mistake.

Somehow, we live in a world where the miraculous can seem to occur, and also experiences that make no sense and are an abyss of pain. We live in a world of sometimes outrageous beauty, and we live also in a world of completely outrageous pain.

The only sense I can make of it is that we must learn to live with uncertainty without losing faith, and that the only effective pathway through outrageous pain is outrageous love, that we are called upon to love into painful life situations in ways that perhaps we have not thought that we could.

May this type of profound love find its way into the hearts of Isabelle’s parents and friends and the heartbroken community of Newcastle and Damariscotta.

Steve Raymond is the director of admissions and community outreach at The Lincoln Home in Newcastle, and is the producer and host of the LCTV show “Spotlight on Seniors”. He can be reached at [email protected]

Jill Wallace is the owner and director of 56 Elm Street Assisted Living in Topsham. She can be reached at [email protected]