This summer, my father-in-law had a heart attack as he walked home from picking up a newspaper at a corner store. He and my mother-in-law were visiting family in Massachusetts, thousands of miles from their home in Arizona. By rights, Jim should have died. He literally collapsed on a neighborhood street.
But he didn’t die. Angels intervened. Neighbours sitting on a porch, enjoying the morning, saw him fall. An off-duty EMT was home and began effective CPR almost immediately. The ambulance that came for him was from a major trauma center.
For a few days, things were chaotic and unclear. Family drove in, flew in, called in and stayed close in every way that they could. And then, miraculously, Jim was ok. There were some cuts from the fall, some broken bones from the CPR and a defibrillator implanted for his heart, but in large part, he’s just fine. By the end of the summer, he was walking around, wondering when he’d be able to get back to his long hikes in the desert canyons of Arizona.
There are no words for this sort of miracle. I couldn’t write about this when it happened in July, and I can barely gather all the threads now: the wrenching loss; the nearly unbelievable salvation; the incredible rebirth; the emotions and experiences of so many people.
Today I received a beautiful letter from my mother-in-law, thanking her family for our support. My father-in-law wrote about his experience almost right afterwards,and I found his account equally moving. Each letter is haunting, so I’ve turned them into found poems. It’s the only way I can capture those few weeks in July.
My Strange Disappearance
I didn’t return in a reasonable time.
I have no memories
so I’m reconstructing
from what people have told me.
I presumably stopped breathing,
my heart presumably stopped pumping.
Some force was certainly at work
to bring two strangers to my side
to bring me back from sudden death.
Unless I imagined this
family mysteriously appeared.
Do I believe in angels?
I sure believe in something.
I like the word angels.
-found in a letter from Jim Perry
Words to describe the love
I’ve been looking for words
But each time I thought or spoke
I felt raw and open.
I wake in the middle
of the night or
on my early morning walks.
I am swept away.
The heart-distance is non-existence.
How tender and fragile life is.
Please know that
if you need me,
I will come.
-found in a letter by Shirley Dunn Perry