I am writing this as I enter the final three days of my three-week sojourn in hospital. It is Sunday and I’m feeling a lot better. Marching orders Tuesday ; Home, James ! This morning I had an extraordinary experience. Feeling chipper, I decided to leave my bedroom and relax in the spacious, comfortable room appointed to allow patients to welcome their families (most of the moribund in this ward are incapable of using it). Armchairs, leather sofa, coffee-tables, TV – a luxury for patients well enough, like me, to enjoy it all.
I did not expect that someone else had had the same idea, and was already ensconced in one of the armchairs. I hesitated, not sure I wanted the company of an unknown, possibly over-talkative or even demented fellow-patient. I decided to take the risk.
Obligatory exchange of “Bonjour !”. To send an immediate and clear message, I opened the book of Henry James’ short stories I had been reading. Discrete glances at my unwanted companion revealed a distinguished looking chap, the type bright and polite enough to get the message. It looked as though he was going to leave me alone. He did . . . for five minutes. Then, to my surprise, for we had not introduced ourselves, he said : “You know, Frank, you’ve got it all wrong !”
You can imagine my flabbergasted reaction. Then I quickly realized that he must have picked up my name from the nurses, and was another of the poor blokes around me who had lost their marbles. But he went on, with a somewhat sad look on his handsome features, to tell me that his name was Michaelangelo (I took this as a sign that he was probably nuts) and that he was my Guardian Angel (now I knew he was !). Then, as he began recalling in detail incidents in my life, from my childhood to my retirement, I could only listen with rapt and total attention.
Having established his credibility, he got to the point : my atheism and my blog. I gathered he was not just disappointed but pained to perceive his protégé so totally mistaken. He was eloquent, with a conviction that was contagious. He didn’t try to prove I was wrong by appealing to theological arguments. He just spoke of his experience, of the invisible world in which he lived and exercised his profession. God was a given, not a conundrum or a fantasy of wishful thinking. He spoke in awe of the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, of Mary and of their permanent vigilance over the One, True Church and their distress at people like me. I began to think that maybe – no, certainly – I had been wrong. But then I woke up in my hospital bed, and decided to write this post about the strangest dream I ever had.