Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What Do You Know? -- Pat Patterson

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...." Genesis 1:1

“You know, you should look at the Milky Way sometime, Bill. Some night when the sky is pitch black. As your eyes begin to adjust and that soft, almost indistinguishable blanket of stars and interstellar gases begins to form, you’ll suddenly realize you’re looking at something far greater than us. Our galaxy! It’s over a hundred and fifty thousand light years across. And it contains over a hundred billion stars. They say it’s just one of a hundred billion similar galaxies that move around the universe together. Now how can that be? How did it all get here? It didn’t just happen. You say you wonder if there’s a God; I don’t. I know there’s a God. There has to be!”

My friend, Bill, gazed at me and scratched his chin, his computer mind processing the picture and considering it from every angle. He gave a slight nod and then an almost imperceptible shake of his head.

“You may be right,” he responded. “I don’t know…I just don’t know.”


The child had curly red hair, a pale freckled complexion, and blue eyes that might have sparkled one day, but it wasn’t meant to be. It was his time. Fourteen months old and already his time.

Why? I don’t know.

When my partner and I arrived the firefighters were already performing CPR. The little boy lay on the ground with his tiny chest exposed. One firefighter’s hands pushed against his small fragile sternum, another’s worked an Ambu-bag pumping oxygen into his lungs at a steady, controlled rate. The mother stood to one side with her hands to her mouth and a stunned expression on her face.

“Oh, Jesus,” I prayed as I climbed down from the ambulance. “Lord, please help us. Help us do this right.”

My partner and I rushed over to help. I performed a quick assessment and attached the cardiac monitor to confirm a rhythm. There wasn’t one. A flat green line traced across the screen. I felt my heart sink. I knew the child was already dead. But I also knew we had to try.

“Good job, everyone,” I said trying to keep my cool. “Keep doing exactly what you’re doing.”

I could tell by their faces that everyone else felt exactly as I did. Confused and scared. A tiny life was slipping away right before our eyes and we all knew that our attempts were likely futile. But we held ourselves together. We did it right. Everything proceeded in an orderly fashion, in perfect textbook style. CPR, intubation, IV, drugs—we did it all right. Our Medical Director would have been proud. But despite our valiant efforts the little boy died, and I went home that night wondering why.....

“Why?” I prayed. “God, why would you allow this to happen?”

My answer never came.
I used to think I knew it all. Not anymore. I’m not even half as smart as I once thought. All I can honestly tell you with certainty is this: There is a God and He’s not me, Jesus Christ died for my sins and I’m going to heaven, and my family loves me. And that includes my dog. Other than that, I just don’t know. But the good news is God does. He made the earth and the moon, the sun and the stars. He even made that fabulous Milky Way Galaxy. He created everything there is. That’s what I know, and that’s all that matters to me.

Now, what do you know?

Pat Patterson is a novelist, a paramedic, and an instructor of Emergency Medical Science. His stories are true, based on real experiences from the streets of Durham, North Carolina where he has served as a paramedic since 1992.