By Bruce A. Smith
Chapter 24 – By the Rivers of Babylon
Day Six – 1 pm
After lunch, Terry and I concentrated on contacting outside Unity staff to let everyone know the state of things with us and ascertain how they were. Then, we could get a staff schedule set up and get new blood in to relieve us.
Angie was our first successful contact. She was online, and even though she was only four blocks away on Pilgrim Street, it somehow felt like she was in another solar system.
First off, she was eating barbequed pizza. All the frozen stuff in her refrig was thawed-out, and her neighborhood was having a giant, week-long indoor BBQ, at least that part of her neighborhood that was still alive and able to digest solid food. Her kids, Patrick and Antonio, were home and alright and so far, no one else in her family had any radiation illness. Her husband was still stuck at work in Boston, and we figured the Army would let him back in the zone in another week when the rad levels went down another notch.
Angie said she would return to work the next day, Monday, at 9 am, and be our head cook. That was a great relief and she was going to bring her two sons to help with the cooking, which was a super-plus because they were decent kids and good workers.
Jeannie lived in Millbury Junction south of us, and we couldn’t locate her at first. Nor could we get anything on Gina, who had been trying to get back to her four-year old south in Sturbridge. Karen was able to put out a priority search for them and sadly, we learned about Jeannie first.
Jeannie was found dead of acute radiation sickness, two and a half miles south of us where she had sought shelter in a Baptist Church. She was one of many refugees who decided to make a run for it on that first day, trying desperately to get back to their loved ones or find safety when their own home or business was destroyed.
Many didn’t make it – dying along Massasoit or Grafton Street under trees, in the back seats of cars, or to Worcester’s credit, in the arms of strangers. During their long flight to safety, the alpha and beta radiation had hours to penetrate their lungs and bodies, and it proved too much for many.
Gina, we learned that night had died at the Grafton Street Fire House three miles south of us. She stopped there knowing she wasn’t going to make it all the way out to Route 20, and unfortunately the paramedics at the fire station had no means to reverse the radiation she had endured.
Why she didn’t come back when she must have realized the effects of the radiation were too severe for her to continue, we can only guess. Perhaps it was a mother’s instinct to do everything she could for her baby. Perhaps she reckoned she had little to gain by returning.
Monica and Tracey’s mother was air-lifted to us by a Massachusetts Air National Guard helicopter from her job at the Raytheon Lab in Waltham. Since her kids were “alone” and working in an aid station in the dust zone, she was deemed a priority “invac.” By night fall she had joined the merry ranks of our brave, splendid, Unity few.
That evening, Monica and Tracey beamed as they initiated their mom with her own yellow scarf and red beret. Jo, as the girls’ mother asked to be called, became invaluable to us since she was the only one in Unity House who actually knew the names of many of the folks we were treating.
Karen became the central figure of much of our work, for she was voice of Unity Triage, and we her eyes, ears, and hands. It was Karen who announced to the world the Army’s plan to fly out patients who had marrow donors available for bone transplants. The Army-Unity team and other FoMed units took marrow samples, and with that data Karen broadcasted world-wide who we had and what kind of marrow types were needed.
With all eighteen Forward Medical Stations submitting info, hundreds of Worcester’s kinfolk streamed to Westover Air Base, UMass-Amherst, and UConn Medical in Hartford where transplant teams were prepping for a busy Monday.
Unity had eight patients who had family waiting for them at UConn, one of whom hitched a ride on a Navy C-47 from Guam, and another guy from New Jersey who hadn’t spoken to his brother in forty-years now figured this would be a good time to say, “Hey there, bro.’”
After Jo’s initiation, all the Men and Women of Honor convened in Trey and Willy’s room. The two lads didn’t look good. Trey was pale and breathing with labor. You could tell he was very sick. Willy still had the faintest smirk on his face, but his color was gone and his face was turning chalky white. Neither responded when we spoke to them.
“Gentlemen and ladies,” I began. “You can see that Willy and Trey are really sick. Last night, we did some therapeutic touch healing and praying for them, and tonight I’d like us to do more. But today, I want to talk to you first, and say a little about how I think prayer and therapeutic touch works, so that we can maximize our efforts. As you can see, we’ve got serious work to do here, or we’re going to lose Trey and Willy.
“Many folks have different opinions about how prayer can heal, and Terry is gonna speak from her Christian perspective. Me, I’m more of a quantum scientist.”
Kevin A groaned. He had heard a lot about my theories on how focused thought creates reality. I had preached to the guys to take responsibility for their behavior because it would give them the power to change their lives. KA always argued with my “preaching,” as he called, but he always listened, too.
I gave them more of my focused thought perspectives, adding material from Lynne McTaggart’s The Field.
Then, Terry spoke.
“Well, Dave has his opinion, as we all know, but I think I speak for many of us that prayer is a way to connect with Jesus and God, asking them for a direct intervention such as healing Willy and Trey. A miracle if you will. Please pray with me, now.”
People shuffled a bit, not knowing where to stand or exactly what to do.
“A few of you stand around Trey and the others around Willy,” Terry directed.
I moved toward Willy’s head. Terry stood with one arm stretched out touching Trey’s foot, and the other reaching over to Willy. Karen, Jo, the two girls, and Naleef stood around Trey. Adam stood next to me at Willy’s side and we were joined by the two Kevins and Deon. Ryan headed our way and then turned and stood next to Trey.
“Dear Heavenly Father,” Terry commenced. “Please bless our beloved ones who are so sick tonight. We ask you Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus, our Lord, to reverse the effects of the radiation in these two lads. They are innocents, dear Father, and we ask you to spare them with your Heavenly grace. They did no wrong and should not suffer, dear Father. Oh, please hear our prayer; please hear our hearts. Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name…” and she continued with the Lord’s Prayer.
We all followed with her. When Terry finished, she turned to Sgt. Jackson.
“Can you add anything, Karen?”
“Yes.” Karen motioned for everyone to follow her lead and place their hands firmly on the arms, legs, or shoulders of the fellow lying before them.
Kevin A hesitated.
“Don’t worry Kev, the radiation isn’t contagious,” I whispered.
“Yeah, I know Dave, but I don’t want to get too close to it by touching Willy. The radiation’s inside his body, right?”
Kevin A had a point I hadn’t considered.
“I don’t think we’re gonna touch Willy for all that long, Kev. It’s the same thing as being outdoors. We’re okay for a few minutes.”
Kevin A shrugged and put his hands upon Willy’s leg. I guess my words made sense to him; I know they did to me and I put my hands on Willy’s forehead.
“Jesus,” Karen intoned in a command voice. “Jesus, I pray to you,” and Karen put both her hands firmly onto Trey’s torso. She leaned over and closed her eyes. She was fervent and powerful, firm and full of soul.
“Sweet Jesus, when I was a little girl in Alabama, I saw your power. I saw with my own two eyes what you can do, Jesus. I remember now, and have always remembered, that glorious day in Montgomery Evangelical Baptist Church, that Sunday, many, many years ago. You returned my Auntie Grace to us when she had left this world, and you returned her to us because you knew her work here was not finished. I was only eleven-years old at the time, Jesus, but I knew it was a miracle then, and I know it was a miracle now, and I know you cured her cancer. The doctors said it was a miracle. Pastor Bents said it was a miracle. Uncle Richie said it was a miracle. We all knew and accepted that it was a miracle that you wrought for us. I thanked you then and I thank you now, sweet Jesus, for that blessing and for all your blessings.
“I believe in your power, Dear, Sweet Jesus, to create a miracle, and I ask for you to give us one more miracle today.
“No, Dear Jesus, not one miracle, I ask for two. I ask for one for this young one, Trey, a young man who has suffered so much this life, so much more than his share. He deserves more than what he has gotten. He has struggled so much against so many obstacles. Please do not desert him now.
“And I ask for Willy. Yes, I know both of these young men have offended you in many ways. Yes, I know they have wronged many, stolen and lied and cheated. They have done drugs and abused their bodies with alcohol. But they have good hearts, for I have seen with my own eyes how they have helped others in a desperate time. Now, it is their own time of need, and I ask you for them, to give them a second chance like you gave me and my sister Katie when you gave us our Auntie back – the Auntie who raised us and helped us to know your sweet face.”
At that point, I began crying, loudly.
Kevin A looked up and said with his eyes, I wish I could cry too, man.
Even Adam was struggling with composure; I heard him snort and clear his throat with some difficulty.
“Sweet Jesus,” she continued, and then poured it on. “Say with me everyone, ‘Sweet Jesus!’”
“Sweet Jesus,” we replied.
“Louder,” she commanded. “You gotta pray like black folks – not like scaredy-cat white folks. We gotta get this job done!” She was almost screaming. “AGAIN!” she shouted, “SWEET, JESUS!”
“SWEET, JESUS,” we screamed.
“Again, SWEET, JESUS!”
“SWEET, JESUS!” We roared and pushed our hands into Willy and Trey.
“Hear us, Sweet Jesus,” Karen intoned.
“Hear us Sweet Jesus,” we repeated and then Karen paused. After a deep breath she began singing, softly at first.
“By the rivers of Babylon,” she paused again, and she waved for us to answer.
“By the rivers of Babylon,” we sang back to her.
“Where we sat down, and there we wept when we remembered Zion,” her lovely, strong alto continued.
“Where we lay down, and there we wept, when we remembered Zion,” we followed and Karen kept on going.
Terry knew the song, as did Adam and Kevin P, and they sang in unison with Karen.
“When the wicked carried us away in captivity – required from us a song,” they sang together, and Adam led the rest of us in a background “ah, ah, ah.”
Karen and the leaders continued. “How can we sing the Lord’s song, in a strange land?”
Karen nodded and we all sang the second verse together:
“When the wicked carried us away in captivity – required from us a song, how can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”
When Karen saw that the others could carry it, she started us off on a second round and then began her own oratorio, a spoken scat harmony.
“By the rivers of Babylon,” she began and we all continued, “where we sat down….”
“When we were walking…” Karen intoned.
“…and there we wept, when we remembered Zion,” we continued beneath her incantation.
“Yes, Jesus, when we were walking,” Karen expanded. “Walking on your path. Walking on our way home.”
“Because the wicked carried us away in captivity,” we sang in the background.
“Yes, Lord, walking to the Land of Freedom…freedom and health,” Karen continued,
Terry led us with a strong voice as we faltered a bit due to unfamiliarity, “Required from us a song…how can we sing the Lord’s song, in a strange land?”
Then Karen gave us a big sweep of her arms she and Terry launched into a new verse together, and Adam led us again in a “la, la, la” background mode:
“Let the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sight, here tonight.”
Once we knew the words, we could all join in and Karen and Terry repeated for all of us to sing:
“Let the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts,” we all sang together and started to sway together, “be acceptable in Thy sight, here tonight.”
Then we went ballistic and sang the first verse again.
“WITH EVERYTHING YOU’VE GOT!” Karen shouted.
“BY THE RIVERS of BABYLON, where we sat down, and there we wept when we remembered Zion,”
“AGAIN!” Karen screamed.
“By the Rivers of Babylon, where we sat down, and there we wept when we remembered Zion,”
“By the Rivers of Babylon, where we sat down, and there we wept when we remembered Zion,” we sang at the top of our lungs and I thought the walls – or at least the windows – were gonna burst.
“Yes, Jesus, walking to the Land of Freedom,” Karen chimed. “Make this a Land of Freedom. Now, Jesus; a Land of Peace and of Health. Oh yes, Sweet Jesus, Sweet Healthy Freedom.”
We were rockin’ and kept on singing.
“By the River so Babylon, where we sat down, and there we wept when we remembered Zion.”
Karen continued, and we hummed the song as she continued praying out loud.
“I feel your power, Lord. I know you are with us. Yes! I know you are with us! Do you feel the power of the Lord?”
“Yes!” everyone shouted, although I held back a lot because I refuse to allow anyone to be a lord over me. But, the power of the moment helped me surrender to a loftier vision of healing. My energies began to flow free and deep.
“Yes, Lord, I feel your beauty,” Karen called out. “I feel your power. I feel the healing taking place. Yes!” she shouted.
We all started to shout, “Yes!” “I feel it,” “Oh, yes!” It was loud, it was rich, and it was real.
I was buzzing. I loved it.
“Trey and Willy are being healed by your sweet love, dear sweet Jesus. Thank you, thank you, thank you…thank you,” Karen’s voice trailed off.
I looked up and saw an unfamiliar soldier standing in the doorway. He had two stars on each lapel and ‘MAYFIELD’ written over his right breast pocket. I nodded and he smiled, then after giving a slight nod he turned and left.
I pivoted back and rejoined the group.
“Yes, thank you, thank you, thank you,” we all intoned. Over and over we called, slowly coming to a quiet murmur of gratitude and acknowledgement.
When we were finished, I was drenched by both sweat and tears. So, too were all the other adults, but for the lads only Naleef and Deon looked physically worked up.
Nevertheless, Trey and Willy were breathing more easily, especially Trey, and Willy had some color back in his cheeks.
I looked at Adam and he back at me and we nodded. Yeah. It’s working.
Spent, I skipped dinner and went straight to bed.