Those little sticky notes were everywhere, the tiny little 1”x1” sizes and the next size up. All of them covered with notes from my conversations with Michael. Since our conversations were usually conducted while I was in a meditative state and I wasn’t spiritually advanced enough to write and meditate at the same time, I was forced to rely on my memory.
After I left Mass in the morning I would rush out to my car and write down on whatever scrap of paper was available everything I could remember from my discussions with Michael. So not only did I have sticky notes everywhere, there were notes on the backs of checks, scraps of notebook paper, old bills…whatever I could get my hands on. I couldn’t risk waiting until I got home or I was in front of my computer because by then I would forget half of what Michael told me. I came to recognize this odd quirk as one of the distinguishing signs between revelation and imagination.
With my imagination I could weave a plot line in and out of my thoughts for days before I was satisfied with it. Over the months it took me to write an entire novel, I could retain the tiniest details of what came before and what I wanted to come next. But I found I lost the specifics revealed in my meditation sessions with surprising speed. For one dazzling moment everything was perfectly clear. Then it faded rapidly. Thus my race to the car, or to the nearest piece of paper and pen, from wherever I was. I learned from painful experience if I waited too long to get my recollections down on paper the contents of our discussion was lost completely.
I remember one morning Michael began his recitation before Mass and his story spilled over into the service. I was trying to concentrate on both at the same time. Michael, apparently forgetting for the moment the limitations of my human brain, was running through the events he wanted me to take down that day at a brisk pace. I was starting to panic. I knew there was no way I was going to remember even half of what he was conveying to me, and at the same time wondered if there was any paper left in my briefcase which wasn’t covered with the scrawling notes of my barely legible handwriting. In my frustration, I finally interrupted him.
“Could you just slow down a minute? How am I supposed to remember all of this?”
Michael was usually very polite. I could tell it frustrated him to deal with my shortcomings but he never brought it up. When I fell behind he simply paused wherever he was in his account and patiently waited for me to catch up. Today though his usual unfailing courtesy deserted him and he responded to my rattled request in a voice brimming with sarcasm, “Perhaps if you began carrying a notebook with you we could proceed with this exercise with greater efficiency.”
I was duly chastised.
“Yes, all right.”
I was organizationally challenged by nature, but for Michael I was willing to make an effort. I did go out and buy a notebook that weekend…a nice one…with the leather ties that close the cover and the standard size notebook insert so whenever I filled one up, I could simply replace the insert. The problem was I rarely had the notebook with me whenever Michael showed up, which was mostly at Mass, but sometimes at my son’s lacrosse practice or while I was sitting on the beach. He was gracious enough he only mentioned once or twice how a notebook would be of far more use if I actually carried it with me.
I’m not sure I ever actually wrote anything down on the pages inside the notebook but I did begin gathering all of my scattered notes from my car, my briefcase, the drawer next to my bed, pockets of my jackets, jeans, shorts…you get the idea. I wrote little numbers at the top of each series of notes to keep the sequence of each day straight, and then slid them between the leather cover of my notebook. Once I had them in one place, I attempted to arrange the little stuck together piles of notes into chronological order. This was a bigger challenge than it sounds because my handwriting is barely legible on the best of days, when I was scrambling to keep up with Michael, it became all but illegible to anyone but me.
Still I persevered. I sensed my time with Michael was coming to an end. Neither of us said anything but we both knew. Going over my notes of our time together made me feel a little better about the impending goodbye.
When I was finished collecting as many of my notes as I could find I looked down at the mess in front of me and wondered what I was supposed to do with it. Somehow I didn’t think this was what God had in mind when he asked me to write down Michael’s story. I felt a little guilty. After I read Michael’s notes, I felt even worse about my rather haphazard stewardship of his precious gift. But at least I finally understood my part in all of this.
I was supposed to write down what I was told, to bear witness and keep a record of what was, what is, and sometimes, what will be and share it with those searching for more than the answers this world can provide. My job was to provide context and relevance to a story that had no frame of reference in the physical world. So from Michael’s notes I wrote a story within a story to give a voice to the firstborn’s point of view.
Michael left before I was finished, but before that final parting, he asked a favor of me.
I was flabbergasted. I was certain I misunderstood his request. “You’re joking.”
He just stood there grinning at me. (Not that I could see him exactly, but I could feel him laughing at my stunned reaction. He was probably thinking to himself it was the first time in my entire existence that words eluded me.)
He didn’t bothering answering my question because we both knew he wasn’t joking. But beneath his silent amusement, I sensed another emotion. Hope. I understood then how important it was to Michael that I grant his request.
Knowing this only increased my panic because I knew there was no way I could say yes. He couldn’t actually believe there was any possibility I would agree to his request…could he?
I didn’t know how to say no. We’d become friends over the past few months. I loved him. I think it’s probably impossible to spend any length of time with Michael and not love him. So how could I disappoint him by refusing? Especially after he’d been so kind and patient and wonderful to me? Still there was no way I could agree to his crazy request. I knew what my answer was going to be, I just didn’t know how to tell Michael.
The silence between us kept stretching farther and farther until something had to give. He finally took pity on me. “Perhaps you would like to discuss my request with our Father.”
I grasped at the lifeline he offered. “Yes, please. Is that all right?”
“And we’re still okay? You’re not angry?”
“We’re still okay. And of course I am not angry.”