"Dad! You're bleeding! Do you need me to call an ambulance?" my eldest daughter asked, business-like, focused, anticipating and prioritizing several thousand possible contingencies, and mentally formulating the necessary procedural steps to move the most sensible alternative forward into reality.
She was like that. Good to have around in an emergency. Or anytime.
"Daddy!" her younger sister cried, crouching beside me on the ground next to the youngest and putting her hand to the wound.
"Ow!" I said. She jerked her hand away like she'd been burned.
"Is there anything leaking out besides blood?" I asked.
"You mean like brain-matter?"
She looked again, critically, objectively, able to put her initial emotional tsunami aside.
"OK then, no ambulance."
I met my wife's eyes at that moment. Years and years of knowing each other - living day-to-day in each other's company, raising our daughters, bearing each other's burdens, pains, triumphs, defeats, joys, and sorrows - meant that everything was communicated wordlessly in that split-second glance.
It is an intimacy and understanding that only a long investment of time together can yield, augmented to an inconceivable depth by our shared faith in Christ.
"You should get checked out," she said with a calm that I knew she did not feel.
Our daughters made room for her next to me, something she always, consciously, sacrificially, did for them, knowing how important, and short, time was between fathers and daughters.
I am sure we made quite a tableau crouched there together in our front yard; four beautiful females of various ages and one aging, crumpled and bleeding gnome.
"I have a hard head," I reminded her.
"What happened?" the youngest asked, calmer now, the embodiment of sympathy.
"Just a rock thrown out by a dump truck," I answered, feeling less, well, crumpled with each passing second.
I went through a list of possible bad symptoms in my head: no dizziness, no nausea, no headaches beyond the gash in my temple, no shock, the bleeding was subsiding as my wife compressed a cloth against it - I don't know when or where she obtained it.
In short, I had just been knocked unconscious for what seemed like years but was probably less than a couple of seconds. I'd been through worse in my younger years.
"Are you OK, Daddy? Did you break the driveway?"
I smiled. It was what I always asked when one of them fell, or got hurt, in the course of life. It was my lame attempt to distract them momentarily from their pain, and enabled me to assess the seriousness of their injury. If they laughed or got annoyed, then I knew it was probably not life threatening.
"No," I said. "But that rock will never be the same. It's over there by the hedge." I pointed where I knew it had landed, having seen it come to rest while disembodied.
I thought that thought like such things crossed my mind daily.
"Can you stand?" my wife asked.
In answer, I lumbered upward, involuntarily groaning at the effort.
On two feet again, I adjusted my glasses, grimacing at how they now felt, misshapen on my rapidly swelling and tender face.
I remembered my experience in full. Was it a dream? A vision? An actual, objective event?
I didn't know. I didn't care, because whatever it was, it increased my longing for Heaven and my love for my Lord, and my thankfulness for all His glorious gifts.
"You're just standing there," my eldest pointed out.
I looked at her, so utterly grateful for her presence, for the privilege of having her, and all her sisters, in my life.
I turned toward my wife and my tears began to flow, and she, of all the other billions of human beings in the world, knew precisely what I was feeling without me having to say a word; another of His amazing gifts.
And I was ushered inside, surrounded by the people who cared for me the most, and I knew, beyond any shadow of doubt, now and forever, that I was loved.
And whenever my work on-planet was done, however long it took to complete, there was awaiting for me a Place and a Person, where, and in whom, nothing of value or goodness was ever lost.
© Bill Lilley 2011, 2013