The vision of his imprisoned friend made him realize that the bonds of friendship can be truly mysterious.
Posted in , May 25, 2021
The phone rang late one night. It was my brother Kerry.
“Joe, Sammy’s plane was shot down during the air strike,” he said.
Sammy, our mutual friend, was a lieutenant colonel and fighter pilot with the Kuwait Air Force. Kerry quickly filled me in on the details. Sammy was alive, but he was being held prisoner. He’d been badly beaten. We didn’t know what would happen to him next or whether he’d even make it out.
At that point, I’d known Sammy for about 12 years. I met him through Kerry, who lived in Saudi Arabia and had friends all over the world. One summer, he invited Sammy to come with him to California when he returned home to visit. Sammy and I instantly hit it off. We’d both been in the Air Force and were familiar with the same fighters, specifically the A4 Skyhawk, which he flew. He was kind and easy to be around. Someone I was proud to call my friend.
I got off the phone with Kerry and switched on the news to try to get some more information. There weren’t any further updates, so I decided to go to bed. I tossed and turned for a while.
Eventually, I fell asleep. I had the strangest, most realistic dream. I was in a dark room. I innately knew I was viewing everything through Sammy’s eyes. There was a small window high up on the wall with a dim light hanging above it. I could just barely see the maroon porcelain-tiled walls. It was so cold in the room that my body convulsed with shivers.
And I felt intense pain in my hands. It radiated from the base of my thumbs and encircled my wrists. I was clinging to a green-and-white-striped blanket, and for some reason, it felt significant. A comfort amid the desolation.
I woke up the next morning with the dream still clear in my mind. It made sense to be dreaming about Sammy, but why all those tactile details? Sammy had been captured in the hot desert. In my worst imaginings I’d pictured him in a stifling concrete cell, not a cold room with tiled walls. I didn’t understand the significance of the striped blanket. Or the pain in my wrists.
I sat up in bed, pulled back the covers and winced. What in the world? My wrists were sore, as if the pain from the dream had traveled into real life. I jumped up and ran to the bathroom. Splashed cold water on my face. Ran it over my hands. The pain ebbed a bit, but it was definitely real. It was so acute that I had trouble holding things for five days.
The whole experience was so strange that I kept it to myself while we waited for news. Finally, about a month later, Kerry called. Sammy was being released! He called from the hospital once he’d had some rest, and I talked to him for a bit. Told him how happy I was that he was okay. He sounded tired but in good spirits. We stayed in touch throughout his recovery, but it was another two years before we saw each other again.
Sammy and his sister came to my family’s home for the holidays. It was a joyous reunion. Along with my daughters, Kathleen and Amy, I greeted them at the door with cheers and hugs. We all sat down in the kitchen to catch up. Eventually the conversation turned to Sammy’s imprisonment. I’d never intended to tell Sammy about my dream. I didn’t want to remind him of such a traumatic time in his life. But since the topic had come up, I felt compelled to share what had happened.
I told Sammy about the small window, the dimly lit walls, my wrists hurting and the white blanket with green stripes. I half expected Sammy to tell me I was crazy. But when I was done, he looked amazed. Then he talked about what happened during his imprisonment, sharing details that he’d never told anyone…
The room he was kept in had one small window high on the wall with a light hanging above it. It had maroon tile walls. His captors had cuffed his hands so tightly, his wrists were cut and caused him great pain. He pulled up his sleeves to show me the scars. The room had been dark and miserably cold. His only comfort was a thin blanket with green and white stripes.
We stared at each other in silence. Everything matched. From halfway around the world, I’d actually seen Sammy’s imprisonment. But how?
Sammy and I don’t have all the answers, but we both know that in the darkest time of his life, he wasn’t alone. The bonds of friendship truly are mysterious. And all of us are spiritually connected in ways that transcend earthly comprehension.
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