Policemen are trained to deal with every eventuality. But nothing could have prepared Buddy Farris for what was to happen to him after he apprehended a speeding car on a busy highway one Thanksgiving Eve in the USA. This is his story.
I was engrossed in my book, and at first I failed to notice the traffic speeding on this dark Thanksgiving Eve. The radar ticked off the count …60, 65, 70, 75, 80.
When another car flashed by at 82, I set the reading material down, leaving it open at one of my favourite passages. I had to focus on the job at hand, which was to control traffic flow on Interstate 95. Flipping on my Virginia State police car’s flashing lights, I accelerated. The offender quickly pulled over. I slowed and cruised in behind the car. My lights shone through their rear window, illuminating an elderly couple. I got out and began walking towards the other car. The motorists were two senior citizens, so I wasn’t too concerned about the possibility of them assaulting me, or pulling a gun. However, another threat stalked me in the pitch-black night air. I never saw it coming.
Approaching me from behind, another motorist sped his way up the highway. He was driving a Chrysler and I vividly remember the Chrysler emblem on the hood of his car. When I reached the stationary car’s rear door, he embedded that emblem in the centre of my back, at 65 miles an hour. The impact knocked me over. Just as I started to slide underneath his car, his car impacted the stationary vehicle, with my body caught between the two vehicles.
From here on, not everything I will tell you about this incident is based on personal recollection. Parts have been reconstructed from paramedics, rescue squad members, doctors, policemen and medical examiner’s data. The evidence is documented.
After being slapped like a pinball between the vehicles, I flew up into the air. Coming back down, I landed on the roof of the car that had rammed me. The top half of my body spilled onto the highway. Just then, two fully loaded, 80,000-pound tractor-trailers steamed up the northbound lane, travelling close together. The first driver barely saw me in time to jerk his rig out of the way without jack-knifing or running me over. The second trailer had little time to react. And he could not turn his vehicle at a 45-degree angle fast enough. Throwing his hands up in front on his face, he cried ‘Oh, my God!’
‘You’ll never believe what happened!’ he said later to the investigating officer. ‘You’ll never believe it! All of a sudden the wheel on my tractor turned to the left and back to the right. I never touched that wheel!’ Humanly speaking, what happened was impossible.
Regaining consciousness, I stood up, walked about 25 steps up the hard shoulder, and then collapsed. Soon after, the rescue squad arrived. In vain, they tried to feel a heartbeat or a faint pulse. After 30 minutes of trying to find vital signs, at 10:23 p.m. they covered my face with a sheet. Then they turned their attentions to cleaning up from the accident. With my body headed for the local morgue, there was no hurry!
Thank God I had been prepared for this moment long before. Because of my father’s influence, I had believed in Jesus since childhood. Despite a fourth-grade education, Dad had more wisdom than a roomful of Ph.D.s who don’t know the Lord. He didn’t have a college degree, but he built his own house from the ground up. He also designed furniture.
Raised on a farm, near my present home, I was sometimes ridiculed as a dumb country boy. ‘I know why you believe the way you do, Buddy,’ a man once told me. ‘If you had just a little bit or education, you wouldn’t believe like you do.’ I was accomplished on the running track, and missed going to the Olympic trials by three-tenths of a second. An athletic scholarship paid for my education. But I will never forget what Dad told me the day I left for college.
‘Son, go ahead and get your education’ he said quietly. ‘But education will not give you the joy and peace you’re looking for. Only God can do that.’
‘What do you mean, Dad?’
‘You take a truck loaded full of watermelons and a thief, and a thief will steal the watermelons off the truck. You educate him and he’ll steal the watermelons and the truck. But he’s still a thief. Education didn’t change him.’
I thank the Lord for a man like my father. He has supported me in my job. Police work is stressful, and different shifts and job tension take their toll on many policeman and their families. My grandmother influenced me too. She had a huge smile. I remember seeing her our porch as a boy. She was sitting here swinging, reading her Bible, with tears streaming down her face.
‘Grandma, are you okay?’ I asked.
‘I sure am’, she always smiled. I was with my 72-year-old grandma the night she died. She was so weak and sick that she couldn’t lift her arms. She could barely move her hand. The night she stepped into glory, she looked up and said, ‘All those lights. All those people.’
‘Grandma, the lights are off,’ I said softly. ‘There’s no one here but you and me.’ Then with her last ounce of energy, she lifted her right hand up, smiled, and said ‘I know who that is’. It took me years to understand what she meant. What helped me grasp what she meant was the experience I had myself before coming back to life. I will remember the encounter forever.
Everything went pitch black after I passed out on the highway that night. It was the darkest black I had ever seen. I felt like I was trapped in a deep hole. Yet I felt no fear or pain. Emerging from this charcoal air were thousands upon thousands of hands. They came at me in waves, grabbing at my body but never touching me.
I have been asked what this was before I ever discussed this publicly. I asked God to help me not mislead anyone in explaining it. For what I endured, I believe, was the valley of the shadow of death. As the 23rd Psalm says ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.’
One day you too will walk through that valley. If you are a Christian, Satan can try to grab all he wants. I believe that’s what he was trying to do that night, along with his angels, vainly trying to make one last snatch at God’s child. Those hands fluttered at me for what seemed like two or three minutes. Then I found myself bathed in a very bright light. The whitest, brightest light I had ever seen. When I looked around, it was just as white above me as it was in the distance.
Have you ever had one of those times when you felt like you could reach up and touch Heaven? Have you ever felt that you were going to burst wide open, or just didn’t know what you would do next? Multiply that feeling a1000 times and you may have some idea of the unspeakable joy I felt as I stood there. Glory, happiness and peace filled my soul. I know now why we will need a new body when we get to Heaven. Our Earthly ones won’t be able to contain the radiance!
Ahead in the distance I saw a large door. As I looked, it seemed that a thousand rainbows were pouring out of that door. It was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen, with the most dazzling colours. With four children and 50 boxes of crayons around the house, I am familiar with colours! Attracted by the sight, I began walking towards it.
As I drew closer, I felt that the joy would cause my body to split in two. I feel inadequate trying to describe this scene. God says in His Word (1 Corinthians 2-9) that we have not seen or heard the things He has prepared for us. It’s true!
Had I made it to that door, I believe my loved ones would have read my obituary and mourned my passing. Meanwhile, I would be dancing on the hills of glory, wrapping my arms around Moses and Abraham, and rejoicing in His presence. However, when I got within six feet of the door I woke up. It’s been more than 12 years since this happened, and for a long time I was petrified to tell anyone about it.
For some reason, God brought me back to life 23 minutes after the paramedics pronounced me dead at the scene. When I woke up, they were wheeling my body down the hallway toward the morgue’s cold storage area. A policeman named Sonny Dobbins was clutching the railing of the cart. Sonny was a mountain of a man. I had never seen him cry before, but he was crying then.
As I was trying to pull the sheet off my face, I saw the lights in the hallway. Blood had matted the sheet to my face, so it was hard to remove. When I finally got the sheet off, I had no idea what had transpired. Looking at my fellow policeman, I asked ‘Sonny, what happened?’
After his mouth fell open, he stammered, ‘Bud, you’re supposed to be dead!’
Suddenly everyone jumped into action. Instead of cold storage, they whisked me to the hospital. I was hospitalised and later spent three months recuperating at home. I also had $1,200 worth of plastic surgery performed on my face. My face didn’t really change much – I still have a big nose and baggy eyes. But they closed my facial wounds and there were no scars.
Remember I said that I was dead for 23 minutes? After four minutes without oxygen you’re supposed to have brain damage. Well, I am still healthy, running and working out. I am still working in law enforcement, stopping speeding motorists, arresting lawbreakers, and defending myself when I must. That does not always call for a gun.
One night death stared me directly in the eye again. A criminal stood with a pistol pointed at my head. Without even thinking, I said, ‘To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord’ (2 Corinthians 5-8). Putting the gun down, the criminal looked at me and said ‘You’re crazy. You can’t be the man’ (a slang expression for police). After we shook hands I arrested him.
Remember the book I was reading on the Thanksgiving evening that I nearly died? It was the Bible. The page was turned to Romans 8:28 where it says, ‘We know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose’ (RSV).
If you don’t know the joy of Someone working on your behalf, invite Jesus to live in your heart today. He can take away all fear, no matter what frightens you. And He can remove all your pain, no matter how intense, even when a car collides with you at 65 miles an hour.
This story was originally printed in Voice Magazine – the official magazine of FGBMFI, and is used with their kind permission.
The true story of Buddy Farris is included, with his kind permission, in the free e-book BEYOND THE FINAL FRONTIER which includes 27 similar true stories, and may be freely read and downloaded from this web site.