Touching Eternity

"God invited me into sobriety,” says Rick. “I got the sense that I wouldn’t have to work at it, that this was a gift.” Rick didn’t realize at first how consequential this gift was." by David Reardon

When Saul was on the road to Damascus, he was visited by the Lord and struck blind. While he dealt with his affliction, he realized that he had a calling to serve a specific role in the spiritual war that rages for the souls of all humanity. His vision of Jesus irrevocably changed the course of his life. Miraculous transformations like Paul’s still occur now, and one such inspiring event happened to an influential member of The Salvation Army’s advisory board last summer.

Rick Osgood, a retired investment banker with history in the healthcare, biotech and medical technology sectors, is a member of the Western territorial advisory board. He was a founding member of Pacific Growth Equities and Volpe, Welty and Company before his retirement in 2011.

Rick’s relationship with The Salvation Army started some 20 years ago, when he was recruited to the San Francisco advisory board. Later, Rick moved to Napa, and joined the board there. With Rick’s help, the Napa advisory board pioneered an accredited culinary training program that Rick foresees as a model to be implemented by the Army elsewhere.

Later, Rick was asked by Commissioner Kenneth Hodder to oversee a task force dedicated to restructuring the Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) business model. That task force eventually became the territorial advisory board, on which Rick still serves. Rick has been a strong supporter and advocate for recovery ministries for a long time, even before his involvement with The Salvation Army.

Last May, Rick traveled to Ireland with a group of friends who form a kind of fraternity of philanthropy in the Bay Area. This time, Rick also brought along his brother to commemorate his recovery from a nasty, aggressive bout of cancer.

Rick was responsible for planning the opening evening’s dinner event, and he and his brother decided to meet up a few days beforehand. They traveled from Dublin to Doolin, a small town on the coast known for its music, where they spent the night before the event dining, drinking and listening to music.

When they returned to their lodging for the night, Rick found that he had a massive case of the hiccups. He recalled a trick that his grandmother had taught him, which was to drink water upside-down. He took a crystal carafe of water into the bathroom and bent over to drink. Rick lost his balance and crashed to the ground, his head colliding with the tile floor and the rock wall. The carafe shattered and Rick was cut; there was blood everywhere. His brother was able to patch him up, and thinking he was fine, the two went to bed. In the morning, they thought he would be fine, and that the worst he would suffer was a bad headache and a stiff neck.

They traveled back to Dublin and made the arrangements for the dinner that evening. Rick wasn’t feeling great so he went straight to bed after the dinner had ended while everyone else went out. The next day, one of Rick’s friends noticed that his speech had become slurred and asked if he’d been to a hospital. Rick said he hadn’t, but by the end of the lunch, he could no longer ignore how his body felt. He told his brother they needed to get to a hospital immediately.

They searched all over Dublin and ended up at St. James’s Hospital, which was incredibly busy. After waiting for five hours, Rick was finally seen by doctors who initially thought he’d had a stroke, but that wasn’t the case. Before long, they discovered he had a C1 burst fracture, an injury in the vertebra closest to the skull that usually results in either permanent paralysis or death.

Rick was admitted into the ICU, but after two days, he began to get delirious. At one point, he called his wife claiming to be held against his will in a warehouse. He wouldn’t settle down, so his brother was called in to stay with him. Eventually, they decided to sedate him, and Rick was put into a medically induced coma and was virtually unconscious for 35 days. During this time, he contracted COVID-19 and had three bouts of pneumonia. His wife, Cathy, immediately traveled to Ireland and sat at his bedside for the next 35 days, talking to him, playing music, and praying for him.

Soon after Cathy arrived, she also contracted COVID-19, and was forced to quarantine in a hotel. On the morning of the final day of her quarantine, she got a call from the hospital. Rick’s heart had stopped. His wife was asked to come to the hospital to see Rick in a private ICU room and the message was clear: this was her chance to say goodbye.

What followed was what Rick describes as “a succession of providential miracles.” Rick’s wife called their friend Julie Field, who also served on the Napa advisory board and is a top physician, and she was in Ireland the next day, praying beside Rick and his wife. Other friends and pastors from around the world prayed as well. Rick estimates that tens of thousands of Christians around the globe prayed for him. Ministries he’d been involved in such as Celebrate Recovery, Prison Fellowship and The Salvation Army participated in the intercessory effort.

The prayers worked. Rick woke up and began to recover. Once he was lucid again, he began to analyze his experience. Rick says, “I had an overwhelming sense that I’d been in a battle,” and he sought out clarity and discernment to decipher what had happened. After filtering out the obvious dreams and delusions brought on by being unconscious for so long, he was left with one image that he saw when he had his near-death experience.

“I had a vision of myself being on the very edge of a giant precipice that went into a huge hole filled with the luminous white light that people describe. There was a battle happening over me, with a group of beings who were trying to push me into what I interpreted as being a gate into heaven and a group trying to keep me out. There was a full-scale battle raging over this … I absolutely believe that I touched eternity.”

After 40 days in hospitals in Ireland, Rick was transferred via air ambulance to Marin General Hospital in California. When he arrived, he was still bedridden and on a feeding tube. However, it only took him about a week to regain enough strength to get up from bed and to swallow on his own. It was during this time that Rick really began to meditate on his accident and the following month.

He felt that God had given him a gift. Not only the obvious miraculous recovery, but also an opportunity to really change the way he lived in an unexpected manner. “God invited me into sobriety,” says Rick. “I got the sense that I wouldn’t have to work at it, that this was a gift.” Rick didn’t realize at first how consequential this gift was.

During one of his recent check-ups with his doctor, Rick discovered that the reason he hadn’t had surgery during his ordeal was that the procedure would have killed him due to how sick he was. His doctor was very concerned about potential nerve damage and other lasting issues. Nothing like that has occurred yet, which Rick attributes to God’s miracles and the strength of prayer. His doctor also told him that the delirium and numerous complications were likely exacerbated by alcohol withdrawal. God had given him a wake-up call to change his ways and focus on the things that matter, such as his family. “He told me that I needed to learn to love my family the way He does, which is unconditionally and absolutely,” says Rick.

Since he began his recovery, Rick has met with multiple professionals and top doctors in the spine and neck field, and they’ve all told him the same thing: he shouldn’t be here. There’s no medical way to explain how he survived his injury, especially without any surgeries, but Rick knows how it happened. He expects to continue to a full recovery and is on a new mission to spread the word about the strength of prayer and the spiritual battle that rages on behalf of all of us. He says, “I think that God is saying, ‘Hey, wake up. You’re here for such a time as this. Get your sword sharpened!’” Rick’s story is a reminder that we are engaged in spiritual warfare, and while we serve a God of miracles, we should never allow ourselves to become complacent. So, wake up!  

Illustration by Jorm Sangsorn iStock / Getty Images Plus