I have a unique outlook on life.
There are far too many factors that contribute to my atypical world view to list but I’ll give you the one that left the biggest footprint.
I spent the lion’s share of the first five years of my life in the hospital fighting what was then a terminal illness. Science has come a long way to help children overcome a diagnosis of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis but in the early 70’s doctors were in a perpetual state of flummox.
As I grew up and whenever I was within earshot, this is how my mother always told the end of the story:
“...One morning in particular, JJ had been in cardiac arrest over a dozen times throughout the night. I was a nurse’s aid at Sacred Heart Medical Center and I’d been in and out of his room to check on him (doctor’s and supervisors all ran interference for me because back then the hospital would have considered my visits a conflict of interest). Later that morning, a man shows up in the doorway to JJ’s room. He claimed that God woke him up from a dream (didn't say what the dream was) and told him to fly from his home in Florida to Spokane, Washington to pray for a very sick little boy. The man jumped on a plane and hours later, there he stood.
He asked if he could pray for JJ. Of course, I immediately broke down and cried. The doctor patted me on the shoulder, left the room and closed the door. I stood there as the man laid his hand on JJ’s forehead and whispered a prayer. Five minutes later, he turned and gave me a hug. What he said to me remains the most impactful statement I would ever hear.
“JJ’s spirit is locked in a violent battle with death. A battle he will win. To death, that child is fearsome. God bless you both, Donna.”
Then he turned and walked out the door.
That night, JJ’s vitals remained consistently stable. The next morning, to our surprise, he asked for ice cream. He ate a quarter-gallon of Neapolitan in one sitting. Throughout the day he continued eating copious amounts of food. Any food! Every food! He hadn't eaten for months and now nurses were running all over the hospital to keep him in supply. That night when Dr. Kappstaffer walked in, JJ was sitting on the edge of his bed putting his street clothes on. I looked over and watched as the blood drained out of Kappstaffer’s face. He was the best pediatric surgeon in the state and had prepared me for JJ’s death on countless occasions. But now, he stammered and said something to himself then he turned to me.
“Donna, there might be something to this prayer thing you do so much. To say this is unprecedented would be inadequate. This is a f***ing miracle if ever I've seen one”.
A week later, after an extensive battery of tests showed that the inflammation in his elbows, wrists and knees had retreated to near extinction, JJ checked out of the hospital and never went back.”
The stories seem the stuff of legend - perhaps even a bit of myth thrown in - but they are consistent and many people testify to their accuracy. As for me; I remember looking out the window through an oxygen mask that was too big for my face as my parents walked to our old red Volkswagen van in the parking lot with their arms around each other. I was crying and screaming bloody murder and I remember a nurse wiping my face with her hand telling me they would return that evening.
This is what’s been burned into my heart. It’s the only memory I have of the darkest period in my life. But that same God, the One Who wrestled death with me back then reveals Himself to me the same way today. He seems familiar when I talk to Him. Like He’s always been there. Therein lies the foundation of my ridiculous, illogical faith. An invisible God who refuses to show himself to me in person has enough Grace to form His own Shape out of the very elements that make up my physiology. My inner-works have seen God. My body knows it is under His authority. But my mind is on a relentless journey to find Him in Person.
The rest of my body is always promising me that someday...I will.
TO BE CONTINUED.