22: Miracle Times Three

22: Miracle Times Three

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Miracles

Miracle Times Three

This isn’t just “another day, another dollar.” It’s more like “another day, another miracle.”

~Victoria Moran

My grandmother was so sick that January. It had been a particularly hard winter already, and my mom and I had just brought Gram to the emergency room. She’d had several bouts of bronchitis in recent months, and this latest round had escalated into pneumonia. When the ER doctor admitted her, I stayed with Gram at the hospital. I hated the idea of losing her, yet I feared that it might be her time.

Other people thought so too. She’d lived a long, happy life, everyone said—a platitude I didn’t want to hear. True, Gram was ninety-three years old, but I loved her with all my heart. She had suffered with Alzheimer’s for nearly a decade, and even though, over time, the disease had taken her little by little, she’d never come to a point where she didn’t know me — until that night. Her eyes looked wild and glassy; she babbled words that didn’t make sense. At one point, she reached out and smacked my face, something my cherished Gram would never do. As she struggled to breathe in her hospital bed, I tried to conceal my pain. Letting go a sob, I called a nurse to help, then left Gram’s room and wept in the hallway. The shock of it all cut deep.

Moments later, a gentle priest was by my side. “It’s okay to cry,” he said. “That’s why God made tears.”

As morning dawned, tears indeed seemed the theme of things.

Gram’s doctor came in and kissed her cheek. “Goodbye, Marie,” she said, eyes watery. “You’ve been a good patient.”

The charge nurse was similarly emotional. “Her kidneys are shutting down, bless her heart. It won’t be long now. Godspeed, Marie.”

By noon, my mom and dad, as well as my aunt, uncle, and cousin had joined me in our vigil. Gram had lapsed into semi-consciousness sometime in the middle of the night. She didn’t seem to see us, just stared into the distance, mumbling incoherently. Late in the day, Dad called Ellen, a hospice chaplain we’d met when my grandfather fell ill. Now a family friend, Ellen hurried over to Gram, who continued gazing up, as if seeing someone there. Her words still didn’t make sense, and all we could decipher was an occasional “yes” or “I will.”

Ellen explained that Gram was actually present in both worlds; bodily, she was still here with us, but spiritually she was straddling a chasm. In her tender manner, Ellen coaxed Gram to “Take the Lord’s hand. It’s okay to cross over, Marie.”

I prepared myself right then to accept the inevitable, but Gram hung on through the night. By the next morning, however, it was clear that something truly amazing had occurred. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Far from “crossing over,” Gram now sat up in bed, fully coherent. She patted a spot beside her, and, in shock, I sat down. Then, in a serene voice, she called me by a name I loved but hadn’t heard in a very long time: not “Theres-A,” my formal given name, but “Trees-IE,” her silly nickname for me.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

As the morning advanced, Gram’s miraculous recovery astounded everyone. Eventually, she was well enough to leave the hospital, and after a couple of days, while still frail, she settled into a new routine at a skilled nursing facility. I went home to St. Louis, four hours away, hating to go, but knowing I had to get back to my family. The doctor had warned that Gram could leave us at any time, and for weeks after arriving home I worried.

The dreaded phone call came on an unseasonably cold day in May, and it unfolded in a way I never would have expected. I picked up the receiver to hear Mom’s tortured voice. “I have to tell you,” she choked out. “I need to say . . . your dad has died.”

At first, I couldn’t process her words. “What?” I gasped.

Mom tried to speak again, but then a social worker took over the phone. I listened in disbelief. All along, I’d expected news of Gram, so how could this be about Dad? My mind caught on the memory of him at the hospital, so distraught over Gram’s situation, yet knowing just what to do. Solid as a rock, my father. How could he be gone? I couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe.

Somehow, my husband, Jeff, and I made the four-hour drive to our hometown in record time. We went straight to Mom’s house, and while Jeff fetched take-out dinner that none of us ate, I sat with Mom at the kitchen table, watching the setting sun. Dad had gone out to garden early that morning, suffered a massive heart attack, and died right there in his back yard. I stared out at the fledgling tomato plants he’d never get to tend. It all seemed unreal. How could this be?

The next day, Jeff and I took on the very hard task of telling Gram the news—and that’s when a second astonishing event transpired. Still in the throes of Alzheimer’s, Gram had continued to fade away, with fewer moments of lucidity, but as the words about Dad tumbled out, she nodded. “I know,” was all she said, quite articulately. “I came back to help, Treesie. Your mom is going to need me, and I’m supposed to be here.”

My mouth fell open in surprise.

Suddenly, it all made miraculous sense.

And two years later, on the night after my beloved grandmother finally did pass, a third little astonishing thing occurred. Staying once more at Mom’s, I was awakened from sleep by a wispy touch on my shoulder. Call it a trick of light, call it a shadow, but I could see Gram’s presence.

She remained there for the merest of moments, then seemed to float out into the living room, where she hovered beside Dad’s chair, and I swear I heard her say, “I helped.”

I believe Gram knew full well on her hospital deathbed that Dad was going to die. I believe that, far from the nonsensical words we’d all thought she’d uttered, she was actually conversing with someone on the other side, learning about her one final task. I believe she accepted that task willingly, returning to us with a renewed spiritual purpose. She and Mom had always been close, and her presence and required care would give Mom a renewed purpose too.

I’ve come to think of these events surrounding Gram’s death as her trinity of miracles, her Miracle Times Three. They’ve strengthened my faith and helped me to see that our deceased loved ones don’t ever really leave us at all. No, far from gone, they become celestial collaborators with God, our own personal connections in Heaven. They journey from this world on into the next, and sometimes, if we’re blessed, they journey back again, to give us hope, to give us counsel, and to give us love.

~Theresa Sanders

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