by Karen Frazier, Managing Editor
Recently, one of my friends had a co-worker who was ill with pancreatic cancer. As everyone knows, pancreatic cancer is one of the bad ones (not that there are any good cancers). It is the kind that is almost a certain death sentence.
My friend asked for – and no doubt received – prayers for her friend in church. Several weeks later, she stood up and reported that he was now cancer-free. I happened to be in church that day doing something musical, and I could feel the ripple go through the church. It did, indeed, seem miraculous.
My father suffers from a progressive form of rheumatoid arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis. Since his mid-twenties, his vertebrae have been calcifying and fusing together. It is a very painful and debilitating disease with a lot of other debilitating side effects and illnesses that come along with it. About five years ago, it looked like he was close to being in a wheel chair. He was in constant agony. Walking was painful. As difficult as it is to see your parent that way, I’m sure it was even more difficult for him.
Then my older sister, who is a registered nurse, told him about a treatment that had been out for a few years called Remicade. The Remicade was given as infusions every month or so. It was breathtakingly expensive. I can’t even remember what my dad said the cost of a single infusion was now, but if I recall, it was enough to break a small nation.
Fortunately, Dad is a retired educator and has pretty decent insurance. The infusions were covered. And so, with the first glimmer of hope he’d had in years, he went and had his first infusion.
He had almost immediate relief.
I will never forget the emotion in that first email he sent out to all of us talking about how he felt after his first infusion. Where he was cautiously optimistic going into the infusion, coming out he was elated! The pain was gone. He felt as he hadn’t in years. Just reading and feeling the emotion and relief behind what he was telling his family in the email brought me to tears. It brings me to tears thinking of it now. Watching my father – who was always a big, strong, vital man – suffer was worse than suffering myself. Knowing that suffering was alleviated was like an instant release of something dark and oppressive that had been there so long, I’d forgotten it was even a part of me.
It felt to him – as it did to the rest of us who had watched him suffer more and more as the years went by – miraculous.
Miracles come in all forms. In the case of my father, the miracle was that there were researchers who labored away – probably for years – to find a way to take away the pain of a severely debilitating disease. I find that no less miraculous than my friend’s co-worker’s sudden and spontaneous remission from pancreatic cancer.
Every day, ordinary life is filled with miracles that we are often too busy or too wrapped up in our own angst to recognize. Today, the sun is shining, my family is together and I am, right now in this moment, pursuing my purest passion – writing. How is that not miraculous that I have the opportunity to be here, right now, doing this?
Yesterday, my son dropped a fly he had captured into his new Venus Flytrap’s aquarium and then watched as a plant – A PLANT – snapped shut around the fly. Miraculous for the plant, certainly. Probably not so much for the fly.
Life is full of big miracles and small ones. Giving birth to the love of my life – huge miracle. A scientist toiling in obscurity to find a cure for an illness – huge miracle, but probably often unrecognized as such. Sitting in my backyard with the sunlight on my face, my dogs playing around me and my loved ones nearby, the scent of barbecue wafting in my general direction – everyday miracle, but no less miraculous, nonetheless, that all of my life I had been moving to exactly that perfect little moment in time.
What is a miracle? I guess it depends on your perspective. Are miracles mystical gifts from a God who determines where and when to grant favor to the suffering, or are they ordinary events there for the taking, waiting for us to recognize the beauty in what we have? There are some days where nothing feels miraculous. Sometimes that can be cured by caffeine, but not always.
Then, there are other days where life is distilled into a series of moments of snapshots where, if you really take the time to experience them in the moment, the poignancy and beauty of each moment can bring you to your knees.
Right now, I have a computer and a dog in my lap. My son is still snoozing upstairs, but I know that soon he will come down, first stumbling and mumbling and ultimately bounding and bubbling with enthusiasm. Jim is in the other room, probably reading about his beloved University of Washington Huskies. Soon he’ll emerge, hungry for breakfast with that certain smile on his face I love. The dogs are all taking a break from tumbling all over one another. I can see each on its various perch curled up contentedly. Sunlight is streaming in my windows. We’ve got dry rubbed ribs in the refrigerator, ready to be smoked on the barbecue. I have two freelance assignments before I get the joy of working on my book today. The birds who have built the nest in our soffit along the front of the house are flying in and out, and I can hear the babies chirping. Narcissus, the bird who has fallen in love with his reflection in our front window for the third year running is sitting outside of the window pecking at himself. In this moment, everything is peaceful and perfect. And if that isn’t a miracle, then I don’t know what is.