Christian or not, the spirit of the season encourages us to believe — if only for a little while — that the impossible is, indeed, possible.
That was the premise that finally took shape as "The Meaning of Miracles" (in the December 2002 issue of Canadian Living magazine), a reminder to us all that miracles really do exist, as certainly as love and generosity, peace and hope do.
Read some of these everyday miracles to renew your holiday spirit.
The Unknown Angel
When I was a young girl, I applied for a job selling magazines door-to-door for a well-known magazine company. Little did I know what I was in for!
I would have to travel all over Canada and go door-to-door trying to sell subscriptions to various magazines. When I left I knew I had made a bad mistake. While in the car on the road past Toronto, we were memorizing our "come-on" to use on prospective customers. Another girl and I had the giggles. The male in charge of our group said sternly to stop laughing and start memorizing. I was afraid.
When we reached North Bay, I started thinking of ways I could get out of this mess. I was a long way from my home in Windsor. After a few days of approaching homeowners, I met a woman who let me in her house. I told her what I was there for. I also told her how scared I was of the people I was with and how I just wanted to go home. They had a car going up and down the street looking for me. The woman immediately had me call home and talk to my dad. I was crying and she told me I could stay in her home that night and that she would go with me the next day to pick up my belongings at the motel. That's exactly what she did. Upon returning to her house, she also said she purchased a bus ticket for me to go home. I was so grateful. She helped me onto the bus and I got her address so I could send her the money for the bus ticket.
When I returned home, I tried to call her but the phone was disconnected. I sent her a money order for the bus ticket and it was returned address unknown. Did I meet my angel in a time of need? That was my miracle.
Christine Gomes, via Internet
A Body of Miracles
As a young mother I had a sense there was something different about my newborn son. My own experience of teaching skating to disabled children made this inner sense even more real. It soon became clear Bradley was born with a congenital spine deformity. X-rays revealed that every vertebrae in his spine was malformed, one lung was underdeveloped and the ribs on one side were misshapen and crossed over one another.
And so began many years of visits to doctors and specialists, brace fittings and a strange new vocabulary. From the age of three months he was encased in a brace made of leather and steel in an attempt to keep his spine from shifting. Later he was fitted with plastic braces that went from under his chin to over his hips. He was never out of these braces except to have a bath and my heart would break as I saw the permanent bruising on his shoulder blades, hips and neck. I longed to hold him without having this awkward barrier between us, to just hold him and feel his warmth and snuggle together as mother and son.
The years passed and we dealt with the teasing and hurtful comments at school and in the community. As a result he developed his own sense of humour. He loved to wait until a teacher was about to bend over and then he would quickly pull on one of the Velcro straps that held his brace together. Invariably this would result in the teacher straightening up quickly to see what she had torn. The sparkle in his eyes and his broad smile gave him away every time.
In spite of the efforts to keep the spine in check, it twisted as Bradley grew and bent to one side until it was crushing his heart and lung. Finally, at the age of twelve, we were advised to seek medical help in Minneapolis, Minn. After many consultations and tearful discussions we prepared for surgery.
We arrived in Minneapolis as strangers facing an uncertain future. We did not know that we were now in miracle territory. When we came into the airport terminal, an elderly couple met us and called us by name. They offered us their home, fed us and took us to the hospital. They came to the hospital and sat and prayed all day as the first surgery was completed. After 10 hours of surgery, Bradley was placed on a respirator in the intensive care unit. We did not know if he would survive the night. Doctors had entered his chest and removed one rib and a vertebrae in preparation for a second surgery.
As the week went by, I met many people from this couple's church. They encouraged me, stood at Bradley's bedside and quietly prayed for him. The men of this church not only prayed but demonstrated sacrificial love by rolling up their sleeves and donating blood to replace the blood Brad had lost.
During the second surgery, the team of surgeons removed eight ribs and used them to rebuild his spine, placing two stainless steel rods down either side of his spinal cord. They removed 90 per cent of his shoulder blade and they were able to straighten his spine from a 110-degree curvature to 34 degrees. This made room for his heart and lung to grow. He grew several inches on the operating table. We again waited for his recovery, always aware that he was one breath away from heaven.
During the next month of recuperation visitors came from home at just the right moment to encourage and strengthen. How many times I thought I would break down when suddenly there was a visit or a phone call. The Minneapolis church provided different homes for us to stay in during that summer. Ladies brought cookies, so many that I was going up and down the halls giving them away.
One Sunday school class came to visit and each child had memorized a joke to cheer Bradley up and said a bible verse to comfort him. Following that, one young boy came to visit Brad every day. He gave up his whole summer to be a companion to Brad.
The final home we were in was the home of a missionary doctor who spotted a sliver in Bradley's hand that had become infected. He contacted the surgeon and together they were able to treat the hand. The infection could have spread to the newly grafted bone. Another miracle.
Back home friends had harvested my country garden and put fruit and vegetables in my freezer. As the bills mounted, friends sent in donations and it seemed to be miracle after miracle as our different needs were met. I was humbled and grateful. Another dear friend who was a nurse came and helped with Brad's initial care.
We had no idea what was going on inside Bradley's body. Brad was recovering in a hospital bed at home now and we were required to fly back to Minneapolis for a check up. We were quite unprepared for what happened next.
The doctor put the latest X-rays up. On the screen were outlines of eight new ribs perfectly formed! The Doctor was so amazed he had to turn around and feel Brad's ribs to make sure they were not just shadows on the X-ray. With the wisdom of a twelve-year-old boy, Brad piped up, "Those ribs there, they're made of prayers."
Who could have known that one summer a mother and son would be sent to a large city as total strangers and return home with deep friendships and a brand new set of ribs.
P.S. Brad has grown into a fine young man, way beyond his life expectancy. He is an example of courage and faith and still has his quirky sense of humour. He married a wonderful young woman a year ago and now lives in California.
Mary McGraw Fox,
The Power of Positive Thinking
In August of 1994, I was discharged from hospital after major abdominal surgery. I was re-admitted to emergency a few days later. Parts of my body were getting increasingly numb. For two weeks I went through a barrage of tests. A friend who is a nurse visited me every day . He later related to me that at one point there was great concern that I might not recover.
I was discharged in a wheelchair, too weak to even brush my own hair. Yet I was determined not to be "sick." Every morning I crawled out of bed to simulate a normal routine. I would sit looking out my window watching several eagles soaring in the updrafts. I read books by resting on my stomach on the sofa with the book on the floor because I was too weak to hold paperbacks. I quit watching the news because of the negative stories. I stopped having the newspaper delivered for the same reason.
Each day I thanked God for my life. Several times each day between periods of sleep I practised positive imagery, positive thinking, relaxation breathing and chanted that with every breath I took my cells would rejuvenate. After six months I received notice that the loan of my wheelchair from the Red Cross was at an end. Instead of re-renting it, I had my friend return it. I was bound and determined to be able to get around without it. In 1997 an MRI proved that the diagnosis was indeed multiple sclerosis.
Today I am well enough to drive and am involved in volunteer work. I am unable to return to my career as an operating nurse but am pleased that my belief in God and the miracle of belief in healing has occurred.
Excerpted from The Everything Christmas Book: Stories, Songs, Food, Traditions, Revelry, and More (Adams Media, 1994).
Editor Francis P. Church's letter to Virginia O'Hanlon is one of the most touching written demonstrations of the importance in believing in what cannot be seen, touched, or proven. The letter originally appeared in the September 21, 1897 edition of The New York Sun. Nearly a century later, it remains a classic.
We take pleasure in answering at once and thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of the Sun:
DEAR EDITOR â€“ I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no SANTA CLAUS. Papa says 'If you see it in the Sun it's so.' Please tell me the truth, is there a SANTA CLAUS?
VIRGINIA O'HANLON, 115 West Ninety-fifth street.
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age.
They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there.
Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.