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My Christmas miracle: When death took a detour

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"Miracle - A surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency." Webster's dictionary

Not only do I believe in miracles, I expect them to occur in my life in answer to my prayers. Although we don't hear about divine miracles as often nowadays (probably because bad news pushes them off the front page) they do still happen. I know because I was the recipient of a divine miracle on Christmas Day. The following is a true account of my miracle and the events as they occurred that night.

In December 2002, I had been caring for my 83 year old mother throughout her 22 year battle with Primary -progressive Multiple Sclerosis (MS). By far, that year had been the toughest for mother and me. MS had robbed her of the ability to speak and had made eating and swallowing difficult. At the same time, she started having seizures, which gradually became more persistent, progressive, unrelenting and eventually, life-threatening. As a result, mother was hospitalized and given high doses of phenobarbital to quell the seizure activity. We left the hospital 12 days later, just three days before Christmas.

Even though mother couldn't say it, her eyes told me that she was glad to be back home. We both were. After I made her comfortable in bed and checked her feeding tube, I went to bed exhausted. Next morning, the Home-care nurse came by to check mother's vital signs. That morning, mother seemed oddly detached from the goings on around her. I noticed that she focused intently on the window near her bed.

After the nurse left, I bathed, dressed, and transferred mother to her wheelchair. She was happy to be out of bed in spite of being a little weak. We may have lost some ground in our fight against MS during this latest exacerbation, but I told mother that we were not going to let MS get the better of us; that we were in this fight together to the end. Later that same afternoon, sitting in her wheelchair, mother closed her eyes and slipped quietly into a coma. It was Christmas Eve.

For certain, things didn't look good at that point. Nevertheless, I continued to hope that somehow mother would pull through as she had done in past. I called for the Home-care nurse but she would be delayed until the following day. Going back to the hospital was not an option for us. So, I called my older sister, and waited for someone to come. During the long hours I was alone, I held mother's hand and talked to her. I believe that even in her comatose state, she could still hear me. Later that evening, my sister joined me in a bedside vigil for our mother. We stood watch as imminent death seemed poised to take our mother from us. I don't remember why now, but for some reason, I needed something from the drugstore. My sister volunteered to go. It was after midnight when she left for the 24-hour pharmacy just a few blocks away. It seemed like she was gone for a long time. I wondered if she was somewhere crying? I looked out the window, it was snowing. It was Christmas Day.

Returning to mother's bedside, I continued to gently rub her arm and hold her hand. I was startled by how cold her skin had become, like the life blood had suddenly drained out of her. I checked to see if she was still breathing. She was, but just barely. I hurried to the side of the bed where her 1,000 ml drainage bag hung. It should have been full of urine since she was still taking in fluids through the feeding tube. Instead, it was empty except for a reddish-brown residue at the bottom. My immediate thought was that her kidneys had shut down. For the first time, I allowed myself to entertain the real possibility that mother was slipping away. I was at a lost for what else to do so I cried aloud, "Mom, it's Christmas. Please don't die on Christmas Day."

I got a sudden urge to use the bathroom. When I returned moments later, I took hold of mother's hand. Something was different. It felt noticeably warmer. Surprised by this, I began feeling her arms, her legs, her feet, her forehead. Her whole body was feverishly hot. I ran to the other side of the bed to check her drainage bag. It was filled to capacity with pale, yellow urine. At that moment, I knew that God had answered my plea and performed a miracle --- stopping death in its tracks.

Only God can make death take a detour. Knowing mother, I imagine that a negotiation took place between her and God that day just outside the gates of Heaven. I can imagine her holding up one finger saying to God, "Please God, can I go back for one more night?"

Mom died, but not on Christmas Day. She died the day after on December 26 at 2:00 that afternoon. My sister and I were together as mother breathed her last. This might have been the end of the story except for Jesus Christ. Thanks to Christ, life doesn't end with the grave. Whoever believes in Christ is assured of eternal life. I can't wait to see mother again to find out what really happened on that fateful Christmas Day.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10 NIV



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