The Miracle of the Son by Elizabeth Cavanaugh
October 13, 1917. The people gathered in thousands, forming a crowd as large as a forest. They had come to the field outside the little Portuguese village of Fatima because three young shepherd children had told them that, at noon, there would be a miracle. Few were disappointed. As one of the many journalists who witnessed the event wrote, “The silver sun, enveloped in the same gauzy grey light, was seen to whirl and turn in the circle of broken clouds. . . . The light turned a beautiful blue, as if it had come through the stained-glass windows of a cathedral, and spread itself over the people who knelt with outstretched hands . . . people wept and prayed with uncovered heads, in the presence of a miracle they had awaited. The seconds seemed like hours, so vivid were they.”*
That day became known as the Miracle of the Sun, and ninety-three years later, the date developed a special meaning for me and my family. I was pregnant at the time, and the previous months had not been easy. From time to time I would have a sensation within me that I could only describe as a seizure. It was almost violent, like a very rough shaking, and would last about a minute. It was not at all like a normal baby kick or movement that I was used to from my previous pregnancies. It happened at least half a dozen times, and on each occasion I was hooked up to monitors and told to lie still and wait. After an hour or so the doctors would come in and tell me that everything was just fine with my baby and then send me home. I knew they were wrong.
When they discovered that I had severe preeclampsia, they induced me. My due date was not for another five weeks, but they felt it was worth the risk. And so Mary Grace was born on October 13, 2010, right on the anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun. She was so tiny, at just over four pounds, and was sent to the NNICU for observation. Once she was in the unit, her seizures—which I had been so convinced of while she was inside me—started up again. The terrible fits were almost impossible for the staff to control. Medication did not work, and with every seizure she stopped breathing, risking brain damage. Once they did a CT scan, they discovered that my little Mary Grace did have a problem, and it was a bad one—a blood clot in her brain.
An MRI confirmed the clot. Worse was the news that it was getting bigger. The doctors told my husband and me that Mary Grace must have had a stroke in the womb, and the result of the clot was that the cerebral sinuses were prevented from forming. These venous sinuses are vital, draining blood away from the head. Our little girl was missing something that was essential for life, and the doctor was clear on how serious the situation was. Mary Grace no longer had pupil dilation or a gag reflex, both of which are instinctual; even people in a coma have these reflexes. And added to the problems were the staph infection and pneumonia caused by being on the ventilator so long. Eventually we were told that there was nothing that could be done for her. The only decision for us to make was when to turn the machines off and say good-bye to our beautiful baby girl.
But we felt there was one other thing we could do for Mary Grace before we said good-bye. We asked the priest to visit and anoint her and pray for peace, just as it says we should do in James 5:14–15. As he arrived and waited in the doorway, my husband turned to him, smiled, and said, “You know we are expecting a miracle. No pressure!”
It was such a strange day. I know it seems hard to understand, but we felt really good that day. We had done all we could do. Now it was up to God and God alone. Mary Grace was in his hands now, not ours. We went home that night to be with our other children. We prayed and tried to rest for what was to come. It was really a time of anticipation; we knew that whatever happened would be God’s plan, but, of course, we were hoping and expecting that the miracle that God would provide would be one in which Mary Grace stayed with us. That was our hearts’ desire, and there was a sense of being empowered as we and others from the church prayed.
There had been so little that we had been allowed to do for Mary Grace since she was born; even touching her was limited. We believe that there is grace in the sacraments, an outpouring of God’s love for us that is there for us when we need it. That night we felt at peace because we had done all that we could so that our daughter would know Christ and his church during that time.
The next day I woke up feeling excited. I couldn’t wait for what came next. This was the day we would remember for the rest of our lives. As we drove to the hospital, we were quiet, as we had been so many other times while visiting Mary Grace. The drives to the hospital—as well as our time by Mary Grace’s incubator—had been very quiet. During times of great pain, there really are no words to adequately express how you feel. It almost seems that if you were to open your mouth to speak, an avalanche of pain would consume you. So, as we drove in, parked the car, and walked across the lot, we held hands and hugged.
Approaching the doorway to the NNICU, I saw one of the nurses standing outside. She looked up as we approached, tears covering her face. She was waiting for us, and I thought it was odd that they would tell us in such a public place that our little girl had died. Shouldn’t they be taking us into a quiet room, offering us a seat and a long explanation of how it all happened?
The nurse did not say anything; she just opened the door and urged us through. Maybe someone else was going to tell us. Maybe they wanted us to see for ourselves that she had died. But as we walked into the unit, passing the other babies laid out beneath ultraviolet lights in their cribs that looked like space capsules, we saw her. My girl, my baby girl, was alive. Her eyes were open, her body was wriggling, and she looked like a brand-new baby. She was alive!
Through the tears and the prayers and the hugs, we heard the doctors tell us that we should not expect too much from Mary Grace. They told us that the best we could hope for was cerebral palsy, but I didn’t care! She was alive!
A couple of days later they repeated the MRI, searching for the clot. But it wasn’t there. It had vanished completely. They searched for a sign of brain damage, but again, they could find nothing but a healthy, normal-looking brain.
Two years later Mary Grace is a typical, energetic girl. She gets into everything and is totally spoiled by her older sister and five brothers. The doctor still cannot explain it, but we know the truth. We know that our girl, who was born on the day that celebrates the Miracle of the Sun, was blessed with a miracle that came straight from the Son himself.
* John J. Pasquini, The Existence of God: Convincing and Converging Arguments (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2010), 49; Wikipedia, s.v. “Miracle of the Sun,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracle_of_the_Sun.
It's a God Thing is a collection of 46 real, modern day miracles written by YOU! Check back each week to see a new story, and tell your story or purchase the whole collection below!
See more videos
If you start looking for God's activity in your life; if you start looking for "God moments;" it'll change the way you think of them. You start understanding that God is active, He's involved and He cares.