I’m guessing this will be a long post. This is one of those, it’s more for me, than for anyone else out there. It is a documenting of a true life miracle and some of the in betweens. You are already forgiven if you don’t have time to read this all.
On September 5th, of this year, I went for a beautiful hike up through Stanley Canyon with some friends. On our way back to the car, I became enamored with this little butterfly. I don’t know if my friends remember, but I was kinda acting weird about it saying that butterflies are just amazing and that they are like a miracle . . . how their wings are so thin and their colors are so organized and symmetrical. I even thought I was being a little weird. Then a few days later, Tony and I watched the movie, “Miracles From Heaven,” and it was so crazy, because in the movie, (spoiler alert) when the little girl falls into the tree and is unconscious, she sees a butterfly and she follows it and she goes to heaven where there were flowers made out of butterflies. I vividly remember thinking back a few days before and making that connection between me calling that butterfly a miracle and then the miracle in this movie being surrounded by butterflies. I thought to myself, and I’m not making this up, “I wonder if I will see a miracle soon.”
I used to think that all that stuff was just coincidence, but my thinking has changed over the last four years. I will also say that even though I have seen miracles before, I always think that big miracles will be for the person next to me . . . not for me. In fact, all my prayers those first couple days included something like, “Lord, please heal her, despite the thought that I don’t think you will.” Life sometimes feels too hard to keep believing in miracles.
Just a few days later, on September 13, I went to a piano teachers meeting and on the way home, I called my mom’s cell phone and she didn’t answer. No big deal. She often times didn’t answer her phone, but already things didn’t feel right to me. So, I checked her location with my little, “Find a Friend,” app and she was at home. I waited a few minutes as my heart rate continued to be a little high, thinking that I just needed her to hear her voice. She didn’t answer the home phone, either. Now my thoughts were starting to churn. My mom did not get the nickname, “Half ring,” by an old boyfriend for nothing. My mom just generally answers her phone. My dad had just been out of town, but I reasoned that he was back in town from a weekend away and that if anything was wrong, then he would have called. I kept thinking that I should just call and make sure that everything was OK, but I kept talking myself out of it. I called again at about noon and still there was no answer and I still kept thinking that I should call my dad. I was VERY unusually concerned by my mom not answering the phone, but then I didn’t do anything about it.
When I saw my dad’s number pop up on my phone at 3:50, I was 98% sure she had had a stroke. She had been in the house, not able to move or speak for five and half hours, before my dad came home to a bizarre scene of the garage door open, the car door open, and my mom’s shoe in the car. The car is where her stroke started. She managed to drag herself back into the house, but then got stuck until 911 arrived hours and hours later . . . way too late to receive that stroke reversing drug.
She was taken to the hospital, where they did MRIs, x-rays on her broken ankle, and finally an “intervention” (which took about 2 1/2 hours) where they went through an artery to clear out the clots in her brain. What we didn’t know at the time, is that the doctors were arguing about whether or not to even do the intervention, because they thought she was too far gone. Even after the surgery, the doctor overseeing all the doctors taking care of her did not think she would ever recover anything. The orthopedic surgeon just splinted up her foot and thought he would check on her in a week to see if she had woken up at all.
I finally saw her at about 9:15. My dad and I were in her room pretending to be listening to a doctor go on and on about his “doctory” knowledge of strokes. All I heard, was that the part of her brain affected was the left side, specifically where her speech and comprehension would be affected. Those are the two words I didn’t want to hear. Then all of the sudden, my mom raised her right arm, (which we were kind of thinking would be paralyzed forever, since her brain was without oxygen for so long) and a new hope was born. She also got the word, “yes” out. While my mom began her battle for recovery, I was in a little battle of my own.
That night was certainly in the top three worst nights of my life. I felt a tremendous amount of guilt and responsibility for my mom not getting help sooner. I knew my thinking was twisted, but I couldn’t find a replacement for my thinking. I kept saying, “I KNEW something was wrong and I did nothing about it!” If I had only called my dad, she could have gotten that reversal medicine and maybe she’d have a chance at recovering. My thoughts kept centering around how I thought God had given me this push to be alarmed, but I didn’t listen or decipher it correctly and I’m to blame. I knew they were not true statements, but if I rejected them, then I would be letting myself off the hook and that didn’t feel right to me.
I already had a counseling appointment scheduled for the next day, for all the other messy thinking and stuff in my life, so I just kept breathing until I could get there. There, with the help of a highly trained professional, we attempted to reject the lies and capture the truth. The truths: I didn’t actually KNOW that my mom needed help, or else I would have done something. This was not a test of my spiritual walk. My ego was at play here. Hospitals are sacred places. It is not God and . . . . That was the biggie. IT IS NOT GOD AND . . . . It sounds ridiculous now, but I kept thinking that God was trying to let me in on something and if I had just partnered up with him, then my mom would be OK, but since I didn’t, I would have to live with that and watch my parents struggle or even watch my mom die. The truth: God does not need me. I need Him.
I walked out of that appointment ready to do this thing. When I got to the hospital that day the report was much different than I expected. My mom was saying words and moving all of her right side??? She wasn’t making much sense yet, but there was certainly improvement beyond what anyone expected.
By Thursday morning, her improvement was already entering miracle territory. The speech pathologist came in and within a couple minutes of talking with my mom, she said, “Wow! Even people who get the reversal medicine don’t recover like this.” That was like the most gigantic sentence in this whole deal, because it translated directly to, “IT’S NOT GOD AND YOU, HOLLY – IT’S JUST GOD!!!” God didn’t need me to save the day and make sure my mom got the stroke reversal medicine.
Sidebar: A little comical part of that same session was when the speech pathologist was asking my mom to describe a picture and particularly what was wrong with the mom. To which, my mom said, “Well, her skirt is really short.” Spoken like a true mom!
The next day was a long one, as they had decided to do surgery on her ankle, now that the doctors thought she actually might walk again. That was a sobering, yet awe filled afternoon, as the doctor filled us in on how dire her situation was and how they were not even going to do the blood clot intervention and had little hope of seeing any recovery. As the orthopedic surgeon was asking my mom questions and she was answering back, he kept turning to my dad and me, saying, “I just can’t believe this!!!!”
It’s been four weeks now, since her stroke and she is home and continuing to build her strength back up and recover from her broken ankle. Every conversation with her feels like another little butterfly miracle.
Megan’s Take: It is not “God and….” Man! That truth hits me smack dab, SQUARE between the eyes. I was made for “God and…” I feel like so much of my life is based on that theologically unsound concept. I’m gonna partly blame it on our pull-yourself-up-from-your-bootstraps American culture and whoever coined the blasphemous phrase, “God helps those who help themselves.” It’s taken me a lot of years to “undo” that kind of thinking. Yes, we co-labor. Yes, works are an extension of our faith, but God does not NEED us, we desperately NEED him. I am profoundly impacted by this journey you all have been on. It is hard. It is mysterious. And it is oh so very good. Love you, friend. Major HUGS to Judy!! #butterflymiracles
I see a minimum of TWO miracles here;
your ALREADY SCHEDULED therapy appointment!
I love it when we can link symbols to God’s action. And I am so thrilled that in the midst of this butterfly miracle, you are real and honest about the fact that this isn’t a normal way you think. To me, that magnifies this even more. I think when we make MUCH of God and make less of ourselves – these are the moments that show his Kingdom here on earth. And I am everyday thrilled that Judy continues to thrive and mend. And I love that she’s telling her story now, too. I hope she continues testifying!