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What I Mean by “Miracle”

2013 July 23
by Mike

Here we are, 57 years later, huddled in the same hospital. Only instead of two twenty year olds holding their firstborn, we’re now a middle-aged man with his aging parents.

She lies, drug-induced and feverish, in bed, awaiting gall bladder surgery.

He sits in his wheelchair.

It’s sometimes difficult to recognize him:

this state boxing champion, this five-time runner of the Boston marathon, now weakened by the ravaging blows of Parkinson’s;

this expressive man whose face has now lost so much of its bandwidth of emotion, flattened out by the disease;

this steady man who now shakes with tremors.

Then I watch in amazement:

As if dancing, they both lean toward each other. She—this amazing woman!—rolls and stretches her hand, moving around the IV in her arm; he presses with limited flexibility as far as he possibly can, leaning forward in his wheelchair toward her. And they touch. They hold hands. If a picture is worth a thousands words, this scene is worth a million. They don’t speak. They just . . . touch.

Through it all,
Love remains.

Please don’t assume it’s been a perfect marriage. To be honest, perfect marriages don’t interest me. They seem plastic and unattainable.

A poem by my maternal grandmother about her own marriage seems to fit:

Ours is not the meeting of two meadow streams,
The quiet fusion of slow and placid waters,
That start from gentle springs
And meander softly to each other’s arms.
Ours is the whirlpool union of two rivers,
Mountain born,
That issue from the crags, close to the skies,
And leap the rocks, and spill tempestuously
To canyons far below,
Where, with steam and vapors rising,
Fired by earthbound mutterings,
We meet,
And in a maelstrom we mate, and run our course,
Parallel, but never merging,
downstream to the sea.

Go ahead: tell me about your signs and tongues and miracles. I’ve learned not to frown, winter Christian though I am.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in miracles. Back in the same little hospital, in the same little town, with the same two people—after 57 years that passed in a flash—I witness a wonder, a marvel that stirs my soul.

39 Responses leave one →
  1. Sandra permalink
    July 23, 2013

    Goodness and Mercy… This gives me courage to continue loving my imperfect man with an imperfect heart.

  2. Stephanie permalink
    July 23, 2013

    That’s the kind of miracle this Christian (somewhere between winter, summer, spring but mainly fall:) needed to read about. Love that love remains in even the smallest things.

  3. Eilene permalink
    July 23, 2013

    I hope you took your sandals off because, well, you know.

  4. Danna Townsdin permalink
    July 24, 2013

    Beautiful

  5. July 24, 2013

    Every moment you have together is precious, treasured, a gift from God.

    Every moment counts.

  6. Jerry Drummond permalink
    July 24, 2013

    Wow! Excellent!

  7. July 24, 2013

    Thank you for these notes.

    Keith, I know you understand . . . having treasured every moment as you and Angi did.

  8. July 24, 2013

    Beautiful and inspiring! Thanks.

  9. Joan VanRheenen permalink
    July 24, 2013

    Beautiful! Thanks for reminding me to find joy in each day we have together.

  10. David U permalink
    July 24, 2013

    I love your mom and dad, and will be prayerful for your sweet mom. Thanks so much for this post. Like you, I was able to witness my parents doing the same thing……and of course witnessed Virgil and Lou also. Soul warming.

  11. Jeanenne Nichols permalink
    July 24, 2013

    I believe in miracles.

  12. Mitzi permalink
    July 24, 2013

    Mike, your words capture what has changed me. I, too, have seen the ravages, the devastations of the body in the lives of my parents and in my father-in-law caused by Parkinson’s, Lewy Body, Cancer, Dementia. I, too have experienced the great blessing of intimate moments like this that just emerge, appear from the center of some seemingly ordinary moment. In the witnessing of moments such as this between a husband and wife I have arrived at a new definition of intimacy.

    The words penned by your grandmother…they are amazing. Thank you for sharing them. Honor and commitment are penned in those words…and love. Yes, love.

  13. Joey permalink
    July 24, 2013

    What a beautiful moment arising from a beautiful, if not perfect, life together. Perfection robs us of texture and life itself. Thanks for sharing this! Made my morning. Blessings on your folks!

  14. Janice Allen permalink
    July 24, 2013

    Thank you for sharing. Having walked through those times with my parents, I know that they are not easy, but are times I am so grateful to have shared with them. As Bob and I celebrate our anniversary today, I am grateful for the example of couples who have travelled the journey through good and difficult times and stayed the course. My Dad used to say to Mom as they both walked on their walkers, “Am I holding you up or are you holding me up?” So thankful, they are whole again. I will be in prayer for your parents.

  15. Mike Bendel permalink
    July 24, 2013

    Wow.

  16. Peggy Corder permalink
    July 24, 2013

    Thanks for sharing this. Just a week ago, I witnessed my parents, married 70 years, holding hands. My mom lay dying and my dad, in his wheelchair, keeping watch! My mother went from a functioning wife, taking care of my dad to meeting her maker in eight days. Love of 70 years does not stop with the last breath! Perfect marriage, no. Happy times, yes!

    Praying for your mom and dad and all that watch! Life is precious and full of sweet moments. Thanks also for sharing the poem. Excellent words to help us all keep working to attain happiness in marriage and life! Blessings to you and yours.

  17. July 24, 2013

    Real demonstrations of love are so simple…so profound. Thank you for that window into your world … we saw something we needed to see.

  18. tommy permalink
    July 24, 2013

    thanks Mike. a glimpse of the glory to come

  19. Buzz permalink
    July 24, 2013

    True love is not merely physical but emotional expressed through physicality. Anne and Ken have that special love that speaks louder than when expressed through words. A part of me is in that room with you Mike.

  20. Leonard permalink
    July 24, 2013

    Very touching. And very true. My kind of miracle.

  21. Darryl Tippens permalink
    July 24, 2013

    Mike, no one tells it better than you. Your grandmother’s poem is brilliant too. Now I know that some of your talent came in the genes. Wow.

  22. gina permalink
    July 24, 2013

    sustaining love…a miracle
    they are amazing
    thanks for sharing -g

  23. Vicki Gillenwaters permalink
    July 24, 2013

    Mike, what an awesome testimony to ‘staying the course’ in marriage! I had the honor of serving my elderly parents when it was needed. What a blessing they were to me and to my family! I will be praying for your Mom and Dad…tell your Mom that my Mom had gallbladder surgery in her 70′s and did great.

    Blessings to you all!!

  24. Fran permalink
    July 24, 2013

    I’m with you about perfect marriages: uninteresting. Probably nonexistent. But to the extent that some put up that illusion, I find them uninteresting.

    Marriage is gritty work, forgiveness, tenderness, restarting, forgiving more.

    Love this story.

  25. Lynna Cox permalink
    July 24, 2013

    I witnessed a moment like this the day my dad died. My mother with dementia was leaving their room in the nursing home and she stopped and gave him a kiss good-bye when she went to lunch. It was so sweet. He died several hours later. It was their last kiss here on this earth and I’m blessed to have witnessed it. They were married 61 years…and truly two people who became one in their marriage.

  26. kathy s permalink
    July 24, 2013

    I love your mom
    I love your dad
    I love you

    And the lovely poem fits so well…

    thanks, mike

  27. Carla McDonald permalink
    July 24, 2013

    It’s a miracle not all of us get to witness and many will never get to experience. It is a part of fewer and fewer lives – a tragedy of our times. Yet, that fact makes the lives which do accomplish this milestone all the more beautiful.

  28. Fern Dallas permalink
    July 24, 2013

    Thanks Mike for this post. It resonates with many of us as we find ourselves caring for our parents. The amazing love of 50 plus years, expressed in such simple, yet beautiful ways motivates me to think about the joys of daily life. A look, a touch, a grin or a chuckle all remind me of how much we long to be with those we love, just as our Heavenly Father loves us and longs to be with us.

  29. Buddy Mills permalink
    July 24, 2013

    Thanks Mike. That was wonderful on so many levels. I’ve already teared up as a read it three times. You bless me.

  30. Ginger Steinmetz permalink
    July 24, 2013

    beautiful

  31. Barbie Cope permalink
    July 25, 2013

    Our parents are still teaching us, aren’t they? I see the same little things with my parents in the nursing home. Thanks for sharing. The picture is priceless.

  32. Dave Malone permalink
    July 25, 2013

    My wife and I serve on the Senior Adult Retirement Community campus where her mother lived for nearly 6 years until she was almost 102! Some years before that my father and mother were in assisted living . . . my father, Joe, was a stroke victim and my mother, Glendelle, suffered from Alzheimer’s. There was a similar amount of time that past from our youth to their giving up living at home. God bless you for this story including your grandmother’s poetry! As you well described how quickly we face these reality, it is even a greater challenge to live such a victorious faith! Let’s grow on! God bless you, your wife and family system!

  33. Larr permalink
    July 26, 2013

    Thanks Mike, as I have seen the contagious nature of that same miracle in my own life. All my siblings were gathered last week for my mom’s 87th birthday and my dad will be 89 in a couple months. Their love has been passed down to another generation or two that are hanging on as well. For that, we thank God….and you for the reminder.

  34. David Barnett permalink
    July 26, 2013

    Beautiful to get an insight into the who you are and the gifts which you have been given. Praying for your mom and family. Shalom

  35. July 31, 2013

    Mike, this is… well, I can’t quite find the right word for it. Precious, amazing, grace-filled, glorious. Thanks so much for sharing this. And if your grandmother’s poetry hasn’t yet been published, it should be! That may be a poem I take with me throughout life. It’s perfect!

  36. August 5, 2013

    Thank you for sharing this Mike. Amazing coincidence given what I just read about Respect and the aged elsewhere. I pray for the very best outcome for your and your family. God bless you and yours…

    Oh, and thank-you for the tremendous job you did at Pepperdine this year. It was my 15th year and the equal of all other years and experiences I’ve known and enjoyed.

  37. August 9, 2013

    WOW

  38. August 18, 2013

    I appreciate your sharing this, Mike. I have enjoyed so much getting to know your parents at family reunions and other times. Both truly wonderful people. I had noticed they were not in the pictures my brother sent of this years reunion a few days ago. I pray the Lord will bless them and you through it all. Just makes me long for our real home more and more.

  39. January 2, 2014

    Mike – Somehow I missed this, and am just now reading it in this, a brand new year; new beginnings, catching up with the old & carrying the best forward.

    Being a poet, as well as writer & blogger, I appreciate your maternal grandmother’s eloquent words describing marriage through her poetry. I appreciate as much your own poetic prose describing your mom & dad’s marriage still fused in love, unspoken, but profound before your eyes – and ours.

    I, as the firstborn of my own parent’s marriage, was privileged & blessed by God to be able to be with them in my dad’s last few days of his life in September 1996 in Abilene in their home. In the middle of the night, a couple of nights before he died, as I temporarily sat in my dad’s borrowed wheelchair in their hallway watching the two of them in the room in front of me, I thanked God that I was present with these two people who gave ME life and that it was just the three of us together as my dad LEFT this life. I had told him when I’d arrived that I had come to stay so that “mom will not be alone when you are ready to go.”

    The next night, he asked that I pray with them – him – that “the Lord take me quickly,” and I did.

    Even though the hospice nurse said the next day he could live two more months or more because he was so cheery & his heart was “so strong,” he choose to “let go,” and toward the dawn of the next morning, his spirit left this earth on its flight upward, leaving his earthly body until the great resurrection of the dead (in Christ), when we shall all meet Jesus in the air!

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