My wife and I were discussing the miracles performed by the apostles recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. Miraculous signs are numerous in the history of the apostolic Church. It is no wonder then, that the early Church was aided in its growth as a result of these signs. The fact that the apostles were able to work such signs is evidence of Christ’s promise to be with them and to send the Holy Spirit to be upon them. Christ continued to be present in His Church.
At the time of the Protestant “reformation”, the Reformers asserted that the age of miracles ended with the death of the last apostle, but the record is clear that miraculous signs continued into the post-apostolic age and continue down through the ages to our time.
Often today, miracles appear to take place in response to the ardent prayers of the faithful. I would guess that many of you could testify to this occurring in your lives.
So we began looking at our own experiences to see what might be considered miraculous events resulting from our prayers. That God grants these extraordinary graces (here I am not speaking of the charismatic gifts, but simply of prayers answered in extraordinary ways), I have no doubt.
I would like to share with you an experience that I believe to be one of God’s miracles whose purpose to me is obvious. I should state that this is only a personal anecdote and not an event that has been presented to the Church for authentication. What occurred is factual; its result is reasonable to conclude.
The Love between a Grandmother and her Grandchildren
My children loved my mother, Anne. To them, she was and will always be Grandma. For most of their young lives, they lived 400 miles from Grandma, but we frequently got together, sometimes for extended periods. She did all the things a grandmother does: she regularly talked with them on the phone when apart, sent them little gifts, visited them often, loved them without reserve and generally spoiled them as only a grandmother can do. And of course, not a day would go by without her fervent prayers for their happiness, safety and salvation.
For their part, they looked forward to those times when we visited her or she came to stay with us. She was fun to be with and they instinctively, and by experience, knew of her great love for Jesus, His Catholic Church and His Blessed Mother. Neither my mother nor my children were perfect, yet in their relationship was a glimpse of the Divine Life of the Trinity – a love that was undemanding and pure.
As my children grew older, many of the difficulties of adolescence were present. Small assertions of independence arose. My daughter used to sing without reservation at Mass, but she was beginning to be self-conscious and I noticed that her singing out loud ended as she approached age 10. My son, over 6 years older, had begun to rebel in more serious ways, as is normal for teenagers of his day. Without going into greater detail – they were good children – let’s just say that our prayers for them became more urgent and frequent.
My mother noticed the changes and would often remark to me, with a smile, “Mike, it is your turn now.” She had already experienced the adolescent years of her children. So for her part more prayers, Rosaries and Masses for her grandchildren were also the norm. And she continued to be a positive influence in their lives.
The Beginning of an Illness unto Death
Fifteen years ago, I received a call from a cousin, Cecilia. She and her husband, Ralph, had taken my mother to the hospital where she was admitted, apparently suffering from Congestive Heart Failure. I was concerned, but not overly – it was a condition my mother had experienced off and on. My wife, daughter and I left by car for the 400 mile trip to see Grandma. The illness was serious enough that my sister also traveled by plane to be there. I did not take my son who was burdened with high school activities and an after-school job.
When we arrived, my mother was having difficulty breathing, but neither her internist nor I had any sense that she was near death. That illusion was shattered when her cardiologist and a renal doctor both broke the news that she was suffering from diabetes, severe heart disease and a shutdown of her renal function. Simply put, she was not expelling fluids and the buildup was choking her heart and poisoning her blood. The most powerful diuretics were not working. I was also told by my cousin that my mother had told her that she knew this time was it.
But the doctors were optimistic. The next day other family – nieces, nephews and old friends came to visit for short durations. But by late that afternoon, the toxins in her blood were rising rapidly. She was transferred into ICU and I was told by her doctors to prepare for the end. We arranged for my son to fly down, but it would be mid-morning of the next day before he could be there. We also arranged for her pastor, Msgr. Jim Russell, to give her the Sacrament of the Sick.
Overnight, my sister and I took turns sitting in the chair by her bed in ICU. It was a long night, filled with sorrow and prayer, but also with love, memories of the past and hope for the future – either one of healing or else an end to her suffering. At 4:30 a.m., the renal doctor spoke to my sister and me in the ICU waiting room after examining my mother. He told us to go in together and speak with her while she was still alert and able to think and reason. She had not expelled any fluids in days and the toxin levels in her blood were alarmingly high. Dess (my sister) and I went to her bedside and listened as my mother gave us a final instruction to love one another and to not mourn. She said she was ready to go be with God and our daddy. She also gave me one last mission! “You love your wife, boy, always… and bring me my grandchildren – hurry!”
Prayers Answered – Lives Changed
Around 5:00 a.m., I spoke again to the renal doctor. I told him that I was heading to the airport to pick up my son… I was taking my daughter with me and would return by 10:00 a.m. He looked at me with concern and said, “Your mom won’t be here then; you need to stay – be with her when she passes.” I replied, “You don’t understand, Doctor, if I do not make every effort to get Chris and Michele here together for her, she will “haunt” me for the rest of my life!” He laughed and said, “You had best be off then.”
My daughter and I raced the 60 plus miles to the airport. When we were back in the car with my son, I prepared them for Grandma’s death. I told them it was possible that she would not be alive when we arrived. My son spotted a rosary in the console and all of us decided we should pray the rosary together – for Grandma. The kids were determined, but I explained that it may be time for Grandma to go home to Heaven and that we should pray for God’s Will and if she died, to pray for her soul.
Over the next 90 minutes, we prayed the fifteen decades out loud. During that time, Msgr. Russell anointed my mother… and God’s angels went to work.
I parked outside the hospital entrance nearest the ICU and, with children in hand, we rushed into the ICU and turned left towards her room.
I was not prepared for the sight before us… the room was filled with my wife, my sister, a friend of my mother, the cardiologist, the renal doctor and her pastor. Standing at the foot of the bed was my mother – to me it looked like she was just finishing a little Irish jig, but she was instructing her doctor that the catheter bag needed to be replaced. I noticed that she was indeed expelling fluids. She sat back down on the bed and several of the visitors were ushered out. Grandma gave me the most beautiful smile and then hugged her grandchildren.
I asked, to no one in particular, “What happened?” Both doctors said they were baffled, neither was religious, but both mentioned that it was a miracle they could not explain. The renal doctor said he had never seen someone with such high toxin levels who had remained lucid. Msgr. Russell, in a flourish, exclaimed, “I know what happened… God happened!” He bent down in front of my children and asked, “I know what happened… you kids prayed a rosary for your grandma all the way from the airport, didn’t you?” Although the memory fades for them, I can still see the astonishment in their eyes.
A few minutes later, when I was alone with my mother, she asked, “Son, I was ready to go… I don’t know why God left me here… what is His purpose for me that I am to do?” I answered, “Mom, you’ve already done it. By your life and now this healing, the reality of God has been manifested for the kids and whether they remember the details or not, it will have its effect.” Her worry at not being allowed to go home to heaven then passed and a peace came on her.
My mother lived for another 13 months. The first 9 months she was able to live at home as if nothing had happened. But the disease returned and the greatest of gifts was granted – she came to live with us. What a blessing it was for my children to have their Grandma live in their home. One day after attending my son’s high school graduation (a promise she had made to him years before), she was called home to God. I was holding her as she died. One moment she was looking at me; the next she looked beyond me and I saw the suffering on her face replaced with joy. Although we grieved her going, we did so with gratitude to God for all He had given us in that last year.
God was not finished… there was one more signal grace to be granted. The rosary beads my children and I used to pray for my mom during that trip from the airport a year earlier were lost the day we used them. I looked everywhere for those beads; obviously they were special to me. Eventually I forgot about them. Over a year later, as we were climbing into the car after my mom’s funeral… there they were on the floor beside the driver’s seat. No way had they been there all along! How many times had the car been vacuumed and cleaned? Another gift from God? A last, visible gift from my mom? I’ll never lose them again.
God continues to work miracles in our time. This is only one example… there are others I can remember. We don’t always understand God’s ways, but we can be sure that He does and that He works in ways for our good, even when we can’t see the reason. And this I know… my mother, now in heaven (yes, mom, I am still praying in case you are in purgatory), is smiling at the grace granted by God to her grandchildren and its powerful effect.
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