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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Maybe It's Miraculous

(This piece was written as an origin narrative for my English Comp class, and I've decided to share it with you. I hope it can encourage you.)

The day my papaw was diagnosed with ALS was one of the scariest days of my life. In my mind, the memory is still fresh. I can clearly recall the details of the day it happened: my mother receiving the phone call, watching the pain on her face, and listening as she relayed the horrible news to my three younger brothers and myself. It troubled me greatly to hear that my papaw would not be around much longer, and I couldn’t imagine a life without him. But, little did I know, this awful situation would become something greater than I could possible imagine. Through this hardship, I would be forced to do something I had never done before: trust explicitly in my God. This horrible event would jumpstart the beginnings of the journey that taught me what it means to truly have faith.

One of the top ALS doctors diagnosed my papaw in November of 2012. It was an unexpected diagnosis, at what was anticipated to be a simple appointment to check on pains in his arm. ALS, which stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a disorder that gradually eats away at a person’s muscles. It’s excruciatingly painful, without a known cure, and ends only in death. At his appointment, my papaw was not only diagnosed, but was also told that the disease was already spreading fast throughout his body.

At the time of my papaw’s diagnosis, my grandparents lived in Kansas City, Missouri, which is quite a long drive from where I live. They had moved there only a few years prior, when my papaw received a job at a children’s hospital in Missouri, and began working in their radiology department. This meant we were unable to visit them until a month later at Christmas time. By then, we knew that my papaw only had a little while left with us. At most, he had two to three years, but there was also the possibility that it would only be a few months before he was gone. That meant this Christmas was more important than any Christmas before, as it might be the last Christmas I would ever get to spend with him.

Christmas has always been a huge deal to my family. It’s one of the few times we all get together at once, which makes it an important time for bonding and traditions. My favorite tradition is reading the Christmas story together around the Christmas tree. Until we’ve read it, we can’t open any of the many of presents my mamaw has purchased. And she always goes all out with presents. They can often be found spilling out from under the tree and onto the living room floor Christmas morning. Although my papaw grumbles every year about how my mamaw goes overboard with the festivities, he somehow manages to enjoy it just as much as she does. This particular Christmas, however, my family was determined to make the holiday even more special for my papaw. We decided collectively to give an extra gift to both of my grandparents: a picture of the two of them from when my papaw was healthier, made into canvas wall art.

Both of my grandparents wept when we gave them their present, overwhelmed by both the gift and their situation. I remember feeling helpless as I watched them cry. I had never seen my papaw cry before. He had always been so strong, and even in the worst of times he still had a joke and a smile for me. It felt like a storm cloud had settled in the room, and the reality of losing my papaw began to sink in. My faith in my God was starting to crack at this point, and I remember almost denying to myself that my papaw was going to die. I refused to confront the issue, because I was afraid to face it. Avoiding it worked to pacify me, but only for a while.

It was after Christmas that my family decided my grandparents would move to live near us. By that time, my papaw’s fingers on his right hand had become crippled to the point that he could no longer unfold them. Also, his right arm and right leg were both significantly smaller than their counterparts due to the muscle loss. Not to mention, the excruciating pain that came from just moving them. With the promise of the pain only getting worse, we worried that my mamaw would need help caring for him later on. Therefore, it would be best to move them quickly, before it got too bad.

As my papaw’s condition deteriorated further, my flimsy attempts at burying my pain began to fall apart. I couldn’t tell myself everything was going to be fine when I saw my papaw struggling just to walk each day. I decided I had to do something. I prayed to my God, asking him to heal my papaw, even though I didn’t think it would work. It made me feel marginally better to know that I had asked, but not by much. However, it was better to have some hope in his faithfulness to heal my papaw, than no hope at all.

A few months after we had successfully moved my grandparents, my papaw began attending a men’s bible study at a local church. At the beginning of the study, the leader had everyone stand and introduce themselves. During my papaw’s introduction, he mentioned having just moved. When one of the men became curious as to why, he shared about his ALS. Hearing this, the group of men felt prompted to pray together for my papaw. After the study, somewhere around forty men gathered around him and prayed for his healing. It was after this night that I began to see my prayer realized.

Within only a couple of days after the prayer, the pain my papaw had been feeling had diminished greatly. In a few weeks, his walking had improved and his left hand began to straighten, and it only took a few months more before he begun to uncurl his right hand as well. This convinced him he needed to be retested to find out what was going on with his condition. He was so hopeful for positive results for these tests, but I personally refused to let myself feel hopeful. I was sure I knew what the doctor would say. After all, ALS is incurable.

In July of 2014, my papaw was retested with the same tests that had been done for his diagnosis. It was to everyone’s amazement when the doctor pronounced him greatly improved. My mother, who was there, tells me that the doctor’s face was amazing to watch, as he told my papaw that the only signs of the disease were in the fingers on his right hand. The doctor was baffled at this. He told my papaw that there was no explanation for what was happening to him, and that the disease only progresses one way: downhill. However, the tests clearly showed that the ALS had been there, it just wasn’t now. He was healing.

I was skeptical at first about what my grandparents claimed was a ‘miraculous healing’, refusing to get my hopes up. Surely, this was a fluke, and he would just get worse again. But when he continued to improve over the rest of the year, even regaining all the muscle he had lost, I began to realize what was really happening. Somehow, my God heard my prayer, and the prayer of all those men at the bible study, and he healed my papaw of a disease that had no known cure.

I had always been told as a child that my God was there, that he listened to prayers, and that he could heal, but I had never really seen it in my own life, nor had I truly believed it. But after all of this, I really began to have faith. Faith in a God whom I couldn’t see, and sometimes didn’t really follow after very well, but who still cared enough about me and my family to heal my papaw, and listen to my prayer.

The dictionary says that faith is “belief that is not based on proof”. That has been very true for me. Some might choose to take this event and say it was a medical miracle, or perhaps chance, but I choose to believe in faith. And seeing this, seeing my God at work, gave me so much faith. Nowadays, when hardships happen, I find myself not even flinching. The faith I gained from this experience stays with me to this day, reminding me that my God really does care, and that, like I’ve always been told, he really does have the whole world in his hands.

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