At this moment, I am pausing to write. I was grading my English 10 Honors homework papers, but I was disrupted by a student’s constant need to drink ice water out of a metal container. I can hear the ice cubes hit against the container as he drinks it, and for some reason, it bothers me. So, I decided to stop grading, stare at him as he smacks his lips together after drinking it. An upperclassman told me once, “That kid looks like a muppet” and the more I look at him smacking his lips together, the more he does look like a muppet.
Oh. I’m sorry. I know as a teacher I should be more compassionate, but today, I am not. This is the “” day of state standardized testing (I don’t know how many days we’ve been testing) and I am in a state that has the lowest education score. The testing is more of competition (if you ask me) between schools, districts versus districts, charter schools versus charter schools, and charter schools versus district schools. The schools in Arizona want that “A” rating, so we put our poor children against each other to do their best on the test so that administrators can shine in the limelight and say, “We’re the best!” “We got an A!”
Do I sound bitter to you? It’s hot. I need to adjust the thermostat. Hold on.
The kid with the ice cubes and water has finished his test. He was the first one to complete his test; in fact, he always finishes his tests first.
But there’s more in my head. I am thinking about the fire that ruined Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. I am saddened by this loss. I had visited Paris twice and I have gone into Notre Dame Cathedral. The beautiful stained glass windows made my mouth drop as I looked up to see the faint sunlight glisten through. It was totally silent when I went inside although there were lots of people milling through. The Gothic architecture was immense around the building and I took a picture of a tiny gargoyle’s face that was the inspiration for Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The damages to that building tore my heart in two; it was so old, rare, and majestic. When I was on a boat on the Seine River, the biggest landmarks I could spot was the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral. Although the spire fell, there was a cross inside that was not damaged, which leads me to another thought: spirituality.
I am a Christian and it is not because my parents dragged me to church every Sunday; no, I am a Christian because I believe in God for myself because I have seen miracles! I heard on the radio that many Americans are either atheists or agnostics, and that’s fine for them. They are proud to believe in nothing or believe in luck, or coincidences. But, I don’t trust luck or coincidences. I do trust science, to an extent.
The first miracle I have witnessed was my mother. Although she passed away in 2004, my mother could have died in 1986. You see, in 1986, my mother had an aneurysm burst in her brain. She should have died on the spot; however, when my neighbor rang the doorbell and told me the story that she and my mother were having a conversation while my mom was in the car, my mother held her head and said “Something just popped in my head. My head hurts.” I escorted my mother back inside, put a cold towel on her head and I called my dad. My dad rushed home and my mother told him the problem. He took her to urgent care where a doctor prescribed some type of “horse pill” as my dad put it, and my mother was in bed for the remainder of the day. Yet, in the evening hours, my mother began to slip into a semi-coma. I am going to fast forward for the sake of time.
A surgeon, who was visiting another patient, overheard another doctor tell my dad that there was nothing they could do. The leak had started and blood on the brain is like sandpaper to wood; in other words, my mother was dying. The neurosurgeon took my dad aside and told him that he could perform the surgery. My dad saw hope and approved it. He told my dad that my mother could die on the table, but if he was willing to try to save her life, he would do it.
My dad asked us, the children, to pray with him in a circle in the living room. We did. He said if any of you feel weak, I am here to ask you to be strong for this prayer. We prayed. We prayed for the surgeon. We prayed for my mother. We prayed for the anesthesiologist who had to anesthetize a comatose patient for surgery. It was a risk, but we believed.
My mother survived the surgery, but she was still in a coma. She had a stroke on the table, but she was still alive. We had her moved to another hospital in the city that had adequate care for my mother, and the surgeon followed her. He found that her brain was swollen with spinal fluid, so he asked my dad once again if he could place a shunt to remove the fluid. My dad said yes, after deep prayer and contemplation. As they rolled my mom into the operating room, the doors closed behind her and I stood there and placed my hand on the door and asked Jesus to be in there with her.
My mom survived that surgery. It was a waiting game until one morning when my dad called me from the hospital and said, “She’s awake!” The story is the nurse in charge of my mother came into her room that morning and greeted her as usual. They say that talking to comatose patients helps because they can hear what is being said. We had limited my mother’s visitors to only family members because we had church women who were more gossipers than helpers. Anyway, as the nurse opened the curtains she asked my mother “How are you today? The sun is shining…” and before she could finish her sentence my mother said, “I’m doing pretty good.” The nurse jumped and looked at my mom, whose eyes were opened and she was smiling. My mom had the prettiest hazel eyes and the nurse complimented on her eyes.
I rushed to the hospital and I walked into her room. “Momma?” She had opened her eyes and smiled. “Hi baby,” she said to me. I dropped on her bed and wept. She rubbed my back and asked me what was wrong. I sobbed my answer. My mother began to tell me that she had to go pick up daddy’s suit from the dry cleaners. I batted my eyes and remembered the day my mother had the aneurysm that was what she was going to do: pick up my dad’s suits from the dry cleaners. She rubbed her shaved head and looked at me with widened eyes.
“What happened to me?”
I told her the story. She batted her eyes and whispered: “Lord, have mercy.”
She still believed.
When her primary care doctor visited her, he told her: “We didn’t think you were going to make it.”
My mother’s reply: “Didn’t you know there is a God?”
When science didn’t believe – we believed in God.
Another miracle that was not luck or coincidence was an accident I had in 1990. I was living in California and for a vacation, a friend and I decided to drive to Guaymas, Mexico. I drove my car, a red Mitsubishi Mirage, and on our way up there I made a simple lane change and my car skidded off of the highway, flipped in the air and landed upside in a ravine. My friend who was with me did not wear her seatbelt and flew out of the window. The car landed on top of her and I was hanging upside down in my seatbelt. The most significant thing about this is, as the car was flipping, I saw nothing but stars in the night sky and I said, “Jesus, please, not now.” Immediately, the car stopped. Obviously, I survived and yes, my friend survived too.
The federal police in Mexico looked at my car and said, “It’s a miracle you survived this.” My insurance guy looked at the car when my dad towed the car here from Mexico. The man looked at the crushed car, and then at me. “Wow! I’ve seen cars like this and the driver didn’t survive.” My dad cried.
So, it wasn’t luck. It was a miracle. I believe that miracles come from God and I believe that miracles come to people who truly believe. I know people will argue with me and say it’s luck. All I can say is that I am alive today and thanking God every day for the breath and life He has given me.
I have written a lot and now I must return to grading papers. All of this has been on my mind, among other things.