“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.” ~ Albert Eienstein
I am a huge fan of science fiction movies. I always have been. However, it’s only the good science fiction movies that I’m partial to these days – the kind that reveal truths about humanity. One such movie, Prometheus, the prequel to the classic science fiction movie, Alien, was such a movie. The protagonist in Prometheus is shown as a young girl in a dream sequence. She is with her scientist father at what I gathered to be an archeology dig in India when a Hindu funeral procession passes by. She asks her father what the procession is about and he explains to her that someone has died. Then she asks what happens to us when we die, whether we go to heaven. He replies that he does not know, but that it is what he chooses to believe. Then he wisely asks his daughter what she chooses to believe – giving her the freedom to decide for herself. This experience makes a huge impression on the child. She grows up to become a scientist herself, but she refuses to allow her scientific discoveries, her knowledge concerning the history and evolution of mankind on this earth, to destroy her Christian faith. The experience with her father, the memory of it, drives her to discover more and more answers, to solve the great, unanswered questions about creation – the “how” questions.
I am not a scientist, but I like to think that I have a scientific mind, an open mind. I know that miracles are improbable, that God is improbable. Nonetheless, I believe in God and I believe in miracles. I believe because I choose to believe. God and miracles are possible. It comforts me to believe in them, and so I do.
Albert Einstein has been quoted to say, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.” I like that. I like being allowed a choice in what to believe, and I choose to live Einstein’s other way.
It promised to be another hot Indian summer evening back in 1958. I was fourteen years old. Understand please that whole house air-conditioning was unheard of back then. Some people had what we called “swamp” coolers, but we didn’t. So my grandpa and his son, my Uncle Paul, decided to go to a drive-in movie. Drive-in movies were a popular form of evening entertainment back then.
Grandpa and Paul stopped by our house on their way to ask if I wanted to go with them. Well, of course I did. What else was there for me to do that evening except to watch reruns of westerns on our small screen, black and white TV: Have Gun Will Travel, Wagon Train, Cheyenne, Wyatt Earp, etc. Westerns were all the rage on TV back then.
Mom, having the night off from her waitress job, said that I could go; she wouldn’t need me that night to watch my little sister, Candy. Maybe she figured that I deserved a night off too.
The movie was a double feature. The only one of the two I remember had Vincent Price in it. I think it was “The House of Wax,” or maybe “The House of Usher.” The other movie was another scary flick, but not one quite so memorable.
By the time we got back to my house it was after eleven o’clock. There were cars, including a police car, and crowds of people in our front yard. The crowd included a news team from one of the two papers in Salt Lake City, either the Tribune or the Deseret News. Grandpa pulled up and parked as close as he could and we all three literally jumped out of the car and ran to the yard where my mother stood in a bathrobe and slippers. She was in tears.
“Mom, mom, what’s happened?” I asked.
“Oh, Kent…” she said, grabbing me tightly in her arms, “it’s alright now. She’s been found. But only if you had been here, this wouldn’t have happened. You’d have found her sooner, I know.”
Grandpa took my place in mom’s arms, embracing her himself. “Oh, pop,” mom said.
This was the only time that I ever saw my grandpa embrace anyone – not my grandma, not his son, not me — nobody. He was not a touchy-feeling kind of guy. But he did not hesitate to physically comfort my mom that night.
I don’t think I have ever seen anybody cry tears like mom cried that night.
After a bit, mom got enough control of her emotions to tell us what had happened. While she was distracted in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner, this was shortly after we had left for the movie, Candy left the house. Maybe she left thinking that she could follow me, her Bubba. She was just three years old and we were tight. I used to carry her on my shoulders when we, with our mom, visited Liberty Park, Hogel Zoo and other such places in the Salt Lake Valley. She would hold on tight with her little hands under my chin. I loved my little sister, and she loved me. Of this I never doubted.
Candy walked up the street she had watched us drive away on, a street without sidewalks. She walked on the asphalt pavement of that street. Maybe she wanted to be with her Bubba that night… Thank God no car had run over her in the dim evening light.
Candy got a block away from the house. Then, for some reason, stopped to enter a neighbor’s back yard. She somehow opened the gate to the backyard in which huge dog lived. She was found several hours later by the home owners when they returned from wherever – maybe dinner. They found her curled up asleep on the back porch with their dog. It was protecting Candy.
The whole neighborhood had been looking for Candy. The Scout Master with his Boy Scout troop had searched the nearby fields. They had waded up and down the deep, muddy creek near our house hoping they wouldn’t find Candy’s little body facedown among the cattails. Searchers had knocked on every door for blocks around, but no one had thought to look in the backyard where she was eventually found. They knew there was a big, black, scary dog back there and he had been barking incessantly.
Candy was now home, safely asleep in her own bed.
Was it a miracle that Candy was not hurt or worse? Mom, a lifelong agnostic, said that it was.
Years later, after having donated blood which was my habit, my choice to do whenever the bloodmobile came around to our church in Northern Virginia, I got a call from the Red Cross. A lady on the other end of the line told me that a routine test of my blood revealed an issue that I should discuss with my private physician. I asked what issue, but she said she could not discuss it with me. She could only tell me that they would not be able to use my blood. So, since I was still on active duty with the U.S. Army in the Washington D.C. area, I called to make an appointment with the health clinic in the Pentagon. Blood was drawn and I was called back into the clinic the next day to speak with a doctor.
Test results had revealed that my blood was positive for Hepatitis C. Back then, it was the next thing to a death sentence. I was told that there wasn’t anything that could be done, not until I would eventually start having symptoms, mild at first: fever, feeling tired, poor appetite. But that these symptoms would get progressively worse leading to painful cirrhosis of the liver and eventual death. I was told that expensive and uncomfortable interferon treatments might be able to slow or defeat the progress of the disease and that research was being done on other treatments, so I should not give up hope. I was also told that it might take years for the disease to progress to the point that treatment could be administered. From that point on, and for years, I lived in dread.
I was an active member of our church back then. But my faith was still… blooming, not yet strong. Still, I prayed remembering Jesus’ prayer that night in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if you are willing, let this cup pass from me.”
Years later, living with this almost certain death sentence, I had still not developed symptoms. Although, every time a caught a cold or had a touch of flu, I thought my time had come.
Life continued on and circumstances caused us to move from Virginia to Missouri and from there to Texas. My follow-on career after the Army as a consultant for military materiel acquisition programs ended when the Aviation Materiel Command moved from St. Louis to Huntsville, Alabama, there to merge with the Missile Command. To continue supporting my customers, I’d have had to move to Huntsville. But my wife wanted nothing to do with that. She wanted to move to Texas, and so we did. Accordingly, I decided to reinvent myself. I decided to go back to school for the classes I would need to qualify for a teaching certificate in public schools.
It was perhaps a year later when my new doctor in Dallas requested me to return to give another blood sample for testing. He had called me personally, informing me that the most recent Hepatitis C test had come back negative. He wanted to have a more rigorous test done to confirm. Elated after the second test also came back negative, I asked how it could be possible. My doctor said that he did not know. He said that spontaneous remission wasn’t totally unheard of, but that it was rare.
Was this a miracle? I don’t know. But I chose at the time to believe that it was and I maintain that belief today. Maybe God was pleased with my decision to become a teacher and wanted me to hang around a little while longer – to have a chance to make positive contributions in the lives of young people. Who knows?
Studies done recently on the spontaneous remission of Hepatitis C indicate that it’s not all that rare after all, that twenty to as many as perhaps fifty percent of those contracting the infection will eventually, and for some little understood reason, recover. Maybe I was just one among the lucky ones. But I like to believe that I was spared for a reason.
So, what do you choose to believe? Are miracles real or are they simply reminders that we do not know everything?
Please feel free to comment.