In my life, I’ve seen big miracles. My son, born almost three months early, weighing not quite three pounds, has grown to be a strong and healthy young man. My compact car flipped and rolled down a hill, and we walked away with hardly a scratch. I’ve seen people healed, snatched from the brink of ruin, spared from disaster.
Last week was a week of small miracles. My bank account was empty, and I found a $20 bill in a purse I hadn’t used in a month, wrapped in a note that said “Love you”… turns out a dear friend had slipped it in there when I brought her lunch, and I only found it when I most needed it. My cupboards were bare, a friend needed to clean out her kitchen because of her sick husband's new dietary restrictions, and voila! I was restocked. My friend's husband's illness is certainly bad news, and they are in my prayers, but I have noticed that sometimes someone's miracle comes from someone else deciding to find good in a bad situation. I have learned to appreciate these things.
This week, though, we needed a big miracle. My precious Uncle Judson, the backbone of our family, was repairing a roof when he slipped and fell nine feet onto the pavement. Landing on his face, he sustained injuries that took his life two days later.
I have to take a moment now to talk about my uncle, so please forgive my self-indulgence. Judson was quite possibly the most generous man I've ever known. Family members, strangers, friends...anyone who came across his path was bettered for knowing him. He was handy, and spent much of his life renovating houses. Some of these houses he purchased and sold or rented, some he contracted to repair, but many he repaired out of sheer kindness. He employed many people, including some who would otherwise have been on the street. He rented homes to friends and family in need, at low cost, to give people a boost. He owned vacation properties to which we all had a standing invitation, and the blessing of those mini-vacations, courtesy of Uncle Judson, helped people through many stressful times. Illness, divorce, myriad troubles were soothed looking out over the waves, or across the mountains, appreciating the gift we'd been given.
He was a beautiful man, inside and out, the picture of health, athletic and agile, an avid surfer. He held a master's degree, and in his youth was a special education teacher. He was a doting father, and his love for his daughter was fierce and boundless. He was a loving husband, and he and his beautiful wife had one of the strongest marriages I've been privileged to observe.
He wasn't a saint. His temper was quick and hot, and anyone who worked for him needed to make sure to do the job right, or they'd be sure to hear about it. His lovely home is unfortunately the site of many unfinished projects. His sarcasm was legendary.
But his heart was enormous. His sense of humor made us laugh until tears rolled down our faces, and he loved to laugh. He loved to entertain, and we could be assured that any visit to his home would include a sunset ride on his boat. We could also be pretty sure he'd let someone drive the boat who had absolutely no idea how to do so, and then he'd roar with laughter at the shrieks of those of us nervous about drowning. Holidays at his house routinely included not only family and friends, but people he'd met who were down on their luck, or just didn't have another place to celebrate. They quickly became friends, too.
When he fell, we prayed for a miracle. We couldn't process the shock, couldn't bear the thought of losing him. He was only 58 years old! How could we lose our Judson, when he was so strong and vibrant? We thought he was invincible. We prayed day and night. Many of us drove in from out of state, praying all the way. We were sure God was going to spare him.
In the end, he passed away. Still reeling from the shock of hearing the news that his brain had no function, my aunt had to make the decision of whether to donate his organs, and her decision was, emphatically, yes. It was the only fitting thing to do for a man who'd already given so much of himself.
I was torn, though. As much as I believe in organ donation, I wasn't ready to give up on the idea that they'd shut off the ventilator, unplug all those machines, and we'd witness a miracle- he'd stand up and walk away. I wanted so badly for that to be the case, that the idea of them leaving him on the respirator while they harvested his organs made my stomach churn. I got upset with God.
As I prayed, though, a rather angry, questioning prayer, I began to feel a quiet calm. A peace came over me, and it was as though God was explaining things to me. We'd prayed for a miracle for two days, and here it was... I suddenly understood that all the lives my sweet uncle would be able to save in death comprised the miracle. It wasn't the miracle we'd hoped for, but I couldn't help but think it was the miracle for which those other families had been praying. Here was a man who spent his entire life helping other people, who would've gladly lain down his life for his fellow man, and in the end, that's what he was able to do.
I won't say it made it all ok, because it didn't. Last night we went to his house, and my Small One said "Oh! We're going to see Uncle Judson, and he'll take me on the boat!" I tried to explain to her, as simply as I could, that he had gotten terribly hurt, and God had taken him to live with him, instead of letting him go home with Aunt Peggy. "That's not right," she said. "He needs to come home and be with Aunt Peggy and see us!"
Honestly, as much as I'm glad he was able to help those other people, as much as I'm trying to make sense in all this and find peace, I have to admit, I agree with her wholeheartedly.
Goodbye, Uncle Jud. We'll miss you always.