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Ordinary Miracles MAG
I was 17, she had to be at least 70. Still, we connected and shared a moment I willnever forget. The eyes of kind strangers can tell a story you've neverheard.
Walking into church that Sunday was harder than any other day. Imade sure I went alone because of my fragile state. I never let anyone see mecry, and I knew I would cry that day.
My grandfather, who had never beenseriously ill, had suffered a stroke three days before this solemn Sunday. He wasstill in the hospital, and not doing well. When I got word that he had collapsedin the middle of a store, my heart sank to my knees. I had spent the last threedays in the hospital waiting room with my family. In all the time I saw themcrying, and my grandmother overwhelmed with worry, I never let anyone see me cry.I guess I thought I was supposed to be the strong one. Being older, I am notpermitted to be weak. I should understand the situation. But I didn't.
Why should my grandfather, the sweetest man in the world, be in suchpain? This is the man who could make anyone laugh, and always made everyonearound him comfortable. I didn't understand why someone like this should befighting for his life. I also couldn't comprehend the world losing someone soclose to so many, including me. It was these thoughts that caused me to cry aloneat night in my bed when no one could see how much pain I was in.
So thatday I went to church alone in search of understanding and to pray for mygrandfather. I walked carefully down the side aisle, bowed to do the cross, andsat in a long pew with just one other person. I already wanted to cry justthinking about the possibility of coming back to this church for a funeral, but Iremained stable enough to hold back the tears. I got through most of the mass;the priest preached the sermon, I sang along quietly with the choir, and held myhands up to recite the "Our Father" prayer. For the first time Igenuinely meant everything I said, and I listened to the priest as if his everyword was spoken just for me.
This Sunday the church was particularlyempty. It seemed like the only other people there were elderly couples, a fewyoung families and old women I figured were widowed. One of these ladies sat atthe opposite end of my bench. She sat upright and seemed to have a permanentgrin. I was spiteful, but envious at the same time, of her obvious cheerfulness.She kept her hands folded in her lap and I swear her eyes were a brighter bluethan the sky visible through the window behind the altar.
I stayed stronguntil communion. I went to the father, took the body of Christ, and walked slowlyback to my seat. I knelt on my knees to give thanks and praise as you aresupposed to after communion. That's when the flood gates opened. My eyes filledwith tears until my vision was cloudy. My thoughts whirled around my grandfather,and I prayed for him to get better, to be out of pain. How could I give thanks ina time like this? Instead, I prayed for a miracle. Looking back, I don't think Ihad very much faith in a miracle, which was was why I was crying.
Ididn't think my weakness was obvious, since my eyes were closed and my head wasdown. No one could tell except for the occasional finger swipe under the eye. Icontrolled myself as I sat and waited for the final prayer. As my eyes clearedand I brought my head up, I noticed a small hand reaching across my lap, gentlyholding a tissue.
The frail old lady with the grin was now right next tome offering condolences for whatever I was suffering. She didn't say a word. Shedidn't ask what was wrong, or if there was anything she could do. This beautifulcreature simply offered a tissue and a smile. As I reached for the tissue, Iattempted to squeeze out a "thank you," but all that came was one moretear that fell from the tip of my eyelash and rolled down my cheek where itfinally plunged from my chin into the open palm of the woman's hand. She smiledeven more with an expression that seemed to say, Whatever it is, you aren'talone, and it's okay. I took the tissue, and before I could pull my arm away, shegrabbed my hand. She held it, and I couldn't look away from those piercing blueeyes. After a few seconds, she released my hand and returned to her end of thepew. I could swear that I was sitting there in astonishment for at least a year,but it must have been only a few minutes. When I looked down the row to catch onemore glimpse of the kind lady, she was gone; mass had ended.
I swiped myeyes one more time with the tissue and tried to contemplate how a stranger couldknow exactly what I was feeling and, more important, how to help. She gave me aglimmer of hope that maybe my prayers would be answered.
This silentencounter with a stranger brought me an epiphany as I put the key in my car. Myeyes searched the parking lot to find the lady who was so benevolent, but she wasnowhere to be seen. I gave up looking, and, as I sat at the wheel, I knew shemust be an angel. She was sent in my time of need to let me know that I didn'thave to be so strong. It's okay to cry, to show weakness, and ask for help. Whenshe grabbed my hand, she helped me understand that compassion is the only thingthat would get me through this time, or any other tragedy destiny throws my way.I know that the compassion she showed is the same gift my family needs. I shouldconsole them, and let them console me.
I kept the tissue from that day,and whenever I look at the salt stains, I know I'm never alone. Whenever I lookup these days, the blue of the sky reminds me of the bright eyes I once had thechance to look into. Angels do exist. They aren't fat, naked babies in murals,and they aren't golden women in white robes playing the harp. Angels come to youthrough the touch and smile of the little old ladies you pass every day.