Sometimes things happen which, if you are a person of faith, must qualify as miracles. Yet even in the retelling, as if describing one of the miracles performed by Christ, there is a sense that – because they happen around us, in our time – they cannot be miracles. Yet, humbly, they seem like miracles.
One set of these events are comas, out of which people miraculous emerge years or even decades later. The why and wherefore offered is always in scientific terms, a twist of fate, new medicine, an unexplainable turn – producing cogency from nothing, a sudden return to life.
Truth is, medicine or not, what has occurred is improbable, something that delivers shock, joy, indescribable elation, appreciation, gratitude – often on the heels of prayer. Make what you will of these odd turns, but one way to look at them – is as miracles.
The one that triggers this column is an awakening from a catatonic state by a young woman 20 years unreachable, unable to connect, and yet – suddenly she did. In that case, covered by the Washington Post, a doctor is credited, one who focused and helped.
But a deeper question lurks, the unknowable intersection of events – which culminated in the doctor, who had seen the patient decades earlier, forgotten, rediscovering and helping her. Why did the case lead to a coma? Unclear. Why interest? Unclear. How the intersection decades later? Unclear. Why a solution? No answer, except something happened that had not prior.
Take the 20 year old girl who was hit by a car in the 1980s. Science called her “gone,” unable to think, communicate, participate, or move. Her life was over, yet someone – her family – never gave up.
Suddenly, without notice or provocation, as if her crushed skull, lost life, absent personality were never missing – she reappeared. She was real, able to communicate, live again. She remembered what people has said in her presence, over 20 silent years. How?
Science does not well understand how a damaged brain, whether affected by traumatic brain injury, psychological trauma, genetic predisposition, autoimmune, encephalitis, or other disease – works. Guesses are made, labels given, and clinical observation codified, but knowing is hard.
Then come these cases, and if you read about them, they boggle the mind and lift the heart. What seems impossible occurs, never more stunningly than recovery from coma. The cases are many, varied, each seemingly miraculous.
So, what is one to make of this? Is the modern narrative right? Is it just medicine, science, time, good luck that turned the dial? Or is there something more?
Could it be that prayer and faith, unyielding by an injured party or those who love him or her, that turns the dial? Objectivity is hard, as in all matters of heart, but asking the question is right, timely, necessary.
If prayer is as powerful as it seems, if these cases illustrate just one set of unlikely experiences – replicated across other diseases, ages, and faiths – is this not worth pause?
Interestingly, even Einstein articulated a believe in miracles, power of the invisible, and once told a child that “everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man.”
Likewise, some of the greatest physicists, Heisenberg, Planck, Faraday, Maxwell, and Compton, had firm faiths. Three-quarters of all doctors believe in God – even if the media ignores this.
Confirming firsthand that those of great intellect and heart understand the presence of God, an old professor of mine, Dr. Robert Jastrow, celebrated astrophysicist, long held close his thoughts. Yet having spent a lifetime among the stars, he offered reflections. “Far from disproving the existence of God, astronomers may be finding more circumstantial evidence that God exists.”
He wrote, “Now we see how the astronomical evidence supports the Biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and Biblical accounts of Genesis are the same…”
“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”
All of this is to say, from the highest reaches of science to universal longings of the human soul – doctors and physicists to theologians and those of simple faith – something is inescapable. It is palpable in coma recovery.
Life is complicated but worth preserving, sometimes for decades, until a flash of light and energy, until faith rewarded in an unexpected event. A sleeping soul stirs, returns, improbable occurs – a prayed for conclusion. Some will never accept miracles, but to those who think Mankind is not God, they occur. Humbly, some things do seem to be…miracles.
Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.
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