Probably Nothing

When Nothing Was Something

Adam, Jay and I played ping-pong on the upper deck of an ocean liner cruising on the Alaskan Inside.  The night was spectacular.  Though it was ten PM, the multi-colored twilit sky gave adequate illumination for our game, the sea reflected the sky, and distant hills of pine forest slid by.

Family vacations then were a novelty, a rare period of recovery.  This one was especially precious because our family was recovering from Mary’s diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer just a few months before.

Adam was losing at ping-pong.  “I’m see two balls,” he said.  “I don’t know which one to hit.”

Brain tumor jumped to my consciousness.  I had seen dozens of patients with brain tumors whose initial symptom was double vision.  But then I quieted my alarm.  People get double vision for other reasons, I told myself.  And I’m not his doctor; I’m his father.  Let his pediatrician take care of it.

It’s probably nothing, I thought to myself.

A week later his pediatrician examined him.  He said, “It’s probably nothing, but I’d like him to see an ophthalmologist.”

A few days later the ophthalmologist said, “It’s probably nothing, but I’d like him to see a neuro-ophthalmologist.”

At this point, I no longer thought it was nothing.  I scheduled an MRI scan on my own son.  The neuro-ophthalmologist found that Adam had an eye condition that always points to a tumor in the pineal region of the brain.  A few hours later the MRI confirmed his suspicion.

I suppose it’s possible to have a child with cancer and not pray.  Perhaps there are those so convinced of their atheism, or so lost along their way, or so unattached from their child that the impulse doesn’t come.  But I suspect those are the rare exceptions.  Even those with the thinnest belief in an almighty benevolent power are driven to their knees when their child’s life is at risk.

So I prayed.  And Mary prayed, Adam prayed, and the whole family prayed together.  Then I sought out the best medical care possible.

If you’ve followed this website, particularly Adam’s posts, you will know that the subsequent road was hard.  Many things were lost never to be re-gained.  Some dreams folded up and died along the way.

But Adam survived and is cancer free twenty-six years later.  This week Adam and I are hiking together in the Smoky Mountains, one way we have of celebrating life and health.

So here is a question I have kept to myself for a quarter century.  Did Adam survive as an answer to prayer?  Or did Adam survive because of good medical care?  The person of faith in me says that my prayer was answered; the doctor in me says that surgery, radiation, and drug treatment cured him.

Both, I want to answer.  I have faith that God is real and He heard and answered our prayers.  And I have faith that medicine and surgery prolonged Adam’s life.

But is it true?  Before neurosurgery and radiation therapy, parents prayed for their children with brain tumors, and they died.  I have personally treated a teen-ager with a similar tumor who had no family, nor apparent faith, and he lived.  The medical care seems to be the most critical element, at least to my worldly eyes.

Then again, I prayed to the Almighty, the creator of the universe, and He granted my request.  Should I say now that the prayer had nothing to do with the outcome?  That the radiation would have cured him anyway?

When Nothing Was Nothing

A few months ago, my daughter, Brieanna, called.  She had developed a lump in her armpit.

It’s probably nothing, I said.  She was nursing her second baby; maybe the lump had something to do with that.  Small cuts or infections in the arm could cause a swollen lymph node.  Or a viral infection could do the same.

Two weeks went by and the lump increased in size.  She had no symptoms or evidence of breast feeding problems, injuries or infections.  It’s probably nothing, I told myself.  But I wasn’t so sure.  This is how lymphomas start.  A nightmare scenario played itself out in my mind: my grown daughter with cancer, her two little boys needing her, her devastated husband.  Such scenarios are easy to imagine after your wife and another of your children have been diagnosed with cancer.

So Mary and I prayed for healing.  Brieanna scheduled a doctor visit and an ultrasound of the swollen node.  On the morning of the the ultrasound the lump unexpectedly disappeared.

“What do you think?” Mary asked me.  I still have a small amount of credibility when it comes to family medical matters.

The residual doctor part of my brain thought, unrecognized breast infection or cuticle infection or a virus.  Probably nothing.

Then I caught myself.  When I pray for something and get it, I am sometimes quick to forget the prayer and ascribe the good fortune to natural or manmade causes.  Something wonderful had just happened.  I should not be so quick with an explanation; I should be quick with grateful praise.  The appropriate response is Thank you, Jesus.

“It was probably nothing,” I told Mary. “Or a miracle.”

God in Catastrophe


During my time as a chaplain I prayed with dozens, maybe hundreds, of patients. Sometimes I felt I was doing a good job. Other times I felt I was completely inadequate.

One night I was the on-call chaplain and got a late call. A Roman Catholic family wanted a priest to come and perform what is commonly called last rites. Unfortunately, there was no Catholic priest in the hospital and little time because the patient needed emergency surgery. At first they didn’t want a Protestant chaplain, but fifteen minutes later they wanted anyone they could get.

I ran and got there just as they were about to roll the patient into the operating room. The family asked me to say a Hail Mary. They settled for holding her hand and saying The Lord’s Prayer. When we finished they wheeled her through the doors. She died in surgery.

The last words she heard on this earth were, “…and deliver us from evil, for Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”  And the next thing she heard was choirs of angels.

In May of 2007 all the hard work of seminary seemed to be paying off. I was finishing up my second CPE unit (hospital chaplain training) and applying for a residency program. I was in the process of being ordained by the United Methodist Church. We were close to reaching our family goal of having Leslie home taking care of the kids and me in the work place bringing home the money.

Then one Saturday morning, our family was working together to spruce up our yard. I was trimming some overgrown shrubbery. The next thing I knew I was looking at a field of brown and someone was asking me about my address and phone number. As my eyes cleared I realized that I was talking to paramedics. I wouldn’t have been able to answer their questions without Leslie’s help. But Leslie convinced the paramedics that she could take care of the transportation–because she wanted me to go to the hospital where she worked and where I was doing my training. We got into our car, and she drove to the emergency room.

Along the way I called my parents and the pastoral care office at the hospital. As we drove I started feeling worse and worse. I felt nauseous and had what epileptics and neurologists call auras, a combination of vibrations, sparkling lights and earthquakes inside my head. We couldn’t get to the hospital quick enough as far as I was concerned. When we pulled up I quickly opened the door, undid my seatbelt and put my feet on the pavement. I was too dizzy to stand up. Leslie ran to get someone with a wheel chair.

I remember being impatient and  uncomfortable–then nothing until I woke up in a hospital bed with restraints on my forearms and ankles. As a chaplain I’d talked to many patients in restraints, but now I was the patient, and the feeling was definitely odd. One of the chaplains from the pastoral care office came in, and I could greet her by name, though most of that day I was disoriented. The powerful anti-epileptic drugs knocked me out of reality. Two grand mal seizures within an hour had completely exhausted my muscles, and I could barely move.

I remember one of the chaplain supervisors telling my mother that I’d gotten into the residency program, news I was eagerly anticipating, but I was too far gone to care.

That evening I had an MRI to see if my brain tumor had come back. I couldn’t experience anxiety and fear before the scan, nor feel the joy of relief after learning the answer was no.

I didn’t experience God that day, not personally. But that was because I couldn’t see the other side of my reality. But God showed up.

You could argue that He always shows up, and this is true. But we only become aware of His presence when we pray. If we have a seizure, or are drugged, or just plain too sick to care, we are unable to pray and unaware if the Lord is present or not. When we need Him most, we are unable to call His name.

I am very blessed. From the moment I called, my mother contacted our family and her prayer partners, and by the time the hospital staff extracted me from the car seizing and hauled me through the lobby to the ER, a hospital chaplain, a minister from our church, my parents and their five prayer partners were praying for me and Leslie.

They prayed for my family while they were traumatized from seeing me have a seizure. They prayed for my health, and that I wouldn’t have a recurrence of brain cancer. They prayed for God’s presence to be close to us during a hard and frightening time. And the prayers were answered. God comforted my family, He kept me from further harm, He gave us peace.

Now I try to prepare. Two prayer partners and I meet each week, praying for everything from help finding our lost sunglasses to the forgiveness of sins that seem unforgivable, and healing from illnesses that seem incurable. We know each other and each other’s business. My prayer partners see my blind side, the things I don’t know about myself.

When catastrophe strikes me again, these two people will pray for me. I feel good about it; they’ve already practiced.

Do you know who will pray for you when you can’t pray for yourself? Maybe it will be a minister or a priest or a hospital chaplain. Maybe a family member. But maybe you want someone who has practiced. And the best way to do that is start now.  Find someone you trust with your blind side, and share your prayers.

Another New Heart


I raced to the hospital, crossing the Buckman bridge after midnight well over the speed limit while making arrangements with the operating room on my cell.  I was afraid of being too late, of another exercise in futility, of another sleepless and fruitless night.  I was afraid of the need to give another end-of-life speech to a family.

The case was not hopeless.  That would not have required speed.  Or fear.  I already knew the patient’s diagnosis:  an epidural hematoma.  If his head could be opened, the clot removed and the bleeding stopped within four hours of injury, he would live.  With any delay, he would die.

As I raced to the hospital, I sought to calm my frayed nerves and slow my pounding heart.  As a person of faith, I should be able to have peace.  So I prayed.

I thought about how easy it seemed to have been for Jesus.  He never rushed, he never appeared anxious.  Lay on hands, command the demons, maybe a little mud in the eyes, and poof!  Cured.  All without time constraints.  Your servant is in the next village a day’s travel away?  No problem; go on home, he’s fine.  He’s been dead for three days?  No problem; show me the grave.  Never racing through the middle of the night uncertain of the outcome.

To be fair, I will never know what it cost Jesus to heal and give hope.  But still, even if Jesus bestowed upon me His powers at that moment, I remained certain that an epidural hematoma would need an operation.

So I prayed I would not be too late.  Because I trust neurosurgery and I don’t trust faith.  Not for this, not tonight.  I finished with something like, So, show me how a prayer for this guy does any good.

The case went well–at least for an emergency in the middle of the night.  Two hours later, the hematoma had been removed and the major bleeding stopped.  Another hour or more of surgery remained, taking care of the important but less urgent tasks: preventing re-bleeding, replacing the skull flap and closing the scalp.  This is the time when I can stop working by reflex and start thinking about what I’m doing.  And why, and to whom.

The back story filtered into the operating room.  The patient, whom I will call Zach, was a thirty-year-old cook at local restaurant who had come in by ambulance after an epileptic seizure.  Over the previous several months Zach had been in the ER three times for seizures.  Each time his anticonvulsant levels were low and his toxicology screen was positive for cocaine.  Each time, the ER staff treated him with anticonvulsants, gave him a new prescription, cautioned him against recreational drug use and sent him home.  Tonight was no different.  His labs confirmed what the staff expected: a toxicology screen positive for cocaine and low anticonvulsant levels.  A CT scan was normal.

They treated him with anti-convulsant drugs, cautioned him to re-start his prescription, avoid drugs, then sent him home with a friend.  Getting only as far as his friend’s car, Zach had another seizure, this time striking his head on the pavement.  He was carried back to the ER, but this time a CT scan showed an acute epidural hematoma.

One of the great disillusionments in medicine comes with the realization that guys like Zach care less about their life than the people charged with taking care of them.  It is easy to become bitter at two AM.  I want to ask him why the whole health care team is working, resources are being poured out, and he doesn’t care enough to take his medications and stay clean.  I want to shake him and point out to him other people who are suffering with incurable diseases while doing their best to stay alive, and would give anything to have what he is so willing to give up.

But duty and diligence take over.  We treat because we believe in the right to second chances.  And third and fourth and fifth chances–as many chances as it takes when they come in on your shift.  And I know, when I get past the bitterness, that there is a reason for the self-destruction.


I’ve seen lots of patients like Zach over the years.  A life-threatening illness or injury as a consequence to addictions to drugs, alcohol, nicotine, would bring them to the hospital.  A complex and expensive treatment would “save” their life, and they would be discharged only to return a few days, a few weeks, or a few months later, still addicted and now dying all over again.

Zach was dying not simply because he had bled in his head, but because his actions were beyond his control.  One mother called her son’s addiction a terminal illness.  In religious terms, he was possessed by a demon, dying of sin.

The operation saved Zach’s life.

Or did it?  Preventing death and healing are not the same thing.  If he was going to really live again, his healing needed to go way beyond the sutures in his scalp or the screws in his skull; it needed to reach all the way to his heart.

Zach went home from the hospital a few days after his operation.  I waited to see if he would show up for his post op visit in three weeks.  Surprisingly, he did.  His wound had healed nicely.  He had no more seizures while taking his anticonvulsants.  He was drug free.  We talked about addiction as the root cause of his near-death experience.  He made another appointment, and I waited.  Six weeks later, he remained seizure free, drug free, active in rehabilitation.

That night I raced to the ER, he needed an operation that I could do.  But he needed something more, something that only God could do.  Maybe He gave Zach a new heart.  I hope so.

But I know He showed me some things.  I could do an operation, but I couldn’t save Zach.  Only Jesus could do that.

And how many operations for epidural hematoma had I done by then?  Fifty?  A hundred, maybe?  How many of those patients had I prayed for?  Only one.  Jesus kept coming back to give me a second chance, and a third, and a fourth, and a fifth, as many as it took.  Because it’s always His shift.

Some Kind of Miracle


Denise was nineteen and had been married for two weeks.  Her husband said they had been together that afternoon when she suddenly complained of a headache and lost consciousness.  He called rescue who resuscitated and intubated her at the scene and transported her to the hospital.  A CT scan demonstrated hemorrhage in an area of the brain that was both critical and inoperable, the brainstem.  She was placed on a respirator sent to the ICU.

I saw her there, a tiny black woman, not more than five feet tall, weighing no more than a hundred pounds, beautiful still in spite of the distortion from the endotracheal tube and other lines and monitors.  An EEG had just finished, and the technician was leaving.  An official reading would take a few hours, but I saw the flat lines consistent with no brain activity.  Her neurological exam was also consistent with brain death.

She met all the criteria for a diagnosis of brain death except a repeat confirmatory examination to be performed eight to twenty-four hours later.  Once the diagnosis was confirmed she could be removed from the respirator without any further ethical concerns, either before or after her organs were harvested to be donated.

The family entered as I finished my exam.  Denise lay between us like a sarcophagus.  I replaced the gauze pads that covered her eyes.  The cardiac monitor beat out a steady string of slow beeps.  Every five seconds the respirator made a clunk-wheeze sound and Denise’s chest rises and falls beneath the thin, white sheet.

Her husband, not much older than she, is so diminished by shock that he stands like a mute child with large, fearful eyes.  Her mother, a formidable looking woman flanked by a small army of family and friends, takes charge.

Color separates us: my white coat and white skin, her dark dress and dark skin.  Language separates us: my Midwest accent, her Southern drawl.  I see in her eyes the sins of  generations of white men and know that trust would not be earned easily, and my authority would be recognized only grudgingly.

“Doctor?” she says.

I ask what happened, although I already knew.  I ask about her prior health, though it mattered little now.  I ask because I want to listen to their voices and I need to earn their trust.

And I don’t want to talk.  I don’t want to tell her that her daughter is dead in every sense except that her heart beats on.  I listen to the story of her short life, her childhood illnesses, her graduation from high school, her recent marriage.  I hear, as she describes Denise’s plans for the future, the hopes and dreams of her whole family.

Finally there is silence, and they look at me.  I tell them that she likely had been born with something that now caused bleeding in her head.  This is nobody’s fault; it could not have been prevented.  An act of God.

“She’s in a coma,” I say.

Mother’s face steels.  “She going to get better?”

The monitor beeps, the respirator wheezes, and Denise’s chest rises and fells.  I shake my head.

Mother’s face almost crumbles before it steels again.  “We a praying people, Doctor,” she says.  Soft voices behind her murmur assent.

“I pray, too,” I say.  I pray for forgiveness, I pray for comfort for Denise’s family, I pray I can leave this tragedy and go home to my wife and children.

I tell Mother about coma and brain death, how brain death is not only a diagnosis; it is the end of hope.  I speak about transplantation, how life and hope can be salvaged from death and despair.  I am met with stony looks.

“We be praying for a miracle, Doctor.”

I nod and look down at Denise, small enough to be a child, then explained about repeating her EEG and exam the following day.  We set a time to review the results.

The following day her exam is unchanged.  The EEG is still flat.  Her vitals signs are normal and her labs are normal.  She is brain dead, I tell her family.

“What now?” Mother asks.

I explain how transplantation works, how she can remain on the respirator until her organs are harvested then the body is released to the undertaker.

“No,” she says, “No transplants.”

I want to explain again but the steel has returned to her face, and I am forced to agree.  Denise is my patient; I am responsible only to her, and by extension, her family, not the unknown recipient of a transplant.  I nod.  “Then we can remove the respirator.”

“My son is a preacher up in Georgia.  We need him to lay on hands and pray over Denise.”

Technically, Denise is dead.  A death certificate could legally be filled out now, but I am in no hurry. Death and grief are hard enough without inflicting more wounds with technicalities.  “When?” I ask.

“Tomorrow morning.  Ten o’clock.”


I wonder what happens when you pray with such certainty for something that is so impossible.  Do you give up God?  Do you give up prayer?

And I wonder what happens if you pray for the impossible, and your prayer is answered.  Do you give up your faith in the expected?   Is the science of medicine so frail?  Does reality and experience know no boundary?

The next morning I enter the ICU and feel like I am in the wrong church.  Twenty souls are gathered in their Sunday best, including Denise’s brother.  Her mother introduces him, and we shake hands over the bed.  I examine her, self-conscious of the audience.  No change, brain dead, I tell them, and step back into a corner, uncertain what to do with my hands.  I cross one over the other and stand with my head slightly bowed but eyes open.  Respectful, but I feel like an alien.

Her brother lays a hand on her forehead.  He begins murmuring a prayer and the room fills with others praying out loud or saying amen.  A babbling hum fills the room and competes with the heart monitor and the respirator.  His prayers become louder with the cadence of a practiced orator.

“We love our sister,” he calls out, one hand on her forehead and one raised to the heavens.  “Now, in the name of Jesus, rise and walk.”

The room falls silent except for the monitor and respirator.  He begins again, the small congregation joining with encouraging words.  Again he cries for his sister to rise and walk, and again she does not.  A third time he cries out in the name of Jesus for his sister to rise.

I find myself praying with him.  I find myself willing to sacrifice all the certainty of the medical science for the life of this young woman.

The monitor beeps, the respirator wheezes, and no one moves, least of all Denise.  A tear streaks down her mother’s cheek.  Her brother’s hand rests still on her forehead.  A minute passes, maybe two, maybe three.

This is the moment, I think.  This is when we admit that God doesn’t answer prayers, at least not this one, at least not now.  And if not now, when?  Surely He must care.  But if He cares, does He not act because the power that raised the only son of the widow of Nain was for that time, those people?  Not now, not us.  Is now the time for bitterness and grief?

Her brother whispers something.  Then repeats himself, now loud enough that I can just make out the words.  I hear, “Thank you, Jesus.”

But why?  For what?

“Thank you, Jesus,” he says again, louder, the words unmistakeable now.  And again, even louder.  Murmurs of assent and soft amens from the family rise like a chorus to his solo as I stand to the side, puzzled and dumb.

“Thank you, Jesus,” he says one more time.  “For we loved our sister.”

I hear the chorus of amens.

“But You loved her more.  Thank you, Jesus.”

He lifts his hand from her head and steps away.  Family members file by, touching Denise, hugging her mother, shaking the brother’s hand, then leaving one by one until only the brother and his mother remain.  He nods to me as he turns to leave, surrendering the ground.

I shook his hand as he passed.  “I’m sorry,” I said.  Sorry your sister died.  Sorry your prayers weren’t answered.  Sorry that I, in spite all my scientific knowledge and skill, am completely helpless.

“Thank you,” he said.

Then I am alone with Denise and the ICU nurse.  We disconnect the lines and turn off the respirator and the clunk-wheeze stops.  The heart monitor beeps on.  I secretly hope that she will breathe and we will call back the family and celebrate a miracle.  But her chest no longer rises.  The beeps slow, then become irregular, then stop.

I sign the death certificate and go to church, joining my wife and children in a quiet Methodist congregation where all the men wear suits, all the women wear dresses, and we all pray for the will of God to be done, but never for the dead to be raised.  We are safe from disappointment that way.

But I wonder if we don’t ask for too little.  Though Denise did not rise from the dead, at least not in this world, I feel that because her family had prayed for something I wouldn’t have risked, we witnessed some kind of miracle.

Before their prayers, her family was lost in grief.  Her family asked God for more time with Denise in this world of suffering and sorrow; God assured them that Denise was living a perfect life now and they would see her again someday.  Because they prayed for a miracle in the hear-and-now, they witnessed a miracle in eternity.

Ray of Hope


I drove home from the emergency room at 4AM feeling tired, frustrated, and depressed.  As I angled off Beach Boulevard onto Hogan Road I passed a low, triangular-shaped black building topped with a cross formed by lighted letters.  Horizontal letters read Jesus Saves; Vertical letters proclaimed Jesus Heals.  Nobody believes that, I thought.  Otherwise the ambulance would have come here instead of the ER.  And I wouldn’t have blood on my shoes.

The victim that night was a twenty-one year-old man named Ray.  He had been in a single-car accident after midnight and looked brain dead on arrival.  He had been intubated in the field, was now on a respirator without motor tone or reflexes, and his pupils were fixed and dilated.  But he was drunk and hypothermic, so an official diagnosis of brain death could not be made.  Resuscitation continued.

A CT scan showed a diffusely swollen brain and multiple facial fractures.  He was placed on a respirator, given heating blankets, IV fluids, anticonvulsants, steroids, antibiotics, a room in the ICU, and little hope.  Blood dripped onto my shoes when I drilled a small hole through his skull to place a tube to monitor the pressure inside his head (the ICP).

I left him in the ICU after giving his nurse instruction on his care then looked for family or friends.  No one.

Driving home I felt like I’d performed a great exercise in futility.  Ray’s prognosis was dismal.  If he survived (an unlikely event in my estimation), he would likely be left with severe brain injuries and exist (at best) for a few years institutionalized in a neuro-vegative state.  I wished the ambulance had taken him to the faith healers; the outcome was likely to have been the same.

After a few hours of sleep I returned.  Ray’s temperature had been restored to normal and his alcohol level had fallen below the legally drunk range.  His ICP was controlled with minimal intervention, but his pupils were fixed and he still had no muscle tone or reflexes.

Again, he looked brain dead.  But since he was sedated for the respirator, an official diagnosis could not yet be made.  I felt as if I was not so much treating Ray as I was keeping his organs viable as a possible transplant donor.

This morning Ray’s parents were in the ICU waiting room.  I went to meet them and steeled myself to deliver bad news.

The first thing I noticed was they were surprisingly well dressed–he in a coat and tie, she in stockings and heels.  The second thing I noticed were the little gold crosses–one on his lapel, another on her necklace.

I told them what I must while their eyes searched me, listening carefully for the words I knew they wanted to hear–okay, recovery, rehabilitation–words I did not speak.  I said coma, paralysis, brain damage, blindness and, yes, even death.

Then we faced each other, silent for a moment.  Her face begged for better news; tears welled up and overflowed, creating fall lines in her makeup.  He studied me and asked about chances, searching for the thin comfort of statistics.  “I know you can’t say for certain,” he said.

“Less than fifty-fifty,” I replied.  It was worse than that, but I was unwilling to lie but didn’t want to hurt them more than necessary.  It was the best I could do.

“When will you know?” he asked.

“A day, a week, a month,” I said.  “I don’t know.  Everyday he lives, he’s beaten the odds.”

“There’s hope?”

I pause.  I am careful dispensing hope.  Too much is a lie called false hope.  Too little is another kind of lie.

“His response to the treatments we started last night gives us some hope,” I said cautiously.  Some hope.

His shoulders dropped a fraction, perhaps shrugging off the worst, but his eyes narrowed as he continued to fix his gaze on me.  She breathed now without sobbing.

“If he continues to get better there will be room for more hope,” I say, dispensing the possibility of more hope.  “But if he gets worse…”


“If there is no hope, I will tell you.”  The possibility of no hope.

He nodded.  She sniffed.  “We will pray for him,” she said.

“And for you, too, Doctor,” he said.

“Thank you,” I said.  I wished without much faith that the prayers would help.

I’d like to report that I went back to the ICU and witnessed a miracle healing.  But it was not so simple.  Ray had a rocky course, fighting for his life for the next month.  His ICPs gradually came under control and he was weaned from the respirator and sedative medications.  He woke from his coma and, although his vision was impaired from bruised optic nerves caused by the skull base fractures, he was otherwise neurologically intact.  Then, a few days later, he had an attack of meningitis–a complication from his basilar skull fracture.  After a course of antibiotics, he required an operation to seal the cerebrospinal fluid spaces and prevent another bout of meningitis.

But he exceeded my expectations.  He recovered and was discharged home walking and talking.  Eventually, he made a near complete recovery and has led a normal life, left with only a moderate visual impairment and a well-controlled seizure disorder.

As I look back, this was when I started to wonder if the prayers helped.  At the time, I thought he got better because of good neurosurgical care.  But he looked dead, I thought his care was futile, and, in spite of my expectations, he lived.

Later, when he came in for office appointments, Ray always wore a little gold cross somewhere, usually a pin on the collar of his shirt.  It made me remember the night I had no hope and the lighted cross I saw.  Jesus Saves, Jesus Heals

Could the faith healers at that little black triangular-shaped building have done better?  Almost certainly not.  But I know now that there is room for both kinds of healers.  Some are called to don latex gloves and get blood on their shoes; others are called to fold their hands and fall on their knees.  Ray needed both.