(This is the serial release of my book, available here. In the previous chapter, we ended as Phillip, his mom, and his good friends Maggie and Henry pray together after hearing of how Jesus had spoken to Maggie regarding Phillip. Phillip has just noted: “But of course, minor keys are in the same scale with the major. Darkness and light work together in any beautiful picture. And so, it is in life.”)
That same night, the phone rings in the middle of the night. It is pitch black in the house when I hear it ringing, and ringing, and ringing. The lady is in her bed, too. I hear it and feel scared. The phone never rings, especially in the middle of the night, except when there is something wrong. We only have the one phone in the kitchen, which is weird, I know. I mean, Kevin says his family has seven phones in their house, including three cell phones. But the man has never wanted to have a cell phone. I heard the lady and him fight once about it.
But this night, I hear the lady make her way through the dark, down the stairs and see lights turning on. I snuggle closer to Big Skye and wait. I don’t want to know what has happened. A few minutes pass and I hear her walking quickly back upstairs.
“Phillip? Are you awake?” She says at my door.
She comes to the side of the bed. I am looking at her through the dark. She strokes my head. “Honey, that was Maggie. Henry has had another stroke. They are at the hospital. Maggie is all alone there. I want to go and be with her. You can come too, if you wish, or you can stay here, and I will call Molly and have her sleep here.”
I sit up. Henry? No! I begin to rock and cry and I want to be there to see him. Henry with the big hands, hearty laugh, and heart as big as the ocean. Henry who brought blue into my life every time I saw him. Henry. What was going to happen?
I take the lady’s hand. Hers are soft and strong, with slender fingers. I want to go. I hug her. She strokes my head. “You can come if you want to, I know how close you are to Maggie and Henry. Just so you know, we don’t know what might happen yet. They’ve just arrived at the hospital.”
While she gets dressed, I get up and pull on my red sweats, purple socks and green t-shirt and my hoodie with the picture of Spiderman and zip it up. Then get out my blue shoes. The lady helps me tie them. I grab MC Bear and hold her up for the lady to see.
“You want MC Bear to come?” she asks. I nod. “She can come in the car, but it is best for her to wait for us while we are in the hospital,” she says. I nod again. “Okay then,” she says.
Downstairs ready to leave, Skye is really confused. He looks like he would have preferred to stay home and have Molly stay with him! But he also loves adventures. So, since we look determined to leave at this hour, he shakes himself awake, drinks some water from his bowl in the kitchen, pees in the yard and then gets into the car next to me. He and I sit in the back seat.
The sky is clear with a billion stars all lighting up the night. We drive through the chilly air to the Providence Milwaukie Medical Center, park, and enter through the sliding double doors above which the big red E word was. Words can have so many letters. The lady said we were meeting Maggie in the Emergency Room, so, I guess that is the big red word with the E. But phew! It is long!
My heart is pounding as we enter. I take the lady’s hand. She squeezes mine. We walk to a desk behind which sits this woman with a bunch of really grey, curly, wild-looking hair. Her eyes look bigger through her thick glasses. She has lots of blue eye shadow above her eyes. It looks like it must have spilled there. And her cheeks have bright red circles on them. Did she use a stencil? Her bright red lipstick is the color of the E-word out front and matches the color of the red stripes on the flag that stands in the corner of the room. But as she speaks, her voice is in a major key not a minor one and is filled with care. It seems like she is happy to see us.
“How can I help you?” she smiles to us. “That’s a cute dog there. I like that outfit, mister. Man, you know how to choose your clothes!” The lady tells her we are here to be with Henry O’Neil. “Oh, Maggie and Henry. Head right through those doors to my left, follow the hallway until you reach room 11. Here are your visitor nametags. If anyone asks, tell them I sent you back. The name’s Val.”
The lady thanks her.
Once through the doors I stop walking for a second. It reminds me of the white building where they took me to be tested when I was something over one years old. Everything was white. Everyone wore white.
The lady stops with me, “Are you doing okay, my little man?”
I nod and take a deep breath.
“Okay, let’s keep going.” She tugs me a bit, and we walk past all these people in blue and white coats, holding clipboards, having low, quiet, intense conversations, and room after room with patients. Glancing into one room, I see a man propped up with pillows with a leg in a long cast, foot suspended attached to wires. In another, there is what looks like a young kid in the bed staring at the ceiling. It feels like fear is here and sadness, too. The hallway doesn’t feel white, like filled with light, but feels instead like it is filled with dark colors, and not pretty ones. It doesn’t feel black, like it is out to get me, but heavy.
The lady knocks at the door, above which there is an 11 and slides it open. Inside the dim room sits Maggie on a chair, holding Henry’s big hand. She looks up as we enter. “Ah, thank you for coming,” she says.
The lady moves toward Maggie and hugs her. I move toward Henry. I take his other hand. I want to be near him. I want to hold him like he’s held me. I want Jesus to touch him. His hand is warm to touch, but he is not squeezing mine back.
For some reason, I am not afraid now. I feel confident. Like Jesus is standing there with me and the lady and Maggie and Henry. I am certain of it. Jesus is in the room. I pressure Henry’s left hand. I remember the nurse, Becky, who prayed for me to heal after the auto accident. So, standing there by the bed, I just see Henry healed, whole, walking and laughing. I picture him as I want him to be again and think, Jesus, you can do this. Heal my friend. And then I just stay there continuing to imagine how Jesus also is holding Henry’s hand and loving him.
Maggie is saying, “We just were getting ready for bed and suddenly he grabbed the side of his head and went down. He didn’t say a thing, he just fell. I screamed, made my way to where he lay and feared he had left. But he opened an eye. ‘Maggie,’ he said slowly, ‘I am having a ssstroke.’ And then he fell asleep on the floor. I’m not ready to say goodbye, Dorothy!”
She pauses and cries a bit. The lady holds her. Then, she continues.
“I called 9-1-1 and the ambulance arrived quickly, and they brought us here. The MRI they did show an extensive stroke in his right brain. His left side is paralyzed. This is Henry’s second stroke. His first was 10 years back. That’s why he drags that leg and struggles with speech.
“I didn’t know who to call. Our kids live across the country and you and Phillip and Skye, you are our family.”
“That’s true and I am glad you called.” The lady says. “Phillip, do you want to come and give Maggie a hug?”
I can’t leave Henry’s side. Besides. Something just happened. Henry had squeezed my hand. I signal instead for her to come to me. I squeeze Henry’s hand again and he squeezes mine back just slightly, but I can feel it. The lady comes to my side of the bed.
“What is it?”
I point at his hand and bring her hand to his. I squeeze her hand and release it. She gets it. She squeezes Henry’s hand. And she too feels his very slight but firm pressure. He squeezes hers back. The lady looks up at Maggie.
“Didn’t you say the stroke impacted the left side of his body, the right side of his brain?”
Maggie nods, wide-eyed.
“Henry is responding to touch on his left side, Maggie.”
“But he wasn’t earlier,” Maggie defends.
“Come and feel this,” the lady tells her.
Maggie comes to our side of the bed and takes Henry’s hand. She squeezes it as she says, “You in there, sweetheart? Can you feel this?”
“Glory to God,” she says. “You are right! Phillip, did you pray?”
I nod. Jesus is still there. I feel Him being joyful and laughing!
“Could you go get a nurse, Dorothy? Something is happening here.”
The nurse enters and we back away from the bed while she checks on Henry. “Yes,” she confirms, “Feeling is returning to his left side and he squeezed my hand too. This is impossible. I saw the MRI. His damage is extensive. I’ll call the doctor.”
Maggie and the lady and I join hands with Henry’s hands and the lady prays, “Jesus, we trust you. Come and heal Henry’s body and restore him to us. We are not ready for him to leave. Touch him. Regenerate the brain cells damaged by the stroke. Cause damage to recede. And continue to heal his body. We see you are already at work. We give thanks. We love you.”
They say “Amen” together and look up. Maggie shakes her head and looks at me, “Well, Phillip, you are like the wise men, bearing gifts as you go. Thank you for bringing Jesus into this room in a big way.” She hugs me.
The next MRI shows the stroke damage has already receded in the brain. The doctor says he has never seen anything like this. He compares the two MRIs saying, “If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that these were from two different stroke victims. The one on the left shows extensive, and irreparable damage, while the one, taken just 90 minutes later shows minimal damage. This has never happened in all my years of experience. This is a miracle, that’s the only word for it. I was going to come tell you that I didn’t think he would make it through the night. Someone’s watching out for you.”
“It’s Jesus,” Maggie says firmly. “Jesus. The Son of the living God. He’s watching out for Henry and for us and for you, Dr. Tyler. This boy here, Phillip, prayed for Henry and that’s when the healing began.”
“I don’t know much about faith,” the doctor responds. “but seeing this, I believe that it is the work of a Physician greater than I’ll ever be. Jesus, you say? Tell me about what you believe. I have a few minutes.”
So, Maggie says, “I’m 82. I grew up in a rough and bleak home life with parents without an understanding of faith or hope. My dad told me he had been drinking since he was 12. Each weekend he and my mom would start drinking in the morning on Saturday and drink through the weekend. When I was five or six, I decided I wanted to go to church and they were ok if I went alone. I walked there, met adults who loved me and adopted me into their faith families. One couple took me to lunch every Sunday realizing I didn’t get food at home. The first Sunday when I walked in, I knew, there was hope and light in that place unlike I had ever experienced. I met Jesus, Dr. Tyler and my life began to change.
“Within a few years, my parents had met Him too. That’s how my walk began. Faith to me is a confidence in who God is and what God’s character is, no matter my circumstances. But I came to this over the years.”
Dr. Tyler takes off his glasses as he is listening. He looks fully immersed in Maggie’s story, like I get immersed in water when I jump into the big pool.
“When I was 16, I was taking the train from Manchester to Liverpool, England, and a man sat beside me. He was in his 40s. We started talking and he told me about how Jesus had changed his life. He had been a man stuck in alcohol and drugs. He had ruined the decade of his 20s and found nothing except disappointments. He said, ‘Then I surrendered. I told Jesus I give up. I could not live like this any longer. I needed hope.’ He had asked Jesus to come into his life and take over. And that’s what happened. He was one of those rare stories. The drugs and alcohol slipped away from him like leaves blown by a strong wind. He said, ‘Miss, my life changed. Jesus changed it. Do you know Jesus in your life?’
“I did, but it had been a hard year for me. I told him how life felt tough and he told me the gospel again. He said, ‘Here’s what Jesus did. He came from heaven to earth. He lived the perfect life and took all our imperfections, and brokenness, and sins, and pain, and pride, and wrapped them all up and took them to the grave with him when he died. And then, he defeated death, leaving all he’d taken off us in the tomb, and rose from the dead. He then ascended into heaven and opened the door for anyone to enter who would like to.
“‘There was this man named Nicodemus, a ruler of the people, who lived when Jesus did. This man came to Jesus at night and had a conversation. Jesus in that conversation said people who are born of the spirit are eternal like the wind you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. To Nicodemus, Jesus said, For God so loved the world, He sent his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall never die but have eternal life. Jesus makes life available and hope in life.’ There on the train he asked me, ‘Do you want this life?’ And I did, again. Truly, I knew Jesus, but needed to bow down again. Hearing what he said, seeing his life, I wanted hope in my own. So, I prayed with the man asking Jesus to come in and take over my life again. I can tell you, following Jesus is the greatest adventure I’ve ever had, and it continues to be one. Do you want to say yes to His invitation today?”
The doctor had not expected this. He looks stunned. Confidence gone. He looks more like a boy than a man to me suddenly. Looking only at Maggie, his answer comes stammering out. Jesus is still in the room. Again, I feel Him. And the doctor does too. “Ma’am, yes, actually. I want that kind of hope.” And Maggie leads this doctor in a simple prayer during which he begins to sob uncontrollably. Maggie holds his hands. Blue water is flowing through the white room. And joy fills my own heart. I reach out and squeeze the lady’s hand. She squeezes mine back. I look up and see tears on her cheeks.
The hospital wants to keep Henry overnight for observation, but he is continuing to improve. They expect he will come home the next day. A miracle, they all say. There has been a miracle. But the biggest one, I think, was watching the doctor choose Jesus. After he finishes sobbing and taking big breaths, he hugs Maggie and thanks her.
He dries his tears, apologizes for crying and looks at Maggie. Then he says, “I have never felt love like this. Ever. I’m married. I have three little kids. I know some kinds of love. But this. My wife has been trying to get me to church for years. We will be going tomorrow. We need to walk with Jesus together.”
Maggie prays for him once more saying, “Holy Spirit, seal this work, let the enemy not steal it. Cement it in. Take Dr. Tyler and use him for your glory. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.” It is life in that room, a bunch of life.
We drive Maggie to her house and get her inside by about two in the morning, the lady tells her, “I’ll come pick you up at 10, Maggie, to take you back to the hospital. Okay?”
“Thank you, dear. We all need some sleep!” Maggie looks at me and says, “And you. Thank you, Phillip, for bringing Jesus into the room tonight in such a powerful way. I was so afraid. I had prayed, but not really asked for healing. Who knew you would be an instrument of such healing in our lives! I’ll never forget this.”
At home, back in my bed, I am so excited I can’t sleep. Jesus. Wow. Jesus. That is what I kept thinking. Skye is snoring beside me. Blue light fills my room as joy bubbles fill my heart and Jesus is still laughing.
Later that morning, the lady and I have pancakes for breakfast. While we are eating, the man with the car comes and knocks at the door. She answers it.
“Michael! How are you? It has been a while. I received your letter last week. Thank you for writing. Are you hungry? Do you want to have some pancakes?”
I feel fear knocking at the door of my heart, so I send Jesus to answer it. I am not going there!
The man comes in, and the first thing he kneels on the floor by my chair. I am so surprised I don’t know what to think. I stop midbite, put down my fork and look at him. He looks up and says, “Phillip. Dear Phillip. I’m an idiot. I don’t know what to tell you except, I have blown it so many times with you. I have harmed you. I am so sorry for all the pain I have caused you. I hope you can forgive me. I ask you to forgive me. And here’s the thing. I will not just try to be different, but as I am learning to say in my program, I will train to be different, Phillip. I will learn like you are learning at school, to choose a different and new way to live life.”
He says my name differently than he used to. He is not spitting it.
“I don’t imagine you can trust my words. I know I need to regain your trust through actions. Since I have been working the program at St. Albans’ Recovery Center, I’ve learned something about myself that I have not really been able to face. I carried hurt in me. I needed to be liked, so I performed. I was jealous of you, and I expressed the hate I felt toward myself at you. I’ve hurt you. I have been wrong, Phillip.”
I believe him. This is not the same guy who yelled at me on the way to church on my fifth birthday or the man who broke Maggie and Henry’s keyboard and gave me the concussion last Christmas. He is not tight, angry and black. First, his hair is not slicked but looser, and some falls on his forehead. He is resting a hand on the table with the other on my shoulder. His touch is gentle. His eyes are softer, clear, unlike I’ve seen them. This St. Albans’ place must know Jesus because this guy looks covered in blue! That is a first! I do not know what to do, so I place my hand on his hand that sits on the table and pat it and nod.
I look at him and tears wet his cheeks. “Thank you. It’s a start, Phillip. I need to work to earn your trust and I need to demonstrate I have changed to both you and your mom. It will take some work.” He stands. The lady and he shake hands, and he kisses the back of hers.
“Have a seat here, Michael. I’ll get some pancakes for you.” It was the first time we had sat together at a meal in memory. The lady tells him what happened to Maggie and Henry last night.
“You did that?” he turns to me and I nod. “Phillip, I really don’t know what to say. I had dismissed all supernatural events as implausible. But such thinking is impossible around you. You are a walking supernatural event. I think that in fighting and mistreating you, Phillip, I was fighting God. I was hoping to push away the possibility that God actually could move and change life supernaturally. I think that idea scared me, it made me feel out of control, and perhaps, that is why I was so big on control. Man, I was a mess, Phillip. I am certain that I am still a mess, but perhaps less of one. I’m sorry.”
His face wet with tears he looks up at both of us and continues, “You two have been quite the team here: Phillip’s in school now, and you’re working for three companies doing the books. I’m impressed Dorothy.”
“Thank you, Michael. We all needed a shake-up. Jesus is good at stirring the waters to change lives. Speaking of changed lives, what are you doing this morning? Do you have time to go back to the hospital with us and Maggie? I think Phillip and I would be okay with that if you are open to it.”
“I can,” he says, and I don’t know what I feel about that. I like life just with the lady. She has become more predictable. And she is growing on me. But this guy. He’s been dangerous. Sure, he seems different this morning. So perhaps I can begin to give him a chance. But I am uncertain.
Then, he looks at me and asks, “Would you be okay if I came, Phillip?”
Again, he says my name with no spit or bite. I take a bite of pancake with bacon slathered with syrup and think about it. Did he really just ask me a question as if I could understand and respond? I am still bewildered. This is a miracle. The picture comes to mind of the tests at school, and Mrs. Olson saying a test was a means of seeing what we still need to learn. So, I guess him coming can be a test. Tests are good. Maybe it can be a test for him and me, so I nod to him.
“Thanks, Phillip,” he reaches over and pats my shoulder, “I know it is hard to trust people who have hurt you.”
Who is this guy? He does not seem anything like the man with the car, anymore.
The lady says, “Michael, having you come this morning seems like an answer to prayer. We’ve been praying for you nightly. And I have prayed for us to be able to be a family again. But I’m not ready for you to come live here, yet.”
He pauses and for a moment I think he is going to go back to the old black anger. He pushes his chair back a bit. His brow furrows, but not with anger. I push away the picture of a volcano and the nervousness. For, it is not anger, but sadness which mark his face.
He looks at her and says, “Listen, Dorothy, no pressure on this. The counselor I have been working with daily, Dr. Pearson, has been on me to understand how I have totally broken your trust. I have accepted responsibility for my actions and sins against you and Phillip.”
“Thanks. Yes, there is too much pain still for both of us. But this is a beginning. Let’s do up the dishes. I told Maggie we would be there by 10 to take her back to see Henry.”
The man stands and helps the lady with the dishes. He is drying them and putting them away while she washes. Okay, this is just strange. He never, ever helped with dishes before. They are laughing together. I stroke Skye’s hair. It is a different world, and I am thinking I might like it.
On the way back to the hospital, Skye and I sit with the man in the back seat with Maggie and the lady in the front. Skye was uncertain at first about this guy next to him too, but the man strokes him behind his ears, and he likes that. Since Skye is okay, I am. We park, and get out and walk in. We take the elevator to the 2nd floor with several other people, all of whom like Skye. We walk down the hallway to room 254. The room is on the right-hand side of the hallway. The windows in his room look toward lots of trees. When we walk in, Henry looks up and says, “Michael! Glory to God! I have not seen you in ages! You are looking good. I’ve just finished the finest breakfast I could ask for, except for your good home cooking, Maggie.”
“Good to see you too, Henry,” the man says. “Jesus has been working on me. I hear he has done some work on you too!”
“He has. Do you notice I don’t talk the same?”
The man responds, “Henry! You are right! You just spoke without a pause or a stutter!”
Maggie’s hands cover her lips. Tears wet her cheeks. She hugs the lady.
“Jesus didn’t only heal this stroke but wiped clean the other one too. My foot doesn’t drag anymore!”
“What? Seriously?” the man and lady say together.
“I took a walk this morning with the nurse and my right foot doesn’t drag. Jesus healed that too. They did a third MRI this morning early, and it showed no brain damage whatsoever.”
We all look at one another and then the man with the car starts to laugh. He laughs and we laugh. He laughs and laughs until he starts crying. Then, he keeps crying. We stop laughing and the lady puts her arms around him as he buckles over. His sobs come from some deep place. Something good is happening. Maggie is smiling. And there is blue throughout the room.
When he finishes crying, the lady releases him. He blows his nose, wipes his eyes and looks at us again, “Man. Intense. I needed that. Jesus is real. I had pushed him so far from my life even while preaching about him all these years. I had not opened the door. I had rejected anything that spoke of his power. Like when you played music, Phillip. I’d feel angry at you, but the real source was me; I was rejecting God. But here I am again, face to face with the healing power of Jesus in your life Henry, and having started a cleanup of myself, suddenly I see how ridiculously I’ve lived. I feel like those were tears of regret for the injuries I’ve caused, tears of sadness at all the pain I have caused others and Jesus and myself, and tears for all the lost time. But they are tears of hope too.”
Maggie walks over to him and hugs him. “As I live and breathe, Michael. I’ve prayed for this very thing since the first night you walked into our house all hooded with anger and hurt.”
“Michael, you too can walk without a limp, just like me!” applauds Henry.
We stay with Henry for the rest of the morning. Dr. Tyler comes in at noon. He sure looks different — lighter, brighter somehow. He says Henry is being discharged. He gets introduced to the man with the car. He then tells the man his own story of meeting Jesus the previous night. “And when she led me in the prayer, I began to sob like a little boy. It was like when Jesus moved in, he took me through all my life and in each scene washed it clean. I have never experienced anything like that. It’s like I was made totally new. I sleep at the hospital this weekend through tomorrow morning but could hardly sleep after that. I was filled with such joy, I just kept talking to Jesus.”
“Your miracle Henry keeps overflowing in other miracles,” says the lady.
“Jesus is the great economizer,” Maggie says. “He doesn’t waste anything but uses it again and again in many lives. So, Dr. Tyler, will you be off work to make church tomorrow?
“Yes. I get off in the morning at 7 am. It is a weird shift. I’m on call at the hospital and sleep here through Sunday morning, except if the pager on my phone rings.”
“Do you already have a church you are connected to?” Maggie continues.
“Yes. My wife has been going to St. Bartholomew’s Church.”
“She has?” asks Maggie, “That’s the same place we attend. We have been members for years, well, decades. We will be going tomorrow morning, too, now that Henry has been raised from the dead. We are meeting a girl named Laura at her place a couple blocks away from the church and walking. What’s your wife’s name?”
“Melinda Tyler and she will be there with our three boys ages six, four, and two.”
“Melinda! I know her. We have spoken several times, but I had not asked about you. You have adorable boys, Dr. Tyler.”
He smiles at this. “Yes, we do. I just don’t get as much time with them as they deserve or as Melinda would appreciate. But perhaps Jesus can help me reorganize my schedule. Well, it will help that I know Jesus now! Melinda didn’t know how to respond when I texted her what happened last night.” He reads from his phone. “She wrote, ‘I’m unable to speak or type with the awe I feel!’”
“We will see you there,” Maggie says. “Where are you attending?” She asks the man with the car.
“I have not been able to go for weeks since I have been working on weekends. This is my first weekend off,” he says.
“How about you join us tomorrow?” Maggie says.
“Okay, I will,” says the man.
Who is this man? This man does not seem anything like the one who used to live with us. It was just wild to me how different he seemed. Softer. Gentler. Kinder. More present. I like this.
“It starts at 10 am.” Maggie adds. “How about we all gather at our place afterward for a meal together. Dr. Tyler you need to come, too. Here’s our address.” She hands him a piece of paper. “But we will see you at church too. I’ll invite Laura, our friend from Winco, to lunch as well. Dorothy you, Phillip and Skye can come over after you attend your worship time as well.”
I am glad we get to go to our church. I do not want to miss Miss Jeanne’s class. I love her class. We have been reading the miracles stories from the end of Mark 4 through Mark 5 that build and build from Jesus calming the sea to raising the dead. I love how Miss Jeanne helps us see how real and present Jesus’ life is. But then, I have seen how real and present Jesus is in life and his miracle stories are right here in this room with me. Perhaps Jesus’ miracles are just beginning.