Ms. Carroll is a retired paralegal who now works as a certified aromatherapist. She enjoys freelance writing in her spare time.
The road was dark. The drive was long enough to be forgotten, but short enough to be driven without a legend. The lights against the highway pavement were mysteriously serene and my lack of foreboding was negligent. I remained glib and unaware of the peril that stood waiting and consequently pecked out a text message to my brother. I knew he would not see it for hours, probably even until daybreak. His hands were far too large for a cellphone and hospital trauma units are oblivious to the constant pings of civilization — even from those who care.
When I arrived, the family was present and stood huddled in the hallway with the doctor. Their body language clearly revealed dire news. I caught only the tail-end of the edict. The surgery had been prematurely halted due to bleeding. The outcome was now in God’s hands. A trauma unit that boasted itself as among the best in the nation, a doctor that boasted himself as among the best in the business, and a brother who was loved immensely now rested in the hands of the supernatural. I said my polite hellos and kissed my brother’s swollen head before going to the hospital chapel. I promptly knelt at an unused alter with artificial flowers stiffly tucked in tarnished brass and I prayed — more like begged. Emotions overcame me and my words turned to tears. My thoughts turned to bartering.
“Please, God, just let him live. I will give up any vice you want me to. I know I cannot make you do anything but I will do anything. What can I do? Please save him.”
A young woman gently knelt beside me and put her hand over the top of mine. I never saw her enter the room, but how could I with all those tears.
“My name is Mary. I am only a custodian here but I pray. May I help you pray? Who are you praying for?”
“Yes, PLEASE,” I blurted out, tears still streaming down full force.
“My brother, John. He was in a bad car accident. They said it’s up to God if he will live or not, much less walk again.”
Mary took both of my hands in hers and began to pray aloud. Her words soaked into my skin like the essence of lavender and sweet marjoram. Her prayer covered me like a silk blanket and she gave me the sense that all that could be done had now been done and that even if God hadn’t listened to me, he had listened to Mary. Then Mary disappeared from my gloom and left me to pray alone again.
The morning sun peered toward the thick, striped panels of the intensive care unit. It struck me as refreshing that a trauma unit would reveal the outside world to patients clinging to their lives. Between myself and the intensive care unit was a courtyard made of bricks meticulously placed in a herringbone pattern and lined with white crepe myrtles. Three floors up I stood in a hospital room directly opposite the window to my brother’s soul — a room that would be his when the doctor’s downgraded his care. And indeed the doctor’s did just that! Praise God and praise Mary! I stood beside my brother as Doctor ‘Hatchett’ bleated that John would never walk again, but at least he could live out his remaining life in a wheelchair.
John lie there motionless and speechless with tubes emanating from every orifice of his body. Not a single word was uttered by anyone present although a million thoughts filled the hospital room with the noxious vapor of defeat. Who dared to say now that John should be thankful? Who dared to offer the first word of solace? Who could even thank the doctors who saved his life and told us that John was now out of the woods? I could. But I was afraid to say anything, so I too, was silent. I slunk into the background and fished around for his cellphone to delete the message I had sent him.
“Hang in there, bro. I’m on my way. We will get you through this and you’ll be back on your feet in no time.”
Hours passed. Days turned to weeks. Weeks turned to months. Pain turned to resentment. Resentment turned to frustration. Frustration turned to a tenuous acceptance of reality. One dark road had led my brother to a wheelchair. Another dark road had led me to care for him on many different levels and while I could see light at the end of his predicament’s tunnel, he never saw the same light.
Three months later I called the trauma hospital’s human resources office and asked to speak to the custodian named Mary. I wanted to thank her for her prayers and to let her know that John had at least survived.
“There is no one named Mary that works in Custodial Services,” the lady said.
“Well, maybe check another department,” I asked. “Maybe, I just misunderstood.”
“Ma’am,” she declared, “we don’t even have a Mary working for the hospital right now, nor have we for several years.”
“That’s impossible,” I pleaded. “I know she said her name was Mary.”
I provided the date, my brother’s name, why he was admitted and the outcome. It was impossible that I could be wrong. I was so insistent the human resources manager agreed to check the records more thoroughly and call me back. Four days later I received a call.
“This is Susan with the trauma hospital. I could not locate Mary despite my best efforts. I even asked the trauma unit staff. No one knew of an employee named Mary but I thought you might find this interesting. Another patient was admitted the same night that your brother was. Her name was Mary but it would have been impossible for you to talk to her. She was on life support and passed away the evening your brother was brought in.”
“What time did she pass?,” I inquired.
“Around 11:00 p.m.,” the manager added.
“Thank you,” I mused, repressing a gasp. “That’s when I was in the chapel.”
Bartering Versus Believing
As I hung up the phone I recalled a quote that I had heard years before — miracles happen to those who believe. I immediately wished I had BELIEVED instead of BARTERED. Who knows, John might’ve not just lived, but walked again as well.
Years have passed and my brother too has passed. The memory of his life and peril are forever imprinted on my heart and mind. He was so bitter following the loss of his legs that I am grateful he never heard my trite message. I am also thankful for the prayers (and life) of Mary because I feel certain she gave my brother a second chance — a chance which gave his grandchildren the opportunity to know and adore him many years later.
As for me — I learned that you can only manifest what you actually BELIEVE is possible. Thank you, Mary, for teaching me not to barter with God. I wished you were here to pray with me on every dark road.