So, all was peaceful and quiet on this particular Sunday in October. Jenelle was snuggled up next to Vaughn on his bed and together they were watching a football game on TV. I sat next to them, catching up on some emails on my computer. We were not expecting any visitors, but out of the blue someone appeared at the doorway and started tapping lightly on the door frame. I turned around and saw a familiar face---one I hadn't seen in many years... It was my Dad’s cousin, Jack. I guess that would make him my second cousin or cousin once removed? I’m not too sure about the proper family tree lingo, but needless to say, he is my relative and a person who is very close to my parents. I was quite surprised to see him, not only because I wasn't expecting him, but because I usually only see Jack every other year when the family-on my father's side-holds their biennial family reunion.
The impression I have of Jack, and one that is validated by the many tales my parents relay about him, is that he is both very positive, and very spiritual. He writes a weekly column called “The Challenge," is a minister, and is very involved with the church and its teachings. He has a very soft and inviting nature, and whether you are religious or not, you would feel very warm and welcome by his presence.
So there he stood at the end of Vaughn’s bed. I said to Vaughn and Jenelle, “You remember Jack, my Dad’s cousin?” Jenelle politely smiled, but I figured she probably didn't remember him because she didn't see him all that much. Vaughn had a look on his face as if he was searching somewhere in his brain for a memory of Jack, and I could tell by his facial expressions that he remembered, but I wasn't sure to what degree. Yet, their familiarity with Jack really didn't seem to matter, because Jack interacted with us in such a way that was both comforting and peaceful. He relayed to us that he was just at Home Depot and when he went to pull out his wallet to pay for his items, he found a piece of paper that said: Vaughn, Valley Medical Center. It was a reminder note.
My parents had told Jack of Vaughn's plight, and Jack wanted to visit Vaughn, and pray for him. My Mom told me that he was going to visit at some point, I just didn't know when. I also wasn't sure how receptive Vaughn would be about such a visit. Although I grew up Catholic and in a family where Sunday mass was a given, Vaughn on the other hand had no formal religion in his life. He had always talked about wanting a signal or a sign from above. Although his heart was open, he in general seemed uncertain.
As Jack spoke, I could see that Vaughn felt comfortable and at ease. My concern about his receptivity, quickly dissipated, and we were left to simply enjoy Jack's visit. After about 15 minutes Jack asked if he could say a prayer. Vaughn agreed. Jack reached out and grabbed Vaughn's motionless hand, and asked that we all unite and join hands in prayer. He spoke with a quiet softness, and in his prayer, he asked for God to heal Vaughn in both mind and body---from his head all the way down to his fingers and toes. He asked for peace and comfort. The prayer was short and sweet, and when he was done, we hugged and said our goodbyes.
When he walked away, I felt lifted. He was able to somehow, with his softness, leave a lasting impression. I was happy he came, but what about Vaughn? How did he feel? Did he feel uncomfortable? As it turns out, and to my relief, Vaughn enjoyed Jack's visit as well and he was grateful that someone took the time to visit with him and share some warm thoughts.
Jack went on his way,and we got back to what we were doing...I went back to typing and Jenelle and Vaughn got back to watching TV. But what came next, I will never forget. It was by far the most tear-provoking thing that has happened since the accident.
Jenelle, as you will recall, was laying next to Vaughn with her head on his chest. One or two minutes after Jack left, she poked her head up and said, "Daddy, did you just move your thumb?" Vaughn looked down at his hand and said, "I don't know." I looked up, pulled up my glasses and watched Vaughn move his thumb back and forth for the first time. He repeated this movement over and over.
My eyes welled up with tears, for in my mind it was a miracle. I wasn't sure if Vaughn would ever get movement back in his arms and hands, and there it happened before my eyes. I couldn't believe what I just witnessed. I embraced him and started to cry. I was so happy because it gave me hope that anything was possible. A new door had opened...a door of hope for Vaughn's recovery instead of a door shut with resignation and defeat.
After I settled down from all the celebration, it dawned on me that Jack has just left a few minutes earlier. I thought back to his prayer and how he asked for Vaughn to be healed "...down to the end of his fingers and toes." Did he have anything to do with Vaughn's movement? My Mom always told me stories about Jack and how he had the reputation for being a healer. Did he do it again? Was he that powerful? Is he for real? It still gives me chills thinking back to that moment.
We will never know why Vaughn's thumb movement happened only a few minutes after Jack left. Was it coincidence? Was it the work of God? Was it the result of one man's powerful prayer? Or was it going to happen anyways at that moment in time with the natural progression of recovery. I just don't know and it's okay that it stays in my memory as a special moment in so many ways. We felt a new-found hope and we will always feel that Jack's visit was a gift to us that we will never forget.
This blog is dedicated this week to Jack, who last week sadly and unexpectedly lost his beautiful wife, Joanne. They were married for 44 years. Both Vaughn and I would like to extend our love and prayer back to Jack and his daughter Jackie, and hope that they will find peace and solace moving forward. God Bless you both and your family.
For more information about Jack and Joann McCall: