Three Canadian Miracles and One American One
[The following three first hand accounts of the miraculous were broadcast on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) in the 1990s and early 2000s. Each account comes from a different CBC program that I happened to have recorded on audio tape. Since these stories seemed to me like good examples of modern miracles—if indeed that is what they are—I decided to transcribe them. (You can listen to the original audio by clicking on ‘LISTEN’ in the margin to the left of the text.) The fourth account was something I came across on the internet, and is courtesy of Gerry Loughran in his Letter From London, March 18, 2001. I found the sheerly physical nature of this allegedly miraculous event a pleasant change from the more common accounts of healing, and so included it. Our first story comes from anarchist and intellectual, George Woodcock. A prolific Canadian writer who was raised in England, he is noted for Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements, and The Crystal Spirit, a biography of his friend George Orwell. In the late 1950s Woodcock travelled to Mexico and Peru, but the two countries disturbed him profoundly. The Mexican experience, where he saw abject poverty next to profuse wealth, left him creatively paralyzed. The trip to Peru somewhat rekindled his muse, and he left again for the south of France to write Incas and Other Men. It was while he was in France that his peculiar miracle occurred. The second story is from a young woman kayaker from British Columbia who had set her sights on Olympic glory. At the time she was interviewed by Arthur Black on his long-running (1983-2002) Saturday morning show, Basic Black, she was cycling across Canada to raise money for some charitable cause. This exploit, however, was not the interesting part of the interview. The third story—from a program on angels—is from a Canadian nurse who used to work in the cancer unit of an unnamed pediatric hospital. Her account contained two miracles, one that benefited her cancer patient, and a more remarkable one that benefited herself. We begin with George Woodcock.]
I was in a very strange state of mind then. Really, I had everything going for me, I got this [Guggenheim] fellowship, we had found a nice flat, we loved the countryside there, particularly the country in behind Menton, that hill country. I was writing really well. In fact I still think that the book I wrote there, which was Incas and Other Men, about Peru was the best travel book I ever wrote. But even so, I had the sense of absolute despair, and I couldn’t control it. And then Inga decided—I hadn’t really told Inga the extent of it—but she decided . . . her parents arrived and they decided—I said, “Well I have to stay and finish this book”—they decided to go to Italy for a couple of weeks, which they did. And then I had . . . I . . . this state of depression grew more and more intense, and one night I really felt a sort of premonition of impending death, so strong that I felt that if I didn’t die I’d have to commit suicide . . . I’d be forced to. And so I lay . . . I remember lying there terrified on the bed for hours on end . . . and suddenly there was the awareness of a presence in the room . . . it . . . can I say it wasn’t tangible but it was palpable, if you get the distinction. There was an awareness of a presence, and it was not just a mind, it was a presence. And it seemed to stand there in the corner towering over me, and suddenly I felt my fears vanish. And, in a little while, I fell asleep. I got up next morning, I walked all along the sea front, enjoying the life, enjoying the sea, enjoying the birds, went back and finished my book in two days. It was an extraordinary kind of thing.
INTERVIEWER: Have you reflected on that since? Or has it ever happened since?
That kind of thing? . . . No, it hasn’t happened. And—I suppose because it inoculated me—I’ve never been in that state of despair since then. But . . . I speculated on it . . . but I think speculation soon comes to a dead end because . . . it was a presence, an angelic presence . . . and I believe that they exist. Or it was a projection of my own desperate mind. But my mind was so desperate that I cannot see how it could have projected such a personification of serenity.
BLACK: Darcy is in the studio with me right now. Welcome Darcy.
DARCY: Thank you.
BLACK: It’s really nice to have you here. Tell me the story about how you broke your neck.
DARCY: It all started with an Olympic dream. In 1997 I wanted to further my training, and there was an opportunity for me to travel down to Chile and train with the American squad down there, and work as a cook. And in exchange I would get the coaching. But it turned out that I got sick and I wasn’t able to do the cooking, so I got let go. And so that’s when I went off and headed down south, I just kept going further south to find some water to paddle. And then that’s where I landed in a little town called Timuco, and then that’s where I landed a job as a safety kayaker. And a safety kayaker goes along side of a raft and we go over big waterfalls. When we land at the bottom usually rafters would be ejected and thrown into the air, so it was my job to go pick them up and put them back into safety.
BLACK: So you did this for a while, and then you didn’t do it anymore. What happened?
DARCY: I had the job for about two weeks and I was saving up money because the training camp back up in northern Chile was going to start, but I needed to work for a month and then travel back up there. But then one day I was paddling down the river, like I normally had, I was getting paid to do it, having a lot of fun, and then all of a sudden my life changed in a split second. I went over one of the waterfalls and—Chile was suffering from a drought, and there was a rock at the bottom of one particular waterfall, and every day the rock would be more and more exposed. So I would warn other people, “Be careful of that rock! Cause if you hit it, it could—you could injure yourself.”
BLACK: So you had been over this waterfall when the water was higher and there was no problem?
DARCY: Yah, no problem. It was a piece of cake . . . well, it wasn’t a piece of cake, but it was—
BLACK: You’re not kidding me for a second. (Laughter)
DARCY: But it was—you know—so then, yah, the water level dropped, and the rock that I had warned others of I accidentally landed on top of—
BLACK: So, you went over the waterfall and you hit the rock?
DARCY: Yah, I flipped in the middle of the air and just landed smack dab right on the back of my neck and—snap!—and I heard this loud crack. It was like a baseball bat and just a crack like—deafening crack—and then I was paralyzed and—
BLACK: Not only paralyzed, but upside down with this water pounding on you, right?
DARCY: Yes, and a dislocated shoulder too! And that . . . hurt!
BLACK: You said—I read some story that said you saw your arm float out in front of you it was so dislocated.
DARCY: Yah, it was really quite disgusting—it felt like I was no longer inside my own body—it felt like I was outside looking at somebody else’s body because I couldn’t imagine my body looking like that. And it was just a horrifying feeling.
BLACK: You were conscious through the whole thing, it sounds like?
DARCY: Yah, I was conscious, but I . . . I went through different stages of consciousness—like it was—it’s extremely hard to explain, but when I was underneath the water there was so much pain and my body went into spinal shock, and then I started blacking out, and then the world just got blacker and blacker and more silent, and it was almost like a hole closing in on me, and just—um—just blackness. I was dying, I was running out of air.
BLACK: But you were still sensible enough not to breath water, right?
DARCY: Yah, and I don’t know how it happened, because I was complete—at one time it was completely dark, I couldn’t see anything but—um—that’s when I was given a decision: “Do I want to live, or is it time to go?” And I chose “No—it’s not time for me to go.” And that’s when I started the fight for my life.
BLACK: That’s great! But you’ve got a dislocated arm and a broken neck. How much fight have you got in you? You’re upside down in a kayak.
DARCY: Not only that, I was headed for another Class 6 waterfall, which means if you run it you have a fifty-fifty chance of living. It’s . . . either you do or you don’t. So . . . I was floating upside down, broken neck, dislocated shoulder towards another waterfall. No one else is on the river because I left them about five or ten minutes behind me—I was by myself, and I had no one to help me.
BLACK: What did you do?
DARCY: I just kinda—um—it’s an internal strength within everyone, everyone has internal strength, and that’s where you make a decision, and you stick to it and you fight until—you fight until you’re alive, basically—and that’s when I had help—like—um—I did not do this on my own, God was there, He was helping me—um—He helped me roll up because—I rolled my kayak up, and um, I can’t roll that kayak up in a pool let alone a rushing river.
BLACK: Are we talking about what they call the Eskimo roll, where you’re upside down and you do this classic “S” arabesque stroke, and it get’s you up.
DARCY: I’m impressed. Yep—yah, and I did that.
BLACK: Don’t be impressed. I failed a course because I couldn’t do the Eskimo roll. I tried it 115 times.
DARCY: It’s a . . . hard thing to do.
BLACK: With two arms! Tougher with a dislocated shoulder and a broken neck I think.
DARCY: Yah, so that’s why I believe that I had some help because—like you say—it’s . . . it’s hard to do. But I was assisted, I had help, God was there for me and . . . He protects me. But He didn’t leave me—you know—in a safe position, because once I righted myself up—
BLACK: You’re still going towards another waterfall, right?
DARCY: I’m still going towards another waterfall. So—
BLACK: What happened?
DARCY: Well then, you probably know about ferrying—that’s where you just kind of lean your boat a little bit and the water hits the underside of your boat, and it pushes you to the side. And that’s what I did, I ferried across and—
BLACK: Excuse me, what—what’s your head doing at this point with a broken neck and all—is it flopping like a rag doll?
DARCY: Um—well actually my body went into—um—kind of a seizure, and it held my neck stiff. I didn’t move one muscle because I knew if I let my head drop or move my head in any way—like, as the doctor said, I was a hair away from being paralyzed. And if I moved I knew I was going to be dead—like it was a given. And then by chance there just happened to be a photographer on the side of the river bank, and when I got close enough—I wasn’t too far off from going off the falls—
BLACK: And he could see you were in distress! I guess.
DARCY: Well when he—cause he watched the whole thing, and when I landed on the rock he said it was the most disgusting sight that he’s seen, because he knew that some portion of my body from my waist up had hit, and had stuck on the rock, and then slowly slid off the side. So he said it was just disgusting, and then he admitted too, with tears, that I was assisted that day, I got help rolling up because . . . it was a miracle, it was an absolute miracle.
BLACK: So he was a photographer, and he couldn’t believe what he saw?
DARCY: He couldn’t believe what he saw.
BLACK: So did he help to haul you ashore, is that what—
DARCY: He grabbed the bow just as I was about to go over the next waterfall. So he . . . he kinda saved my life.
BLACK: He kinda did, yah. How do you get to medical help?
DARCY: That was even worse than breaking my neck! That was just—um—awful. Cause I hardly fit in the ambulance and they were—and they dropped me, taking me out of the woods. They dropped me, and that . . . that . . . that’s just not good! And the whole thing . . . it was . . . kind of an awful experience. And people were stealing my kayak gear and—
BLACK: Who was stealing your kayak gear?!
DARCY: The people on the side of the bank!! They were stealing my sandals—and my clothing that I had stuffed in the back of my kayak. They were stealing my gear—like—and then I heard—um—“Leave her alone, she’s not dead yet!” And I yelled, “I’m not going to die!” And then I left everything there—I didn’t get my gear back—but . . . at that time who really cares.
DARCY: So they—um—went to the first clinic and . . . it was confirmed that I had broken my neck and I got shipped off to a very nice hospital. And the doctor’s report was that they couldn’t have done a better job, and the person who did the surgery was a perfectionist—they could tell.
BLACK: Well you’re here—walking right now, so I guess it’s proof enough. So how long did you stay in the hospital in Chile before you came home?
DARCY: It was only three weeks. I got—
BLACK: That’s amazing! With a broken neck?
DARCY: Well that’s because I was so physically strong before, and that’s why the doctor said I made a quick recovery, and plus my will—just doing—not feeling sorry for myself because feeling sorry for yourself doesn’t accomplish you anything. All it does is just drive you further into the pit of self-destruction . . .
My name is Cathy (Brest?). I live in Edmonton, and before I moved here I used to work as a nurse in a cancer unit of a major pediatric hospital. And at that hospital we had many very sick children who would stay in for very long periods of time, and we got to know them and their families very well. On day I was assigned to a new patient whom I’ll call Tracy, who was thirteen years old, and it was clear to me from dealing with her that she was absolutely terrified of what was going on and what was happening to her. So one of the first things that I did was to introduce her to two other teenage girls on the ward whom I’ll call Debby and Lori, and they were a real dynamic duo. They quickly took Tracy under their wings and showed her the ropes, and the three soon became inseparable for all the times they were on the unit.
Now at this time things looked good for the three girls although they all had very serious forms of cancer and had many horrendous treatments. Things looked positive, they were going well, and for the first few months we all had a lot of hope. But then things started to change. One by one the girl’s cancers relapsed and they started getting very sick, and then they started to die. First of all Lori died, and then Debbie died. By now Tracy was failing rapidly herself, and it broke my heart to watch what was happening to her. Now her mother had asked us not to tell her what had happened to Debbie and Lori. So we didn’t.
Now Tracy was unconscious much of the time, but when you could speak to her it was clear that once again she was terrified and feeling very alone, and it was hard to know exactly how to help. One night when I was on night shift, another nurse came to me and said, “You won’t believe what I just saw, Cathy, but I’m sure I saw Debby in Tracy’s room. Would you go and check please?” So I went and stood in front of the open door and looked inside, and sure enough, there, sitting by the head of Tracy’s bed, holding her hand, was Debbie. Except it wasn’t the emaciated, terribly sick Debbie of her final days, it was a glowing, a radiant Debbie. And she was looking at Tracy with such love, such gentleness in her eyes that I was transfixed and I couldn’t really move. Then she lifted her head—Debbie did—and looked at me with a soft smile on her face, and even though nothing was said, I distinctly heard in my head the words, “Don’t worry, everything’s OK. She’ll be fine.” And at that moment everything, it seemed so holy and so intimate that I felt like I was intruding. So I quickly left and I went back to that nurse and said, “Yes, indeed, I had seen Debbie in the room.”
And the thing is that very soon after that, Tracy, against all predictions, began to rally, and she got well enough that she was able to go home, which had been her and her mother’s biggest wish: that Tracy could go home to die. By the time she got home her mother had arranged this fabulous party with friends and relatives from all over the country, and Tracy had a wonderful day. And then she died the next day in her sleep. And I thought what a special gift that was that Debbie had given, not only to Tracy to give her the peace to be able to have a peaceful death the way she had wanted, but for me too. Because I had been agonizing over the loss of these three very special girls, and wasn’t doing a very good job of dealing with that, and when I heard those words I was all of a sudden able to let go of the pain, and be at peace myself. So it was a very special, special time. And that’s the story.
Robert Blair Kaiser is an author and a former correspondent for Time magazine. Reviewing a book about miracles he wrote:
In 1994, behind the wheel of my Mercedes, I lurched out of my driveway and was awakened from my dreamy preoccupation by the sight of a speeding car bearing down on me, not five feet away on my left. I knew I was a dead man.
All of a sudden, that car was on my right. The driver weaved a bit, braked for a moment and then drove off, shaking his head in disbelief, as I was. For it was clear to me, there was no way he could have missed crashing into me, no way he could have steered aside. His car had flashed through my car, his steel and glass and rubber passing through my steel and glass and rubber like a ray of light through a pane of alabaster.
Kaiser ends his anecdote with a reflection: ‘This miracle moment was a turning point in my life, for I took it as a sign that God wasn't finished with me yet and that I had some new business to attend to.’ Mr. Kaiser may well be right. But has he reflected that maybe it was the other guy God wanted to keep alive?
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