The people who cross our paths in life all contribute to the process of making us who we are. Each interaction with another person changes us in ways both small and large. Sometimes we don’t realize the impact of another until years after an encounter. We often think back and realize how important a single comment or shared experience actually was. The intersection of different people at different times in our journey seems random, but sometimes its purposefulness becomes crystal clear.
I met Glenda back at the dawn of the twenty first century. She was relatively new to the teaching profession but as the Peer Facilitator for the faculty members I realized that she had a natural ability to connect with people that made her an instant hit with the students that she taught. She understood that forming relationships was as important as delivering instruction. The two skills went hand in hand and she was masterful in that regard.
Glenda and I mostly kept our interactions on a professional level. I knew that she had made a career change after working in the private sector for some time, but I never really asked what had prompted her to do so. I sensed that she was a woman of faith because of a cross that she wore around her neck, and I saw that she was kind and compassionate with both students and her teaching colleagues. I liked her and believed that she would become an extraordinary educator with the tiniest bit of polishing of her skills.
My daughter had been unsuccessfully attempting to have children for several years. She endured miscarriages and health problems that only exacerbated her fears that she would always remain childless, but with the help of an exceptional doctor in Chicago she eventually became pregnant with twins. Nonetheless her state of pregnancy was precarious, and the doctor very honestly admitted that given her history she may or may not successfully carry those babies to term.
She was exceedingly careful as the weeks and then the months went by. It appeared that this might be the one time that she would be able to carry her babies to term. She breathed a small sigh of relief as the gestation period inched forward. Then one day she went into labor far too early. Her children’s lungs were not yet well developed enough. If they were born so soon there would surely be complications too grim to even consider. The doctors made one futile attempt after another to stop her labor, but nothing was working. They only managed to forestall what seemed to be the inevitable just long enough to provide a procedure that might protect the babies’ lungs. Nonetheless they were honest that the little ones might have problems with their sight or even their brains. There was little that anyone could do. Birth would probably occur within hours.
My son-in-law had been calling regularly to keep me up to date. I was devastated and worried to a point that I was walking through my work at the school like a zombie. I performed my duties automatically, but was in a terrifying fog. As I was strolling through the hallway during a passing period Glenda noticed my countenance and saw that I was behaving uncharacteristically. She sweetly asked if something was wrong. I took her concern as an invitation to unload all of my sorrows with a quavering voice that revealed how broken I was actually feeling.
Glenda remained calm and told me that she was going to a Bible study at her church that evening. She assured me that she and her group would pray for my daughter and her babies after they had completed their studies. She wanted to know my daughter’s name and what the children would be called. She told me that the prayer session would begin about eight o’clock and assured me that everyone was going to be okay.
I had nothing else on which to cling at that moment so her words gave me a small measure of comfort and I sleep walked through the rest of the day wondering when my son-in-law would call again with news that seemed to grow more dire with each passing hour.
At about seven in the evening I received the call that I had not wanted to hear. My son-in-law announced that the doctors believed that the babies would be born within the next couple of hours and that saving them would be a long and difficult task. I resigned myself to the possibility that even after so much hopefulness my daughter might once again lose her children or have little ones with severe birth defects that would affect them for the rest of their lives.
As I waited for word, I prayed and prayed. Then came the ringing of the phone at around nine o’clock and my heart was beating so fast that I felt as though I was going to collapse. It was my son-in-law with the latest news. My daughter’s labor had stopped at about eight fifteen and there was great hope that it would remain that way. The doctors had no explanation for what had happened, but were relieved that at least for a time a tragedy had been averted.
My daughter spent weeks and then more weeks both in the hospital and confined to bed all in an effort to keep her babies growing enough to be able to enter the world safely. It was a trying time for her and her husband but they grew more optimistic with each passing day. Eventually the twins were born, still premature and quite tiny, but essentially okay. Their lungs were fully formed and operational. They were not blind. Their brains were fine. Both of them had a few problems, but they were things that the doctors could manage.
I moved from the school where I had been working not long after the twins were born. I did not see Glenda again, but I often thought of her with such gratitude because I truly believed that her prayers had been the miracle that pulled those babies through. I never got to tell her how I felt until just last week when she suddenly appeared back in my life after almost seventeen years. She wanted to get together for lunch because she felt that it was more important than ever to connect with the people who impacted her life. Once again she seemed to be like a guardian angel watching over me just when I needed her because I was dealing with great pain and worrying what was causing it. Being with her would calm me once again.
We met at a little restaurant and sat away from everyone in a corner booth. We spoke of the ensuing years since we had seen each other. We felt as comfortable as sisters as we talked for over five hours just to catch up. Best of all I got to thank her for the miracle that I will always believe she helped to create. Those twins are entering their senior year of high school. They are beautiful and brilliant and kind. The world will be all the better for having them and I will always believe that Glenda was the angel they needed to stay healthy and alive all those years ago. We don’t always understand how miracles happen, but sometimes they do.