When Carver A invited the congregation to stand up for a prayer of healing adding that anyone could “stand-in” for someone not present, Annie rose quickly. She decided to ask for the healing for our unborn baby who had a diaphragmatic hernia and who was not expected to live after birth.
Immediately upon standing, Annie noticed that there was something very different about her lower abdomen: It was heavy and it felt like it was distending. Becoming alarmed, she thought, “It’s my womb. I’m carrying a child. It feels large. How could I not have known I am pregnant!” Annie then realized that Jesus had heard her prayer asking for the healing of our baby. She believed that the “baby” she was “carrying” was our unborn child.
Carver A then began to pray over the people and asked them to imagine Jesus standing in front of them with a kind smile of love, with His wounds shining red and dazzling. “Imagine rays of beautiful red and white light coming from the wounds, and from the white light a dove appears which is the Holy Spirit.” In her imagination, Annie could see the dove getting larger and larger as it came closer and closer and then suddenly she needed her imagination no longer. She felt a mantle enveloping her; the Holy Spirit was absorbed into her with a wonderful vibrating heat.
Then with a feeling of shock, the 'child' within Annie wriggled about and it seemed like it was being manipulated professionally and decisively by invisible hands. A wonderful Dencorub-type heat came in waves, beginning in Annie’s head, neck and back and travelling down to her feet and hands. With a feeling of excitement, Annie believed she had received a great grace from God. She believed that Jesus had healed our unborn baby.
Our world was turned upside-down when an ultrasound revealed that our unborn child had a diaphragmatic hernia. We were told that it was unlikely that our baby would live after birth. What should have been a routine procedure turned the happy event of pregnancy into a nightmare. There was so much pain and despair as I thought of the birth and probable death of our child. I didn’t feel strong enough to cope and did not think that I would be able to hold my dead baby in my arms. The only way out of the situation was to pray that God would heal our baby. Of course, the doctors told me to face reality and not bury my head in the sand: I had to prepare myself and our other children for the death of our son.
I had no doubt that God could heal our baby and refused to accept the doctors’ prognosis. I searched for a doctor who also had faith, who believed that there was a greater Power than the medical profession. And then I prayed. I prayed to all the saints I could think of. I prayed every prayer that I could find, believing that if only I could fill up my prayer bucket, God may listen to me, heal our child and prevent me having to endure the unimaginable pain of giving birth, holding our dying child and then burying him.
Annie phoned me. As she told me the events of her evening with Carver A, I sank to the floor, tears flowing down my cheeks. There was a feeling of relief and thankfulness. I knew Annie’s story to be true: she loves me and would never deceive me with a cruel story.
“We need to have faith”, Annie said. Faith? What is faith? I believed God could heal our baby. Did I believe he had done so? I thought to have faith was to believe without doubt that God had healed our baby the night of the supernatural experience. God would reward this faith with the miracle. I tried to remain positive and not allow doubts to enter my mind. I felt I had to go out on a limb and proclaim my faith in the power of God. I told my doctor of Annie’s experience. I asked him whether it would be immediately obvious if God had healed our baby through a miracle. He looked at me with glazed eyes, barely hearing me and continued his efficient check-up examination. Catholic or not, the doctor still thought our son would die. There was no room for miracles. Some days I wondered if he was not right after all. I’d return from the surgery with despair in my heart. Sitting in the bath, I’d lean against the cool tiles and sob letting the tears drip continuously into the water. Afterwards, I’d feel guilty. Where was my faith? Perhaps God would change His mind about the healing because for a time I doubted.
Our baby was born. We named him Thomas Augustine. He was not given to us to be held close and to be examined lovingly. He was immediately wheeled away to Neonatal Intensive Care. Our son had not been healed.
Thomas lived 28 hours and died in our arms. His suffering was at an end but ours was stretched out before us. For the first week after Thomas’ death, we were very busy with friends who came to visit and busy organising the funeral. But the day after we buried Thomas, I became angry. I was angry with both God and the doctors who had predicted that Thomas would die. I thought that God had tricked us. I’d done my best to trust God and have faith and God had let Thomas die and the faithless doctors had been proved right.
Looking back, I know that I didn’t understand what having faith really means. I discovered that having faith means putting my trust completely in God and accepting whatever He sends for me as being best for me even if it doesn’t appear to be so in my human eyes. I should have prayed for a miracle but have been willing to accept that God might know better and left it all up to Him. Instead I was side-tracked by Annie’s experience. I couldn’t leave it all up to God because the thought of Thomas dying was unbearable. I had to believe he was healed. If I’d had true faith I would have known that God would not let anything happen that I could not cope with. He would be there to give me strength.
Over the following months, I thought a lot about Annie’s supernatural experience, the meaning of faith and miracles. Annie was devastated that Thomas was not healed. She wrote to Carver A hoping that he could tell her what the “healing” had meant. A letter was received and in it, Carver A reassured us that Annie did feel the Holy Spirit. He continued, “Sometimes we interpret what the Holy Spirit is doing as what we want to believe is happening…What you were experiencing was the Holy Spirit saying Thomas is His and that Thomas will be with God in eternal joy.” Even after receiving this letter, we were no closer to understanding Annie’s experience but there is one fact that Annie is absolutely certain about: the ‘baby’ felt overwhelmingly joyful as it was touched by the Holy Spirit. I think of Thomas being that joyful with God and I am comforted.
At the time, this supernatural experience seemed very important. What did it all mean? Where did the experience originate? I couldn’t make sense of it. Now some years later, its meaning is no longer important to me. What is important is that I have a friend who loved me so much she wanted to ‘stand in’ for me and prayed with all her heart for my baby’s healing. Annie, you may think we didn’t get our miracle but we did. With God’s grace and the help of special friends like you, I survived the death of our child. That was a miracle.
From Grief, Love and Hope