I spent forty years in medical education and hospital practice. One day I was imprisoned at lunch with the hospital Chaplain and the conversational lapsed into one of those uncomfortable periods of silence. For some reason, I blurted out, “Have you ever seen a miracle?” With enthusiasm, he announced, “Yes, one time. I did witness a miracle cure, one time.”

He had been visiting every day with a man who was scheduled for surgery for a tumor seen on a CAT scan. The man was reticent about praying with the Chaplain during the early visits, but became more involved as the day of surgery approached. After the chaplain's last visit, the man had a repeat CAT scan on the day before surgery scheduled for the following morning. There was no evidence of any tumor and the surgery was canceled. That evening, the Chaplain got a phone call from the man's wife telling him of the miraculous cure. The next morning, he stopped by the man's room and found him packing to leave the hospital. Surrounded by a warm glow, the Chaplain said, “Well, John, going home I see … and without any surgery.” The man put down his packing, turned to the Chaplain and said, “I am so sorry I bothered you with all this when it turns out I never had cancer after all-so sorry I wasted your time.” Then, he asked the Chaplain to please never mention all this to anyone as he was embarrassed by the whole thing. My cafeteria conversation with the Chaplain ended with him saying that it was a shame it had turned out this way, saying, “It sure would have made some great sermons.” I was glad that he did not ask me if it was possible for a CAT scan to misdiagnose a tumor on a patient and then for a repeat CAT scan to show no evidence of that same finding-I would have had to tell him that this was absolutely possible, since no medical test is 100% accurate.

Years later, I had a personal friend, Bill, who was on his death bed in the ICU of the hospital and he was terrified of dying. There was nothing his wife or his friends-including myself-could do to console him. It was very frustrating to be unable to help him in his time of need. there was an elderly black lady, Rose, who had been nursing him in his home during his last year of illness. The day before he died, Rose appeared in the hospital to visit Bill. She was much advised by everyone for her calm demeanor while she worked in our homes-while we were fussing about losing our car keys or being late for an appointment, Rose went about humming hymns. Her favorite was “The Garden,” which ends with the verse; “I walk in the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses, and the voice I hear speaking in my ear, the son of God discloses. And he talks with me, and he tells me that I am his own. ” Rose asked Bill's wife if she could have a word with him privately. When Bill saw Rose come to his bedside, he said, “What's going to happen to me, Rose?” Bill's wife never could hear what Rose whispered (or perhaps sang) in his ear, but he almost immediately relaxed and smiled for the first time in weeks. Later that day he died peacefully without a trace of anxiety.

I have no idea if the Chaplain's prayers removed the man's tumor from his CAT scan-each person must decide these things for himself. However, I am certain that a miracle occurred during Rose's visit to Bill's hospital room-through the wisdom and kindness of another human being, a man lost all fear of his coming death, and that's a miracle in my opinion. Perhaps the reason miracles are so rare is because we look to heaven to provide them.