Although we are not normally big movie watchers at our house, Christmas holidays are a bit of a change-up for us, a time when we do end up more often than usual flaked out in front of the TV watching whatever we find on. Have you noticed that during the holidays, there are certain movies that seem to be always showing on at least one channel at any given time of day? It’s a Wonderful Life, for example, is one of those movies. Or Sound of Music. Personally, I could have lived without ever sitting through the smarmy earnestness of that movie again. Yet there it was, all over the TV for several days in a row, and of course we eventually succumbed.
But tell me – when did The Green Mile become a Christmas classic? Granted, it’s a pretty original script and a good movie, with many touching and even humorous moments (think, for example, of Wild Bill spitting the Mud Pie). On the other hand, it is also a movie about death row executions, rape and murder of children, and squished mice. These things, you might think, should make this the last kind of movie you would want to watch – or program directors would want to show – at Christmastime. And you would be right. Except, of course, for the miracles.
Now, the kinds of miracles that happen in The Green Mile are true miracles in the purest sense of the word – the laying on of hands to cure sickness, resurrecting the dead (in this case, a mouse, but definitely a dead one and definitely resurrected). Personally, I have no experience of miracles of that calibre in my own life, and the question of whether they could really happen is a discussion way too big for a blog hastily written on New Year’s morning. Suffice it to say that in the moments when I allow myself to entertain the possibility, the feeling of wonder and warmth that I get is so nice it inevitably brings me to tears (though admittedly, I cry pretty easily).
But leaving aside these truly miraculous miracles, there are of course smaller, sort-of “miracles” that do happen in everyday life, and that can touch us in rather profound ways, if we are disposed to let them. I have not lived an overly dramatic life in the past year – no natural disasters, no poverty or starvation, no political strife or wars in my neighbourhood. But even I can think of a few of these minor “miracles” for which I am grateful.
- Eight months ago, my mother-in-law had a heart attack. My husband, who got to her home before the emergency vehicles, sat with her and watched her turn more and more blue as her lungs filled up with fluid and her ability to breathe diminished. At the hospital, initial tests indicated she had suffered serious damage to vital internal organs, including her heart and kidneys. We felt discouraged about the quality of life she would have going forward. But a few days later, new tests showed no damage at all, not even to her heart. None. Now she lives in Vancouver, in her own apartment, close to another of her sons and within walking distance of her church and her husband, who is in long-term nursing care. She is 72 years old. She is visiting us for Christmas and cooking up endless treats that we have not enjoyed since we lived near her in Montreal. All we can say is a deeply felt “thank you”.
- In the week just before Christmas, a dear friend of mine had a car accident. Her car bounced off a concrete wall and rolled over twice. My friend suffered a broken thumb and a mild fracture of her sternum, from impact with the airbag. Amazingly, miraculously, she suffered no other injuries. She will likely need a new car. But her body will heal. And she is able to spend the holidays in the best place of all, at home, surrounded by family.
- Friends of ours, a couple for almost twenty years, separated this past summer. Though they are both good, kind, warm-hearted people, being a couple was simply not working out for them anymore. They have a son the same age as our daughter, and for all three of them, the separation was devastating. Having been through divorce twice as a child, I could relate to their pain. But this Christmas, both of our friends are spending time with someone new, in the early stages of potential new relationships. We wish them both the best that life and love has to offer.
- Another friend of ours, who has endured two debilitating bouts of chronic fatigue syndrome, had a relapse this fall, just as his wife was getting ready to give birth to their first child. In the past, CFS has hit him so hard that he has spent, literally, years unable to leave his bed, let alone his house, or tolerate even mild stimulation like telephone conversation or television. So the fear was that this would be a repeat of those past episodes. But it wasn’t. For reasons unknown, recovery this time took a matter of a few weeks, and he is now fully himself again.
- Four days ago, my daughter celebrated her 12th birthday. She is wonderful in every way and has been since the day she was born. It is cliché to say that the birth of a child is a miracle, but it is no less true for being cliché. Watching her face, glowing in the candlelight as we sang happy birthday to her, my baby girl who is so close to being a teenager, I had a moment of strong emotion. Strong enough that, yes, I nearly cried. I guess some kinds of miracles just never lose their shine.
I am not really a maker of resolutions, though I do try to look ahead to the New Year with optimism, energy and a general intention to work hard and be better at things that I know are challenges for me. I hope I will make progress at these things this year. I hope I will have the perseverance to stick with things that might not come easily. And I hope that, in the midst of these efforts, I will have the presence of mind to look up and notice small miracles.