“Easter, Old and New,” April 16, 2019

This is an Easter story. I’ve told parts of it before. But sometimes, to tell a new story, you need to repeat an old one.

A few days before Easter, when I was 4, God sent me a miracle that would break my heart, fill it with joy and teach me things I needed to know.

His name was Joe.

My parents divorced when I was 2, and my mother took up with a man she hoped to marry. But when she became pregnant with his child, he left her, and we moved in with her parents.

Born premature, Joe spent almost two months in an incubator. After he was released from the hospital, my mother was told he had cerebral palsy and might never walk.

“Don’t worry,” I told her, “I’ll teach him to walk.”

“Can you teach him to see?” she said. “He’s totally blind.”

“He can’t be blind,” I said. “He smiles at my face.”

“He smiles at your voice,” she said. “He’ll never see your face.”

I began praying for a miracle, asking God to give my brother eyes that could see. I prayed for years. It never happened.

I also tried to teach him to walk, but he was too stubborn to let me. He took his first steps when he was 5. My mother called it a miracle. But it was not the miracle I’d prayed for.

When I was 10, sitting in church on Palm Sunday with Joe by my side, I heard a preacher say the miracle of the resurrection was not a one-time event. Miracles happen every day, he said, if we believe in them, and expect them.

I looked over at Joe. He was grinning. I was sure I believed in miracles. But maybe I hadn’t expected one hard enough?

“Dear God,” I prayed, “I expect this Easter you’ll give my brother eyes that can see. Sorry I didn’t expect it sooner.”

I expected hard that week. Easter morning, I ran to the kitchen. Joe was patting the table trying to find his Easter basket. Still blind. I waved my hand in his face.

“Are you sure you can’t see?” I said. “I prayed for a miracle that God would give you eyes….”

“He did!” Joe said, swatting at my hand. “He gave me yours! Can you find my Easter basket?”

Over the years, I have prayed for all sorts of miracles. Answers have varied widely. Some were what I hoped for. Others weren’t even close, though they often proved to be what I needed. And for a few, well, I’m still waiting.

The miracle of prayer is not that it always grants what is asked for, but that it changes the one who prays. It turns our fears into hope, our doubts into faith, and our worries into peace.

Anne Lamott, one of my favorite writers, puts it far more simply. There are only, she says, three prayers. The first is “Help.” The second is “Thanks.” And the third is “Wow!”

I pray those three prayers often. Especially the first one. I keep asking for help, for myself, for my friends and loved ones, for my country and the world. Lord knows we need it.

Miracles happen everyday, not just at Easter. But this Easter — on a day that celebrates the greatest miracle of all — I’m praying for help, once again, for my brother. Not for his eyes this time. For his legs.

Four months ago, Joe broke his ankle and spent two months in a rehab facility. Since then, even with using a walker, it’s getting harder for him to walk.

“Sister,” he said recently when I phoned, “I’d sure appreciate you praying for my legs. They’re not working like they should.”

He fears most of all losing the independence he has fought to keep throughout his life.

“I’ll pray,” I said, “if you promise to call your doctor.”

Easter is an old story that becomes new each time it’s told, in every heart, young or old, that listens and believes and expects.

Here’s wishing you and yours an Easter filled with family and chocolate and miracles.

Comments

  1. Sue Ochsenknecht says:

    Thank you; your columns make my hear smile or feel misty. Sometimes, as this one did, both. May God bless you and your family.

  2. Bev Kreps says:

    You are a wonderful sister. I’m sure Joe knows that very well. Even if a new miracle is slow to come, your long time together certainly has been one.

  3. Marcy Terry says:

    Can’t resist praying for Joe’s legs!
    God is the best Physician of all ❤️

  4. Patti Peters says:

    Love the stories about your brother…he seems such a strong man but I think his sister has a lot to do with it.

  5. Fred Hernandez says:

    I pray for Joe’s Easter legs along with a good supply Easter eggs.

  6. SYDNEY S LOVE says:

    After reading this I immediately prayed for Joe’s legs. What a wonderful sister you are to pray for your precious brother.
    I loved your Easter story. It made me think of the first Easter Story and what a miracle it was. God is in the miracle business so expect one.
    May you and your family have a wonderful Easter and we will all keep praying for miracles.

  7. Dick Daniel says:

    Love this. Praying for Joe.

  8. Sharon Cole says:

    Praying for Joe and his legs – God is good.

    • Kate Sciacca says:

      Prayers for Joe… love that name, “Joe.” My #3 is a Joe, never met a Joe I didn’t like. It dawned on me many years ago that Our Blessed Lord must love Joes just a bit more than all the rest… St. Joseph cared for and protected Him in His childhood, and Joseph of Arimathea cared for Him at the end of His life, providing for His burial. Joes are special guys…

  9. Sylvia J Lewis says:

    Sharon, I will also pray for Joe and your family too. Have a blessed Easter in Carmel Valley.
    Love your column.

  10. Bettie Steelman says:

    Praying for Joe. Your writing is an inspiration.

  11. Peggy Paulin says:

    I’ll add my prayers for Joe and his legs. And when things don’t go as I expect them to, I will think of your brother and his amazing courage, and remember how blessed I am!

  12. Pamela Dailey says:

    Prayers for your brother Joe and you and all your family. Happy Easter!

  13. Georgann Butterfield says:

    My prayers for your Joe. Have a blessed Easter.

  14. I pray you and your family have a wonderful Easter. Prayers for Joe’s legs to heal.

  15. I always enjoy hearing about your brother, Joe. The stories are always heartwarming, loving and kind. I pray that one day Joe will see.

  16. Mary Harrington says:

    Sharon another story that touched my heart. I lost my brother 9 months ago. I know how difficult watching someone suffer can be. Your precious Joe is in my heart and prayers.

  17. Sally Merrill says:

    I’ll add my prayers to yours for Joe’s legs. Wishing you a wonderful Easter with your family and always praying for miracles.

    • Charlene Leatherman says:

      Hi Sharon — I read your article “Miracles can happen” in the Gettysburg Times on Monday, April 22 and just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated it. I agree miracles are all around us — just the coming alive of everything that has been dormant for months is a a miracle. The miracle of birth is all around us. Yes, miracles are not always answered in the way we would like or expect them to be. But then — God is still in control and that is where our faith comes i!!

      Blessings to you

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