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The Emmissary

By Sigfried Brian Barger
Reprinted by permission from “The Simple Touch of Fate.”

Fate is an unexpected intervention by the Divine that often is considered to be coincidence by mere mortals like us.

My sister was dying of cancer. I was very sad over her illness, but I had only to think of the constant anguish suffered by my parents, who were caring for her, to feel even sadder. “Get your affairs in order,” the doctors had bluntly told her. “There is nothing that can be done. Maybe you have six months; maybe not.” But my family does not dissuade easily. My father, who was a cross between an ill-tempered grizzly and a lovable koala, began to assemble the considerable financial resources necessary to pay for an experimental bone marrow transplant. In 1990, when this happened, such a procedure was considered miraculous if it allowed a patient to survive more than a year or so.

One afternoon, I found myself in an uncomfortable social setting. I did not know most of the people who were there. The topic that occupied our conversation was personal tragedy. Great, I thought. Just the thing to cheer me up.

A young woman was leading the conversation. She looked vaguely familiar, but I certainly did not know her. Lanky and slightly awkward, she was the kind of utterly common girl who would normally escape one’s notice. Even her name was extraordinarily commonplace: Mary. As she spoke, though, it was obvious there was something unusual about her. She’d had a dream, she said. A very young baby was critically ill and the child’s doctors had used all the medical magic they could muster. It was just a matter of time. The dream was so real, she told us; it consumed her thoughts. She could see every feature of the baby-her face, her smile, the details of the yellow dress she wore.

Mary said she was convinced a real baby existed-this baby-who was somewhere dying, and she could not ignore the dream any longer. She called a network of her friends and told them of her dream, and she insisted they had to pray for the baby. And so they did.

Some weeks later, Mary continued, an old friend invited her to see her new home. The two women had not seen each other for years. When she arrived, her friend radiated delight and happiness. There was the new home of which she was so proud, but mostly she had a surprise for Mary, and that was the real reason behind the invitation. The surprise: to show Mary her new baby girl. “We call her our ‘Miracle Baby,'” the mother glowed, handing her to Mary. “The doctors had told us she would die; but she did not.”

Suddenly, Mary realized why her dream had been so powerful and her need to pray so intense: This was the sick baby of her dream-the Miracle Baby-now in her arms, wearing her new yellow Easter dress.

As we all began to leave our gathering later that afternoon, I had to seek out Mary. I needed her help for my sister. We spoke only for a few moments that afternoon. “My sister is terminal,” I said. “I need your prayers, and the prayers of your friends.” I could barely talk. A huge knot of emotion sat in my throat, and tears welled in my eyes. Yes, she said-very matter of factly-they would be happy to pray for her.

I felt a bit foolish. I had, after all, approached a perfect stranger and asked for a miracle, practically blubbering on my double-breasted suit in the process. A crazy continuum of feelings wandered through me as she walked away that afternoon: gullibility, relief, hope, stupidity. In the ensuing weeks, I looked for her at some of the places I thought she might frequent, but nothing. A few weeks went by. Then, as I was walking to a little delicatessen one day, Mary happened to see me coming down the street. She called me over.

“Oh, listen, I am glad I found you,” she said, seemingly short of time. “Tell your sister a lot of us prayed for her. She is going to be fine. Her cancer is gone.”

That was it. No big explanation of how she knew this; just, “Her cancer is gone.” Then she offered a little wave and departed as though we were old friends.

Eleven years have passed since that afternoon. To her doctors’ amazement, my sister is alive today, and cancer free. She is not perfect; the bone marrow transplant left her with anemia, a compromised immune system and unrelenting fatigue. But she is alive and happy.

I am sure that most who hear this story will conclude that nothing more than coincidence was at work here. The transplant worked. Period. That is what they would say. But, that is an over-simplification of our world. Virtually all of the other women my sister met in the bone marrow unit that winter died long ago. She is one of just two survivors.

And Mary? I never did see Mary again. I have not seen her since that casual meeting on the street more than a decade ago. To be honest, I doubt that I would even recognize her. She was, after all, just a normal, lanky, awkward girl. A curious emissary of Fate …. An Angel.

Submitted and used with the permission of Arlene Uslander, Brenda Warneka, co-editors of The Simple Touch of Fate


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