Looking back at the Christmas Eves I've worked, I can tell you that miracles do happen, but not always in the manner in which we expect them.
In preparing for this column, I located an interesting article by TODAYShow.com contributor Mike Celizic.
Celizic reported that a 14-year-old girl with a history of serious health issues and dying of pneumonia in a hospital room had recovered after her mother, Colleen Banton, saw an image of a bright light on a security monitor. Within an hour, the dying girl began a recovery that doctors are unable to explain.
Linda Kay Goodwin
The mother told NBC, "This was an image of an angel," and she credited the apparition with saving the life of her daughter, Chelsea.
Chelsea's story kindled a memory of years past when I was working a 3 to 11 shift at a community hospital.
I was called to the bedside of a frail, elderly woman in a thin, cotton nightgown. She was one of my patients, and I'd been informed her family had abandoned her.
Pointing over her shoulder, the gray-haired woman asked me, "Do you see those two men back there?"
Surprised by her inquiry, I attempted to reorient her, assuring her no one was behind her. I even tapped the wall against which the back of her hospital bed was flush.
"No one," I reported. But she insisted and seemed upset I didn't believe her.
So I conducted a thorough inspection of her room and opened the blinds to the hallway.
"You're probably seeing shadows of people walking by," I told her.
"No," she persisted. "They're right there," and she pointed again over her shoulder. So I looked behind the pillow behind her back and under her bed.
Sweating from the effort, I told her, "There's no one here but you and me."
She seemed upset by my findings, so I changed the subject, fluffed her pillow and told her I'd be going to dinner.
I left her room feeling tired, and like many nurses, wondered why I had to be there working afternoons while so many people enjoyed daylight hours and weekends off.
"Tell me, God. Why am I here this night?" I went to the break room, got my money, put my head in my hands, tearful, worn out and ready to throw in the towel. I demanded an answer from my Lord.
On the way to dinner, I stopped at the hospital gift shop. I was drawn to a bookrack filled with pocket-sized books and journals. I picked out a book that told stories about human encounters with God's angels.
I flipped through the stories and found one called "Backseat Angels." I immediately thought of my patient's "backseat angels," the "two men" who seemed to comfort her more than me-her guardian angels.
I was struck by God's quick response and dared not speak about the inference to my colleagues.
I ate dinner, returned to duty and visited the woman's room. When I approached her, I was expecting an ethereal experience. Instead, I saw my patient sitting peacefully, smiling and eating her dinner.
"Do you believe in angels?" I asked her.
"No," she responded. "What's that all about?"
"Your guardian angels," I replied, matter-of-factly.
"Do you believe?" she asked me.
"Yes, I believe," I responded.
"Then I do too," she said.
There was no further conversation about angels with my patient that night. What needed to be said was said, and I did not want to make her fearful.
I thought about hospital policy that's intended to ensure that no caretaker places one's personal beliefs before the patient's. But there are times in my work when God is as clear as the stethoscope around my neck, and you can't help but hear him.
Most of us, hopefully all of us, realize that there is something beyond the intricate complexities of science. No doubt, mankind will eventually be able to dissect our universe to a perfect mathematical summary. DNA is just a beginning. But the magnificent part to Christian life is that we already know the Who.
That night, when I walked home from the hospital, I observed the stars and knew why I was there that 3 to 11.
In regard to Chelsea's recovery, I would highly encourage you to listen to Chelsea's mother telling the story of her daughter's miraculous recovery. You will be inspired and in awe of this mother and child, and it is a perfect story for Christmas. And you will see the angel as she saw it, on hospital video and on her camera.
Today, we as Christians celebrate our faith in many different ways. While our customs, rituals, church buildings and denominations separate us for the time being ... tonight, let us remember our common path in Christ's birth.
Merry Christmas. Please watch this Web site: today.msnbc.msn.com/id/28364813/?GT1=43001
Linda Kay Goodwin, RN, BSN, MBA, is a nationally award-winning columnist and recipient of the American Academy of Nursing Media Award for Excellence in the presentation of Health Care Information to the Public. She is employed by West Virginia University Medical Center.