Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Miracles in New Jersey and Beyond

In 1967 I became seriously ill, probably with the Flu. I lay in the darkened bedroom for several days growing worse. I was convinced one night I was going to die before morning. I rolled over and on the wall was a cross. Not a physical one that was hung there as decoration. That section of wall was just bare paint. This cross was formed by light.

My fever broke that night and in a couple days I was up and back to work.

I was also confused by that cross. I was an Atheist and crosses did not magically appear on your wall to cure you. It had to be how the moonlight or something came through the window.

But I had never seen it before. I had never seen any kind of light on that wall before. Every night for weeks afterward I lay in bed before going to sleep watching that wall to see if it would appear again so I could find the source. It never did and I forgot about it, at least consciously I told myself I forgot, but obviously I didn't or I couldn't tell you about it now. No, I didn't forget, I just pushed it aside where every once in a while it poked at me.

The statements that follow are quotes from correspondences I had with various ministers between the time I had that illness and 1970. You will see I was not converted by my vision:

I have come to a decision about your question of my spiritual comfort and to which church or religious interpretation I entrust my allegiance. I conclude none; that is; if I don’t claim out and out atheism, I certainly admit to a deep-seated agnosticism.

Disbelief in an inviolable god is not a popular course. A person is questioned and berated if they swim a stream outside the main river. It is necessary to give an explanation of my decision, not because it is anyone else’s business, but because it isn’t.

If you would not ask why, would not care, would not debate such a profession by a fellow human, then you would be guilty of dereliction of your faith and calling. Whereas I reject the legendary and mythological ideal of Judea-Christianity and am free to show no concern for anyone but myself , you by tradition and expectation must be immediately involved with your fellow man. If this was not so, then you would do far more damage to your church and faith than any atheist or critic can ever do.

You are certainly right in saying you find it hard to accept I would lean toward Catholicism. That was a passing island that I clung to as I attempted to claim some finger hold on religion. But like the other shaky grasps I have held in the past, a man of the cloth stepped upon my hand and loosened me.

I cannot readily accept your suggestion about a loosely constructed church and free experience within some meaningless dogma, for as a man of the collar, you are not free to make such a proposal. As an ordained minister you must accept the word of the Bible, you must take it as final authority. And you know it rejects what you said. And it goes further in destroying the present tradition of the Protestant Church concerning faith.

As the churches rejected me, I am rejecting them you see. It is deeper than that, of course, but that is what most people will adopt as my reasoning, and so be it. I was forgotten by Bethel, ignored by the Lutherans, Episcopalians and Catholics and repulsed by the Ethics. Besides I no longer believe any man knows anything about God. If we did know once, then it was before weak churches or their opposite who subverted God. Anyway, I think, like the scripture indicates, God will give support to he who supports himself.

I don’t think God is dead: I think he is sealed in some church pledge envelope somewhere buried beneath the gold and silver.

The most interesting fact I ever learned in Sunday school was one of the teachers had a dog that was over twenty years old. Don’t you find that remarkable? 

If someone had told me in 1967 that in ten years I would be a Youth Pastor in a Fundamentalist Christian Church I would have laughed and laughed and laughed and called them nuts.

Yet that is exactly what happened. The picture at the beginning of this post is with part of our youth group. (My wife and I are in the back to the left. I have on dark glasses and she is leaning her head on my shoulder.) We were setting out to do a Christian Service, washing car windows in a super market parking lot, not fund raising. We never did fund raising or any service for a donation. We refused tips. We did it as a gift and we left a tract on how to receive God's Gift.

After becoming a Christian I came to accept we would never have children. (My wife is another story as you will see.) As a thirty-something childless couple we had time, so why not give that time to helping other people's children come to and learn about Christ. So with two other couples, we became youth ministers at that brand new church down the road.

It was not a lightly taken task. It involved hours of planning and work every week. Our group were teens of Junior High age. They were at the age when their bodies, ideas and loyalties were in flux. They needed people who cared. One of the leaders expressed one day a disappointment none of the kids ever thanked us. It wasn't about us being thanked. My hope was someday these kids would remember something we had done or said when they needed it and perhaps then they would thank us, yet we would never know this on this earth.

In the follow up examinations after my wife lose Amy at birth, the Doctor told us this: "Your wife can never have a child of her own. Her history has shown this. It would be impossible for her to carry a baby long enough to be viable outside the womb and her previous loses have totally weakened her to a point she would endanger her own health, and possibly, life if she tried."

So we had put such a thing away and moved on, or so I thought.

"Honey, I'm pregnant."
"But you said you definitely had your tubes tied this last time."
"I lied again."

I was angry, but mostly I was frightened. Why couldn't my wife give up this hope of having a child of her own? Her cervix had not been strong enough to hold the baby in the womb beyond five months before and now it had been further weakened and damaged by her seven pregnancies and losses. (And keep in mind, this is over thirty years ago when babies born before a certain point or underweight premature births had little chance of survival. Today babies born much earlier and much lighter have a far greater chance at living than then, a fact which argues strongly against abortion for convenience.)

We went back to her gynecologist, but he would not take her as a patient again and scolded her for her folly.

We tried obtaining the services of other doctors.

"I'm sorry, we can't accept you as a patient with your history..."
"No, I'm sorry..."
"Your wife is putting herself at great risk, you should be ashamed..."
"The only thing I can recommend is an abortion..."

"No, no abortion. I want to have this baby."

When the church learned of our predicament, a Doctor who attended there came and told us he would treat my wife, but he couldn't guarantee success. He didn't need to, he was really just an assistant to God.

Since my wife had what is known as an incompetent cervix, he performed a procedure my wife had had previously, which of course had failed. It was a form of cerclage called a Shirodkar (obviously the modified form since she was not required to have a Cesarian Section.)

He then ordered her to bed for her term. She was allowed to walk a few steps, so she could go from the bedroom to the living room or to the bathroom as needed, but she was not to be on her feet otherwise or to do any kind of household work. I took over those tasks. I set up a cooler by the living room sofa so she could have some refreshments and food while I was at work. I did all the cleaning, laundry and shopping when I was home.

The church formed a prayer group, who met weekly and prayed for my wife and the child. Women from the church would come by and bring us meals, so all the cooking didn't fall on me.

But then on a snowy late February day the same pattern returned as it always had before, the pains, the spotting and the water breaking all too early, way too early. I took her to the hospital through the snow storm and she was taken to a labor room. They hooked up an IV with a drip to retard the labor. They hoped to stall it off perhaps long enough to save the baby, but during the week they became concerned about lung development.

The doctor came to see us in the room and said, "We feel the lungs are too underdeveloped. What we would like to try is a new experimental drug called steroids to see if that will strengthen the babies lungs. It is experimental, so there is some risk. We are not certain what the long term effect will be."

We took the risk.

A couple days later, "We fear the baby's lungs are still too underdeveloped to sustain life, but we can't continue to forestall labor any longer. The risk to your wife is too great. We really have to induce labor now."

It looked like Number Eight on the miss parade was about to be played.

 Meet Laurel Christine a few hours old and lungs working just fine. 

Because my name is Larry, people assume Laurel is named for me because both names have the same root and mean Victory. Well, that may be so and it certainly was a victory, but she is named for the church that prayed for her becoming, Laurel Hill Bible Church. We gave her the middle name Christine (meaning Little Christian or Follower of Christ) because Christ is central in our lives.

Laurel was premature and so small. Her weight dropped, but not far and it quickly went back up to five pounds so we were allowed to bring her home. We had to bring some clothes and dress her before they would let us leave. The nurses stood to the side and giggled as the two of us struggled to fit this tiny, wiggling child into the smallest size baby clothes we were able to find. They hung on her like an old man's coveralls.

If it were a movie the credits would roll now over the happy ending. But life isn't a movie. It simply continues and there was to be more to our little drama.

Shortly after her birth my employer announced he was moving the business to Chicago. I got a new job at a medical center in Darby, Pa and we moved from New Jersey  back to Pennsylvania, but not to Philly. We moved to Springfield. Both my living in and working in Philadelphia had come to an end. We were now in the official Post-Philadelphia period of our life.

Laurel got whooping cough a few months later. She had to go into Children's Hospital in Philadelphia, where my wife could stay with her. It was scary because her lungs were still a question mark. But she made it.

A couple of years went by. I had just been told I was out of a job at the medical center. I hadn't quit. I wasn't fired. The nuns who ran the hospital simply wanted one of there own to be the Budget Director. "So if I'm not being fired," I asked the Personnel Director (It still hadn't become Human Resources) "what am I being?"

"Well, we call it..." and he was stymied. He just kind of stared with his mouth open and shrugged. "It's just not a firing is all," he said.

Call it what you will, I was out of a job. Not immediately, but I'll talk about that some other time. The non-firing firing came in July.  I did land another job in September, but in the meantime I lost my Health Insurance.

Then in November deja vu.

 "Honey, I'm pregnant."
"But you said you definitely had your tubes tied this last time."
"I lied again."

Haven't I had this same conversation about three or four times now?

"How long?"
"I think I'm about two months."
"Have you been to a doctor?"

She never did go to a Doctor.

In early December she woke me. "I'm spotting. I think I'm having a miscarriage. Can you take me to the hospital?"

We rounded up an emergency babysitter for Laurel and I took my wife to the county hospital. They rolled her away out of site and I sat down in the waiting room and waited for the inevitable bad news while I worried. I worried about my wife and I worried about the cost.  I had new hospital insurance with my new job, but it did not cover pregnancy during the first year of the policy.

A doctor came to me and called my name.

"Congratulations", he said, "you are the father of a girl."

How could that be? I brought her in for a miscarriage. My wife hadn't been pregnant long enough.

No, it was true, she had a baby, a tiny baby, but a baby. Then came the bad news.

"We are moving your baby to another hospital; although we do not expect her to live through the night..."

The other hospital was one where I had been budget director. It was the only hospital in the area at that time that had a neonatal ICU unit. 

The doctor at County explained that was the reason they were sending her there, but he also said we should not get out hopes up.

"If she lives she will be blind and extremely mentally impeded..."

This is not what you want to hear. Oh Lord, please, maybe it would be better if she doesn't live the night...

She was put in this glass box called an incubator. it looked like a fish tank. She was hooked up with all these tubes and wires running from her body. She was so small you could barely see her for all that stuff. Every hour some one came and pricked her heel with a needle. For the first week, we couldn't even touch her or hold her. She got jaundice and turned yellow and had to be under special lights. Then she turned blue and they had to exchange her blood, because we had a negative-positive Ph Factor conflict. She wasn't gaining weight. She wouldn't have a chance until she weighted at least five pounds. She weighted 3 pounds 6 ounces.

After the first week we were allowed in to hold her for about a half hour at a time. We had to scrub up and don green gowns and elastic caps and latex gloves. The ICU nurses were very worried about her. 

My wife called her a plucked chicken. I said she looks like Alfred Hitchcock. She had a bald head, puffed out cheeks and a protruding lower lip. Her tongue must have been two big for her tiny mouth because it was always sticking out. 

After nearly a month in Neonatal ICU, Noelle Suzanne came home on New Year's Day in a big red Christmas Stocking. She had made her five pounds.

A few months later she was back in a hospital, this time it was Will's Eye Hospital in Philadelphia for an operation on something behind her eyes. I forget the details, but it involved removing her eyeballs from the sockets, doing what ever they did and replacing the eyeballs back into place. My second daughter is not blind.

 Noelle was an impossibility. Lois had not had any medical care prior to her birth, had not even seen a doctor. There was no Shirodkar, no bed rest for term, no medication. She was working and caring for a two year old. She never even showed, not even The Bump. 

God was saying, "Hey maybe you think that Shirodkar did the trick last time. Maybe you think laying in bed for months was the secret? Maybe you think those steroids worked wonders? Naw. I am the worker of wonders, the maker of miracles.  Even after, when she was placed in the care of those Physicians and Nurses to whom I gave knowledge, they didn't believe she could be saved, they though she would die and they thought she would be less than she is. What you have is by my Grace."

Since she was totally unexpected, we had no name prepared. She came in the same month as Christmas, so we picked Noelle. Since that is French, we decided to use a French middle name if it went with the other names and thus, Noelle Suzanne.

As far as my fears of the costs because of the loss of my health insurance pregnancy coverage? The doctors at the county hospital waived their fees. I had some hospital costs for that evening of service. Although the policy didn't cover pregnancy in the first year, it did cover any child upon birth. To this day, I have no idea what the cost of that three weeks of Neonatal ICU treatment was. I never saw a bill or any other statement. 

And then a little over a year and a half later:

"Honey, I think I'm pregnant."

Oh yes she was.

This time she had a Doctors care and all the precautions were taken. When it came time, again too early, she was delivered by C Section. Our son was a whopper (to us), the biggest baby we ever had at 5 pounds 10 ounces. A strapping young man, indeed, until the hospital placed him in a bassinet next to a baby who came into this world at 10 pound two ounces.

Darryl William may have been small then, but he's six foot two today.
Again the name. Again people think we named Darryl as some kind of semi-anagram of my name. To tell the truth, I hadn't even thought of the similarity until much later. Because my father's ancestors were Welsh, I wanted a Welsh name for my son.

I had a couple "What to Name the Baby" books. They said Daryl was a Welsh name meaning "dearly loved". So I settled on it. My wife suggested we give him the middle name William after my father. So we gave the hospital the name, Daryl William. Someone, somewhere added the extra "R" making his officially recorded name Darryl William.

And now when I look up the name, all the sources seem to say the name isn't Welsh, but French from d'Airelle meaning from the town of Airelle.

He settles the barren woman in her home 
as a happy mother of children. Praise the LORD. Psalm 113:9

Indeed, he does.

But what of the others who didn't make it? Have I forgotten them?  Did having these children take away the pain? Is that how you get over a child's death?

No, no and no.

I could never forget those who died either in the womb or shortly after birth. They were human beings with souls, too. They were part of my wife and of me. They were a lose for us. It is my belief that the unborn and young children are precious to God and receive special Grace from Our father and go to Heaven to be with him and will be there waiting for us. And I believe Scripture supports this belief and that should be a comfort to anyone who has lost a young child or baby or fetus. (Click here to read my supports for my belief in this: "Tuff Stuff; Suffer the Little Children"

Is it having these children that took away the pain? Or does time erase the pain?

Pain is a symptom. Whether it is physical pain or emotional pain, it is not the problem. In is expected when we are injured, whether we cut our finger with a knife or whether it is the inner pain of losing a loved one. If that pain does not go away or is not cured, then there is something wrong that must be dealt with. Clinging to our sufferings of the past, no matter what they may be, only turns pain to a bitter infection of our heart.

No decent and/or sane person wishes to inflict constant unending pain on another, especially a loved one. When you hold onto the hurt of what you have suffered you push out love. You may not know it, but clinging to grief too long hurts other people even if you never realize it does. Living the rest of your life weeping over your losses make those losses your idol and your god, and he's a mean one. Everyone who is living is one more person who is going to die and every single one of us who lives a long life is going to see some one we love meet death.

When I die I have no desire to take my wife and my children's joy of life to the grave with me. That would be cruel to them and that would be the ultimate cruelty to me.

When some one dies, you never forget them, but after a period of grief in their honor you live your live with all the joy and happiness life offers to be grasped, because when you do you share that joy and happiness with their Spirit. That doesn't mean you don't ever visit their grave or look at their pictures. It doesn't mean you can't have occasions when you grieve a bit again, like their birthday or perhaps the anniversary of an event such as a wedding.

It simply means you put them in the memory book with all your other memories that on occasion you sit down with and remember. You just don't build a shrine that you sit before every single day for the rest of your life and weep.

And the only god you should have is God, and He has promised to wipe away our tears if we do.

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? 
Where, O death, is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57

On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. 
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. 
The LORD has spoken
In that day they will say, "Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. 
This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation. "Isaiah 25:7-9

A final note: Some people may ask why I didn't get a vasectomy, didn't I care about my wife's well-being?

First of all, it was my wife's greatest dream was to have a child. When we had lost several even after trying everything science had to offer, she claimed repeatedly that she had her tubes tied . (After the birth of Darryl she actually did. She was almost 41 when he was born.) But she lied repeatedly as well.

I don't think I had heard of a vasectomy back then and no one ever suggested such a thing to me. I think that procedure might have become more known and popular after 1985 when the first no-scalpel vasectomy was done in the United States.

In all honesty, even if it had been suggested, I can't say for sure I would have done it. But it wasn't suggested, I didn't have one, and I am extremely glad every Father's Day that I did not.

My children are adults now. Laurel is 32, Noelle will be 30 this December and Darryl will be 28 in August.

For those who think becoming a Christian is the road to Easy Street rather than a narrow road of potholes and bumps you might want to read:  Born Again: A Fairy-Tale-Ending and Born Again: Attacks Scale Upward. They will dispel any thought that Christianity is some magic potion that will bring nothing but prosperity. remember, God shows sunshine on the good and the evil and also the rain on both. These to earlier Posts cover a little bit of the same ground as here, but have a different focus.


Ron Tipton said...


A masterpiece! Thank you so much for sharing the inspiring story of your family. As you know my brother John had a similar circumstance regarding the danger of his wife's pregnancies. John was warned not to get his wife pregnant again because her life would be in danger. But he got her pregnant anyway because he wanted a son to carry on his name after having two daughters. His wife gave birth to a son. The son died two days after birth. John almost lost his wife. However, she survived and John, taking this as a sign from God, vowed to devote the rest of his life to the church. That was over thirty years ago. He's never been happier. Even though he lost the son he always wanted he felt that God had spared his wife. I am very happy for both of you. You both have found the meaning of life.



Glynn said...

Larry -- it's an incredible story you've told here. It's one of those "God things." Thank you for sharing it with us.

n. davis rosback said...

thanks for sharing