A Christmas miracle: The day my mother came back from the dead

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The telephone rang at 5:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve. It was 1966 and I was 9.

The voice on the other side asked if I was Don.

I said yes.

The nurse said my mother was at Good Samaritan Hospital in Dayton, Ohio and I needed to get their quickly.

I was confused. My parents were divorced at the time, but my father, also named Don, happened to be visiting. I handed him the phone.

He only muttered one word to the nurse and hung up.

“OK.”

My mother was driving home from my grandparents’ house in a nearby town. She hid our Christmas gifts there because my brother, sister and I had a habit of peaking into presents under the tree. On her drive back, two men, both drunk, slammed into the passenger door. They were doing 100 mph, according to the police.

She bounced off the driver’s door and went through the windshield. As soon as the paramedics arrived, they started CPR.

“The hospital said I should call a priest, rabbi or pastor,” my dad said as teetered between desperation and panic.

By the time we got to the hospital, David, Cindy and I weren’t allowed in the Intensive Care Unit. My dad was allowed in for a couple minutes. He returned crying.

Doctors said every minute she hung on increased her chances of survival. Minutes slowly turned to hours. Hours turned to days. Days eventually turned to weeks.

Literally brought back from the dead, her recovery always will be a Christmas miracle I’ll always remember. The paramedics knew my mother because she worked for the health department in Dayton. The captain who arrived on the scene was our next-door neighbor.

Most of the bones in her left side were broken. She had massive trauma to her head and chest, but together they refused to give up. Neither did my mother.

It’s clear there was a force greater than all of us keeping a hand over everyone.

It wasn’t until June when my mother was released from the hospital and rehabilitation center – two months after the drunk driver served 90 days in jail for DUI.

Years later, her beautician was still finding pieces of glass in her ears and scalp when she got her hair done.

Even at 9, I realized the importance of finding the good in people. I was disgusted by the drunk driver, but I chose to embrace the love and skill everyone else used to keep my mother alive.

It’s amazing to know how many good things are going on in our community. It’s too easy, especially with a 24-hour news cycle and an insatiable thirst for sensational headlines, to focus on everything that’s bad. It’s far too easy to complain instead of rolling up your sleeves and being the difference to making it right.

I got my mother back on Christmas Eve 1966 and I was able to spend another 33 Christmases with her before she died. It’s still the best Christmas gift I ever got.

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