Whenever God decides the laws of nature of are circumvented
by Metropolitan Nicholas of Mesogaia, Greece
The timeline is April 1985. Olga, a ten year old girl, with a brain tumor is undergoing radiation therapy in order to shrink a cancerous growth. The condition has plagued her with terrible pain and dizziness. Her parents are simple, ordinary people from the City of Athens. The doctors in Greece determined from the very beginning the very difficult location the tumor was in. The only hope for the girl’s recovery was God and possibly medical care in America. One of the family’s relatives lived in Boston and invited them to come to that city where the best children’s hospital in the world was located. The family put their affairs in order and travelled to the last place where there was hope for the recovery of their daughter.
Their story is filled with suffering and stress. How is it possible for God to allow such things to happen? In seven years of marriage the wife could not get pregnant. They are ordinary people without having any special knowledge of faith. As their hopes for getting pregnant were diminishing, God granted them a baby girl. They glorified God for this gift and they centered their lives on this gift they were granted. When the girl reached the age of ten, she started to exhibit strange symptoms such as severe headaches and anxiety. They started a series of tests and diagnosed the problem, a diagnosis that when a person hears it, their legs are cut from under them. It is a diagnosis that rattles one’s head, tears one’s soul asunder and rips the heart apart.
Having this tragic diagnosis as their companion, the couple leaves their jobs in Athens and the three of them arrive in America. In taking this trip of mercy, they do not know when, how or if all of them will return to their home. But that which accompanies them is a simple, genuine, and strong faith. A year and a half before, a series of cassettes came into their possession. They are cassettes of sermons which totally changed their outlook on life. These sermons filled them with faith. It filled them with a faith that comes from deep within a person. And what was the answer of God? When this couple did not attend Church, the birth of Olga took place. As soon as they turned to faith, cancer presented its ugly face! Why would God do these things? Why is not an opinion expressed about this situation in a way that no one wants to say it? Is it possible that in the final analysis, we believe in a God who does not exist and we do not know the God of truth? Is it possible that we must discover who He is and not how we want Him to be?
Olga cooperated very well with the team of Dr. John Shillito at the Boston Hospital. He is possibly the best oncologist in the Children’s Hospital of Boston. All the attendants did everything possible with a spirit of love to help the situation. They treated the girl as if she was the only patient they had. All indicators appeared initially that things were moving along well until suddenly Olga slipped into a coma. This was followed by a series of tests that showed that the tumor had spread extensively in the brain. All hope seemed to vanish with these tests. The only thing left to do was to inform the parents. The parents must be informed so that they can decide whether the child should stay in Boston until the time they can later escort the body to Greece. Or they can take her to Greece before she expires. If the parents decide to do the latter, they must understand that there are international laws that regulate the transfer of terminally ill patients. The doctor of the hospital must certify that the patient will not die during the flight.
All of this took place on Sunday, April 28, 1985, on the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearers. The parents at this point have not been told anything. They are in agony and suspect the worst. At 6 p.m. Dr. Shillito will talk to them in detail about the situation. None of the Greek-American volunteers at the hospital wanted to translate the report of the doctor to the parents. They all avoided offering themselves. It is such a difficult thing to inform parents that their child has no hope of survival and is dying.
Finally the responsibility for telling the parents was mine. I had heard about the situation but had not met either the child or the parents. I could not possibly avoid the responsibility of telling the parents. I accepted to lift along with the parents this truly unbearable burden. It is something that cannot be endured.
I took the elevator up to the eighth floor, to the floor that houses the cancer afflicted children. I found it to be very difficult. I felt uptight, weak and uneasy as I proceeded ahead. I entered the corridor. I was perplexed when I entered a room where there were three children in rocking chairs hooked up to tubes dispensing chemotherapy. Some of the children had bald heads and laughingly were watching cartoons on television. On one side of the room there was a little girl on a sofa. She was thirteen or fourteen years old and deep in thought. She sat there lost in a world of the unknown. Her eyes were filled with pain. With deep piercing eyes, we both made eye contact with one another. Why should these children suffer? Why is it that instead of being filled with the sweetness of a future, they are now tasting the bitterness of a hospital and suffering the grief of uncertainty? Why is this so, my dear God? Just a few minutes ago, before arriving at the entrance to the hospital, I passed a local park with little children playing. They were unaware of anything special happening in the hospital and their adoring parents were laughing as they played. What a great difference, what an injustice, what an unexplainable difference with what is happening in the hospital!
I then met three people who spoke Greek. There were two men and a woman. Without a doubt, two of them were the parents of Olga and the third was Olga’s uncle. I approached them and we introduced ourselves. They thanked me for being there and before we were able to say two words, we were called into Dr. Shillito’s office. As I entered the office, my eyes focused on a triptych with three pictures. These are the daughters of the doctor. They were three adorable daughters that brightened the doctor’s office. He was adoring them. It was a natural and blessed expression of the doctor. Olga is in the adjourning room, her face changed by her fight with death. Her parents are crushed.
The doctor, after giving a short introduction, went directly into the issue at hand. “Olga, as you know, has a tumor in the third lobe of the brain which is not operable. We attempted to shrink it with radiation. Initially, Olga responded very well, so much so that we had hopes for her. But unfortunately, the other day she slipped into a coma from which, as the tests indicate, she will not recover.” The parents were listening very carefully to every word. At hearing this, the father broke down into sobs. The mother held back her emotions.
“In other words doctor, speak to us frankly.” “I have determined that Olga will not make it. She is slowly dying.” “What do you mean, she is slowly dying doctor.” I dared to ask? “I mean as we are talking, in a few hours, maybe during the course of the night she will die. I believe, without any doubt, she will not live through the night. Theoretically I can give you a time that she might make it to tomorrow.” “In other words, doctor, only a miracle can save her,” says the mother. “Yes, only a miracle,” repeats the doctor. The father continues to cry with controlled sobs.
“Doctor, we want to thank you very much for all that you have done for Olga for such a long time,” says the mother. “We may be humanly losing the battle but we are preparing for a miracle. Either, in spite of your prognosis, our daughter may get well or she may become a little angel at the throne of God. Isn’t that a small miracle? Do you realize what a good girl she is? We, naturally, are praying with all of our strength only for the first option. That expresses how little faith we have. But if God should permit the second thing to happen then we will also accept that as a gift. Simply speaking, we now must turn our whole attention toward God. Our mistake is that we should have done this from the beginning. You see, we first believed in the doctors and then in God.” “That is the way it is. Your faith is that which will help you now,” said the doctor. “No, doctor, faith does not help. That faith is human. It is our thing. He who helps is only God Himself.”
In all these things that are happening, I am simply a translator and a startled listener. What power, what faith that woman has! And that, which she is saying, does not indicate to us simply her psychological feelings; neither is it like a sermon. It shows that it springs up spontaneously from within her like a sense of joy. It is simple and is calmly assuring us that whatever she says is a reflection of the clarity of her innermost world. It is dignity, calmness, politeness, self control, and truth that comes forth from her mouth. The same is true with her eyes, which for so long have had an expression of hope and have not shed one tear.
We came out of the office and sat together so that we could get to know one another better. At times like this, people get tied to one another directly and strongly. But here before me I had something unfolding that was unusually profound. This woman was open with us yet very profound. The words that came out of her mouth had the strength and persuasiveness of heartfelt reality. I marveled at her strength more than anything else.
We departed from one another with a great deal of warmth. It was necessary for me to leave, for I had an appointment. I was going to visit that night at 10 o’clock with the hope that I would find Olga still alive. Every so often, I would call the hospital information office to find out how she was doing.
It is now 10:30 at night. Olga is still holding on. Mr. Costas and Mrs. Maria, those outstanding parents, calmly are prepared for all eventualities, but they are hoping and praying for a small miracle, as people say. God who brought Olga into this world—is a great miracle in itself—can He not now also protect her? Simply speaking, they say the problem is their sins!!!
At 11 p.m. the hospital staff arrived on the elevator with portable beds, pillows and sheets for those who are staying the night with the patients. That hospital is amazing. The social services are prepared for all things. The hospital policy is for the parents to be able to spend the night with their children if they so desire. But the parents of Olga have a hard time sleeping. They prefer to talk and keep vigil. In fact the doctor had said that Olga would not live through the night. Their faith was indescribable. They spoke of miracles as if they were common natural things that happen. They were discussing eternity like we usually talk about everyday life. They believed that the will of God, whichever it would be, would be a great blessing to them. Frankly speaking, on the one hand they would experience boundless joy if she lived. On the other hand, they would again experience the truth. The second instance, the most difficult one, would be the most authentic. But in the first instance, that is the most desirable.
I stayed with them until 1:30 a.m. I could not get enough of them. In meeting these people I had met truly faithful human beings. I had never met this type of faith. That type of faith not only functions after their loved one dies; but is a faith that functions psychologically and as a means of consolation for them. It was also a faith that would be expressed a few moments before the last breath of their only child. I must admit that it was the first time that I have met people that had this type of faith. Next to us was a motionless Olga, in a deep coma. She had no communication with the world around her. Maybe she was communicating with the other world which is unknown to us at this moment. Now and then the parents would steal a look at the expressionless body of their daughter, with painful doubt of unjustified hope.
Olga finally lived through the night. The doctor’s timeline about her death was wrong. Who knows? Maybe the medical opinion of the doctor would fail. It is so wonderful sometimes when science is proven wrong!
The following morning I called some women and shared with them some of my profound impressions of the family. I advised them to make another visit to Olga in order to give the family their support and also so that their own lives would be reinforced by the experience.
Olga continued to live throughout all of Monday. That night, returning from work, I visited with the family. The parents had decided to return to Greece with Olga and allow her to die there. During that Monday they made all the arrangements for the trip. Finally, they arranged for Olga to leave if she was still alive on Wednesday, May 1, 1985 on an Olympic Airlines flight from New York. I again stayed with them quite late enjoying the grace of these incredible people. I was also awaiting the departure of Olga either on the plane for Greece or with the angels to her eternal home. They were intense moments, very real moments next to a world of living faith of immense dimensions.
It was Tuesday morning, April 30th. My telephone rang. One of the three ladies that I communicated with the previous day had spoken to her spiritual father, the well-known Elder Porphyrios. He had the Grace of foresight. He was internationally known as a holy man. He sees things where human vision cannot penetrate. He said to her that he would pray for Olga but they also should pray along with him and God will do His thing. She came to the conclusion that there was now some hope.
“Please”, I said to her, “do not hasten to say anything about this. You know the situation”. I knew the parameters of the issue; the girl is dying. I am perplexed that she is still living. You, yourself, have seen it with your own eyes. It is best that we say very little so that many things can happen” I said to her, “It is better this way than for us to give them hope and then nothing happens.”
Olga held on through Tuesday. About ten o’clock that night, I arrived for my accustomed visit of faith with the family. I entered the room and saw an unusual scene for an American hospital. Olga was in her bed, known to us in her blessedness. Mr. Costas was sitting away from her. Mrs. Maria, the mother, was with Mrs. Vasilia, an exceptional Greek-American volunteer. She was truly the mother of all those children. They were next to each other saying an unknown service of supplication. It was a supplication that was unknown to me. They had lit the incense, a candle, placed an icon of the Holy Mother on the child, and they were praying. I sat exactly next to the door. In fact I was sitting half way in and half way out of the room. The nurse approached and asked me, “What are they doing? What is that they are burning which smells like that? Do they belong to some strange Church?” I responded to her emphatically, “They belong to the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church,” thinking that she would understand something about our Eastern culture. She left the room. The rest of us remained in the room. I knew many prayers but the prayers that I was hearing, I was hearing for the first time.
In fifteen minutes they finished with the prayers. They had acquired a little olive oil from a votive light from the famous shrine of the Holy Mother of Tinos, Greece and from the Holy Mother of Kanala. It was the first time I heard the name “Holy Mother of Kanala”. They anointed Olga in the sign of the Cross on her forehead, on her chest, and on her right and left hands. The child was motionless. As soon as they made the sign of the Cross on her left foot, Olga lifted her leg, put it down and repeated the movement again. There was nothing else. The two women broke out in prayerful shouts. “Holy Mother, do your miracle,” and they repeatedly made the sign of the Cross while kissing Olga on her forehead. Olga remained immersed in her own world.
The child is motionless. In a short while the mother approached. The mother asks of Olga “Do you hear me dear Olga?” Olga nods affirmatively. “Open your eyes my dear child.” The child tries unsuccessfully to open her eyes. “Give a kiss to Mrs. Vasilia.” Rhythmically she moved her lips.
“I am now rationalizing. Surely we have seen a burst of life. I ask Debbie, the nurse, if she has all the papers ready for the next nurse that is coming on duty. The shifts change at 11p.m. for all indications show that within a little while the child will die.”
Time passes by. Olga returns to her previous state. She is totally quiet and immobile. She has no sense of communication with the world around her. No one dares to disturb her. It is now past midnight. Mr. Maria cannot control herself anymore. She bends over and kisses her daughter on the forehead. She seemed to respond to that, but it was rather her imagination. The women are sure that something has changed. Mr. Costas emotionally is following what is happening with doubt. I am again rationalizing. I can’t get it out of my head that in the best of situations we are talking about small changes. The child in reality is finished. I do not have the slightest hope for a recovery. Mrs. Vasilia tells me that I do not have faith. Who knows? Maybe she is justified in saying this.
The doctor was saying that Olga would die Sunday night. Today is Wednesday and the child steadily, if not slightly, is showing signs of the breath of life and communication. We are divided between those who believe in her recovery and those who are skeptical and are waiting for death. I live amongst the coldness of the second group, having logic as my companion. I bid farewell to the family who is leaving for Greece. A special ambulance transports the child to New York in the condition that we have just described. The child is escorted on her trip by a nurse and she travels to Greece on a bed. It has been decided that there she will die.
That next Friday we called a number in Greece that someone had given us to find out what was happening with the child. They told us that Olga is steadily improving but she is still lethargic. Simply speaking she is somehow communicating. They are going to do more tests on Saturday. We arranged to communicate by telephone on Tuesday. This will be ten days after hearing the diagnosis of her impending death. We attempted many times to call them. There was no answer. We surmised that Olga had died and her parents had taken her to the village to bury her and to allow them to get some rest. After two more weeks we found a priest in Boston and had a prayer read for the dead. This was a prayer from our hearts.
The month of May arrived, then the month of June went by, and we had even entered the month of July. We had not received any news, and the same scenario continued for us in Boston. Other children had arrived at the hospital from Greece, and the usual stress mixed in with joy and pain was the daily routine.
On July 8th, as soon as I arrived in Athens from London, I decided to make some telephone calls. I called Mrs. Maria and Mr. Costas. Maybe they have returned from the village. “Who is this please?” I hear a little childish voice on the other end of the line. “Who are you?” I asked quite startled. “I am Olga,” answered the childish voice. “You are Olga, which Olga?” I asked with embarrassment.
She gave me her whole name and with a sense of excitement she expressed her suspicion at who I was. She said: “The Holy Mother did her miracle.” Olga invited me to visit her house so that I may ask her questions about geography, arithmetic, etc. She is inviting me, the person who rushed to have a prayer service for her death. I asked for her mother. “How great God is who is our God,” Mrs. Maria said to me from the bottom of her heart. I ended the conversation and left immediately for their home. When I got there a lovely little girl opened the door for me. Her hair had begun to grow back again. She was a little hyperactive, impressionable and filled with life. I asked her the questions that she had asked me. She answered with joy. I found myself playing with her. I felt that I had been betrayed by my logic. I could not believe that which I was seeing. Previously I believed in that which I did not see. The life of Olga constitutes the strongest beating that I have ever received for my disbelief.
Twenty five years have since passed. Olga has graduated from the university. She gives joy and happiness to her parents. She has also acquired a younger sister. She has grown to be a young lady. She has made liars of the greatest scientists in the world. She has torn asunder the logic of proven statistics. She has certified that “whatever God decides negates the laws of nature.” And surely in our days the Lord of Hosts lives.
This miracle is taken from the book “Wherever God decides the laws of nature are circumvented.” It was written by Metropolitan Nicholas Mesogaias and Lavriotiki, Greece. It was first published in 2009. The real life miracle is taken from the first section of the book pages 51 to 68.
Glorified is the name of God in his Holy Saints
Metropolitan Nicholas or Mesogaia
Translated from the Greek by:
+Fr. Constantine (Charles) J. Simones, Waterford, CT, USA, January 2, 2015, 860-460-9089,