People of faith like to believe that miracles happen every day; not the kind that you read about in the books of the saints, but the small things: the baby stopped crying after four straight hours; finding a parking space right away on a busy street; farmer gets a rainstorm after two weeks of drought.
The big ones rarely happen, but a couple of years ago in Buffalo, N.Y., a firefighter who had been in a vegetative state for 10 years, "woke up." He started talking, and for the good part of a day was able to interact with his family and friends. Journalist Rich Blake, the cousin of the firefighter's wife, has written a riveting account of Herbert's life and miraculous awakening in The Day Donny Herbert Woke Up: A True Story (Harmony Books, 246 pages, $23) ...
Donny Herbert was trapped in a burning building in December 1995, and was without oxygen for about six minutes, which caused the brain damage he lived with for 10 more years. He lived in a vegetative state, unable to communicate with his wife, Linda, four sons, and countless family and friends in their tight-knit community. On the day he woke up, he was able to connect with them again, if only for a short time. Only his eldest son, Don Jr., was not there — he was traveling in India.
It is possible that his awakening was the result of some experimental drug treatments, but since there have been no other cases as dramatic as Donny Herbert's, many are inclined to believe other forces were at work that day. I would have to agree that the idea of a miracle cannot be discounted. Blake deftly conveys these ideas while also painting a poignant portrait of an otherwise ordinary family in an ordinary American community.
Though the story is tragic in many ways, it also is spiritually uplifting — a perfect little story to read around the holidays.