An amazing photo. Coincidence? A happy accident? Perhaps. Anything that can be explained by the natural laws of science is not, technically, a miracle. But I wonder if, sometimes, the concatenation of natural phenomena doesn’t occasionally open a window on the great mystery that underlies existence, itself, and all things that spring therefrom.
I recall an incident that happened nearly 30 years ago (not so dramatic as that described in the story linked above), also featuring a dog. My beloved grandmother – Old Paco’s mother – had recently died. Her loss was keenly felt by our family, and by her wide circle of friends. She was as saintly a woman as I ever knew: a devout Christian, kind and loving, I never knew her to have a harsh word for anybody, and she was open-handed in her charity to all, including strays of both the canine and human varieties. And she had the most marvelous sense of humor; she was what, in older times, one might have referred to as a “merry” person. When she passed away (on All Saints Day), it was if our family had lost its center of gravity, so great had been her spirit and influence.
A few days after her burial, Mrs. Paco and I visited my grandmother’s grave. It is located in a beautiful, tree-shaded cemetery behind the little country church she attended her whole life long, in the foothills of the ancient Uwharrie Mountains. On this day, the sun was shining brightly and there was a light, cool breeze - a perfect autumn morning. My wife and I said a prayer for the repose of my grandmother’s soul, and afterwards I stood there, talking to Mrs. Paco about her, reflecting on how energetic and joyous a woman she had been, how youthful and even playful, in spite of her years. Suddenly, shooting out of the tall grass that marked the northern boundary of the cemetery, a beagle puppy came running, making a beeline for my wife and me. It scampered about us, jumping up and licking our hands, frolicking happily, yipping in excitement. After a minute or so, it took off and disappeared from whence it had come, in the tall grass.
No, I’m not suggesting that my grandmother was reincarnated as a beagle, or that her ghost temporarily inhabited the dog. But it was…an interesting coincidence…that, at the very moment that I was trying, in a fumbling way, to covey to Mrs. Paco a sense of my grandmother’s lively and innocent happiness, a living metaphor for unsuppressed joy came bounding out of the weeds, conjuring up the image of the very spirit that I had been groping ineffectually to describe, and a sense that that spirit had not succumbed to, but had broken free of, the bonds of mortality.
It all makes me wonder if the miraculous doesn’t perhaps have as much to do with the timing, as well as with the nature, of events. After all, there’s no reason why God shouldn’t use “natural” instrumentalities, the physical laws that He has created for us and that we can observe and measure, as vehicles for divine grace or answers to our prayers or consolation to those who grieve. And He need not always speak from a burning bush; a dog and a beam of sunlight do very well.