I can never again drive past hole No. 6 of Meadowlark Golf Club (on Heil Avenue between Graham and Springdale streets) without thinking about Bradley Smith.
At Mass at St. Bonaventure several weeks ago, Father Angelos Sebastian (whom I've written about in this column) spoke of an incident that had happened several days earlier. Bradley, a 10-year old boy, had been struck in the skull by a golf ball while attending golf camp ay Meadowlark. Right at hole No. 6.
Fr. Angelos described the intense severity of Bradley's condition and how he himself was brought to tears after returning from the hospital. That's just how grave things were. That's just how hopeless it all seemed.
But then, to a standing ovation, he introduced the young man and his family. They were at Mass. As we soon heard, something miraculous had happened. The priest said it. The doctors had said it. And Bradley's mom, Tara, had said it, in a series of emotional and descriptive emails that started circulating so quickly, they soon became the stuff of legend.
I'd love to include all of the passages, but here are some excerpts from their ordeal.
"When I arrived, there were four fire engines and a lot of people standing around, quiet and somber. Some sweet boys jumped me into a golf cart and as we rode up to Bradley, the medics were working on him on the ground. It was a horrific sight. Bradley was laying with vomit around his head, one arm limp and the other flailing, his body convulsing, his eyes open but not tracking. He was pawing at his head and his lower body was completely limp. For a moment, the ground beneath my feet felt like it was falling away and I thought I might die on the spot. Then, in a split second, the decision was made that there was no control, but God could do this. The only objective was to pull Bradley out from wherever he was slipping away. 'OK, God, we are going to do this.'
"I was asking the medics: 'Can you tell me what is happening?' They were pensive, quiet. One medic: 'We are doing our best.' The heaviness was deep. Bradley wasn't moving at all. Our ever-active boy was hanging and limp on the stretcher. Someone on the medic team was communicating to the hospital in terms not entirely recognizable, but clearly serious. One word: severe. God, through you all things are possible. We began closing in on the UCI Trauma Center. Time seemed so slow. I was praying out loud. The young medic driver sitting next to me turned his head. 'You believe in Jesus?' he asked.
" 'I do.' He answered: 'Me, too. I have been praying for him the whole time.'
"Yesterday the head of neurosurgery came in our room elated — his joy was genuine and he said: 'Can you believe this news? Isn't this remarkable? Did you hear about the scan?' He said that when the pediatric neurosurgeon on duty went to read the third scan, he asked the nurse if it was the right film because he did not think it belonged to the same child whose first scan he had read. This was the same head of neurosurgery who walked into our ER room deeply matter-of-fact, very stoic and imposing and told us, 'The shift of your son's brain to the right side is impressive. His brain has a lot of blood on it. There is a greater than 50% chance I will be back tonight to perform brain surgery on your son. You should hope not to see me tonight, because if you do, it will not be good. I will not be merely drilling a hole into your son's head to drain a little bleeding. I will be cutting open your son's head and removing the entire right side of his skull and it will be a major recovery. It is not looking good at the moment.'"
Well, something happened overnight. The doctor said it was a miracle. The scan cleared up. No surgery. The kid was going to make it out of the hospital. And go home. And go to Mass that day. And soon, go back to school, and the ballfields he loves so much.
The family was kind enough to let me visit recently. In their living room, safe on a big cozy couch with the Angels game on TV in the background, Bradley, his dad, Bradley Sr. (a detective with the Huntington Beach Police Department), mom Tara and adorable younger sister Skylar described how their lives have changed.
They talked about their faith in such a powerful way, and how it saved them through this ordeal. They'd heard from another doctor from UCI that morning who was still incredulous about Bradley's progress — another expert who simply can't explain what happened.
"I don't use the word often," he told them, "but this is a miracle. We didn't really do anything. We gave your son three CAT scans and put him in a bed. That was it. Something else took over."
The Smiths spoke about Fr. Angelos' visit and the difference he made. I will tell you, he visited my family in the hospital last December to pray over my mother and administer the anointing of the sick.
My mom survived as well, and I will echo their feelings that he is an incredibly gifted and reassuring force, not just on a Sunday morning, but in the throes of personal agony, as well. Bradley Sr. told me how, tragically, his mom had passed away just four days before this accident. But he dealt with it. He kept it all together for his family.
And the Smiths spoke about how they felt the thousands of prayers being directed their way in the hospital. All from people who starting reading Tara's emails as things developed. All from a spontaneous community of friends, family and strangers from all over the world.
They are thankful, they are solemn and they are anxious to get their kids' lives back to normal. But they do so with a new appreciation as each day dawns. They are aware that they experienced something rare and profound, and they do not take it lightly. They remember (and devoutly pray for) other children in the hospital, taking nothing for granted.
"Faith," as Voltaire said, "consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe."
This lovely family, and especially this little boy, is a testament to that power.
CHRIS EPTING is the author of 19 books, including the new "Baseball in Orange County" from Arcadia Publishing. You can chat with him on Twitter @chrisepting or follow his column at http://www.facebook.com/hbindependent.