This time of despair, let’s not forget, is also a time for miracles

SNEED: An old friend was certain of divine intervention after the mysterious disappearance of a crippling ailment

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Chicago’s Christmas tree sits lit up in Millennium Park Nov. 19, 2020.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Hope. Please.

It’s Christmas, and a new COVID-19 surge is expected.

So on the road to what’s next, let’s get the tough stuff out of the way.

A pandemic that buckled our knees: a manic maneuverer called Trump, whose negligence and nonsense led his countrymen to a hospital door; and a presidential election that split the nation in half and left us regarding each other as enemies.

So if Christmas is a time for hope and reflection, I’d like to spend a little time doing just that — if you don’t mind.

It’s the memory of a column I wrote decades ago about what once happened to a beloved friend named “Tom,” who thought his time was up until a miracle happened.

Tom, who wanted to remain anonymous, has since passed away, and his story a distant memory of a Christmastime past.

But before repeating the story of Tom’s “miracle,”there is a strange, almost comedic preface, a happenstance Tom often wondered had generated the later miraclehe believed saved his life.

He kiddingly referred to it as his “Nativity” experience in 1990.

According to Tom, an old Italian priest had come to his home at Christmastime — shortly before his “miracle” occurred as he lay in the hospital, dying.

“I was in a wheelchair, and the priest asked if my wife and I would consider something very special,” said Tom.

“The priest was known for finding homes for the children of unwed mothers, and that night he wanted to know whether we could find room in our house for a baby!

“Heck, I was already in a wheelchair and had seven kids, but my wife and I decided to say OK.”

“The priest’s response was: ‘Wonderful. Wonderful. I’ll be just a minute. The baby is in the car.’

“But when the priest returned, it was not a live baby he was carrying, but a statue of the child Jesus in a manger!

“He told me: ‘It’s been with me so many years and, now that I’m retiring, I wanted someone to care for it. I wanted you both to treasure it.’

“The priest never cracked a smile or gave any indication that he had pulled a fast one on us,” Tom said.

“So we sat there stunned!”

Tom always wondered if the “Christmas miracle,” which he claimed later spared his life, had anything to do with his earlier promise to that old Italian priest.

So here’s the story of Tom’s “miracle” I wrote years ago:

“It was Christmastime, when a man named Tom stopped by my City Hall office when I was Mayor Jane Byrne’s press secretary [in 1979].

“We chatted easily, talking about family and the agony of gut punches when God seems gone.

“Tom claimed he had once been close to death, the victim of an incurable muscle disease that bound him to a wheelchair and the ability to move only two fingers.

“It was during that time he claims a miracle occurred: The scent of an intensely sweet aroma filled the hospital room while doctors were performing a bone-marrow biopsy on him.

“I asked the doctor if he smelled the same sweet scent, and he said he had,” Tom said. “But no one could figure out where it came from. We were baffled.”

“Shortly afterward, the disease began to mysteriously disappear.

“When I was fully recovered, my wife and I started doing some research into the possibility of a miracle. And believe me, I’m no saint.

“We discovered that the overpowering scent could be the sign of a miracle by Padre Pio, an Italian Catholic priest who is in the process of canonization for sainthood.

“I believe now that I was cured through his intercession. I wasn’t predisposed to thinking about the signs of miracles when it happened. It was the furthest thing from my mind!”

The memory of Tom always revisits at Christmastime.

And all the in-between times, too.

So Merry Christmas and the hope for science and the miraculous to erase the scourge of COVID-19 next year.

Sneedlings . . .

Saturday birthdays: Jared Leto, 49; Alexander Wang, 37; and Kit Harington, 34. . . . Sunday birthdays: Chloe Bridges, 29; Shay Mooney, 29; and Bill Goldberg, 54.

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