Rose was the youngest of the seven Johnson children, born late in her parents’ life, and named after the roses that bloomed in the front yard. This unexpected addition to the family seemed to everyone like a miracle. The entire household took delight in her every coo.
On a May afternoon in 1935, when Rose was 10 months old, she’d been down for her nap longer than usual. “I’ll go check on her,” Mrs. Johnson said to the other children.
Her eldest daughter, Bessie, followed her mother into the baby’s room, where Mrs. Johnson leaned over the crib and laid a hand on the child’s forehead. “This baby is burning up,” she said.
“I’ll call the doctor,” Bessie said. At 17, she felt old enough to be the baby’s mother herself, and had taken a special interest in her welfare and upbringing from the moment the child was born.
The Johnsons lived on the edge of a small town in the Texas Panhandle, and it took some time before the country doctor arrived. He pressed a stethoscope to Baby Rose’s chest, listened, and frowned. “She has pneumonia in both lungs,” he said. Bessie looked terrified. Pneumonia? That could be deadly!
“There’s not much I can do for her, except come back every day and check on her,” the doctor said. “Let’s hope she starts showing signs of improvement.”
But Baby Rose didn’t improve. Every day when the country doctor came and listened to her lungs he would sigh and shake his head.
Every night the whole family gathered around the crib and prayed for Baby Rose. The little ones didn’t understand the danger, but Bessie was bracing herself for the worst.
Then one morning Bessie went to Rose’s crib and found her body contorted. Bessie couldn’t wake her. “Mama!” she cried out. Mrs. Johnson had fallen asleep in a chair by the crib. She jumped up to see. “Oh, Lord,” she said. “Go get the doctor. Quick!”
The doctor came, but there was little he could do. “She has spinal meningitis,” he said. By then Rose’s breathing was labored. “She’s in a coma. She may not recover, and if she does she’ll spend her life in a wheelchair.”
“God, let Rose get well, even if she’ll need a wheelchair,” Bessie said.
“We’ll take care of her no matter what,” one little brother promised.
“Just don’t take her away from us!” another brother said.
Every passing day the doctor kept up his visits and neighbors brought food and poultices. The family prayed little Rose would survive. Bessie perhaps prayed hardest of all.
She didn’t stop praying, either, the day the doctor told the family that Baby Rose was dying. “She’ll probably pass sometime this evening,” he said.
That night the Johnson family ate dinner in silence. As she was helping with the dishes Bessie looked out the kitchen window. “Storm’s coming, Mama,” she said. In the Texas Panhandle that was no small announcement.
Within 30 minutes wind beat the shutters against the house, and long fingers of lightning ignited the sky. First it rained, and then it hailed, golf-ball sized pieces of ice falling from heaven.
Normally a storm of this magnitude would have the whole house in an uproar–the younger kids crying, the parents wondering if it was time to head to the tornado cellar in the backyard. But everyone’s heart was so heavy about Rose that nothing else seemed to matter.
The family sat in the living room and Rose’s mother kept watch by the crib. They barely noticed the chunks of ice battering the roof, or the wind howling at the door.
In typical Texas fashion, the storm passed as quickly as it had arrived. The rain and hail stopped abruptly, and in minutes the sky was clear and calm. That’s when Bessie heard her mother running through the house.
“Our baby is well!” Mrs. Johnson shouted out. “Our baby is well!” Everyone ran into Rose’s room and peered into the crib. She lay straight on her back, eyes wide open.
When the country doctor arrived the next morning he had no explanation for Rose’s rapid turnaround. “That’s not entirely true,” he said. “There is one explanation, and he sits on his throne in heaven.”
Bessie thought back to the storm. It had arrived out of nowhere just when Baby Rose was about to slip away.
It was as if every drop of rain, every piece of hail, every gust of wind had carried angels descending onto a small patch of the Texas Panhandle to witness the miracle healing of a baby whose very birth had been a miracle. God’s second miracle for a family who loved their Baby Rose above all else.
Rose went on to lead a long, healthy life, never suffering any symptoms from her pneumonia and spinal meningitis. Never needing a wheelchair as the doctor had predicted. Never tiring of hearing the story of her healing from her sister Bessie, especially, who never tired of telling it at every Johnson family gathering.
And though it was long, long ago that angels came for a baby during a ferocious storm, I know this story to be true. You see, I am Rose. I am that miracle baby.
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