It was on this date, 18 years ago, when this story started. What’s recorded here is a synopsis. I’ve written the full version as a chapter in my upcoming book. But I wanted to share this short version to mark today’s anniversary.


It’s been a couple of months since the turn of the century, and I am living and working about an hour from my home town, sharing a house with a group of friends. On this particular weekend, I am staying with my parents for a long overdue catch up.

All afternoon, dad seems to be affected by an abnormal tiredness. On Sunday morning, despite an early night, it doesn’t seem to have dissipated. If anything, it’s worse.

Peeking my head around the bedroom door, I can see he’s struggling to move his right leg, and I speak out my suspicions.

Do you think you’ve had a stroke, dad?” I ask, “Should we call for a doctor?

When the paramedics arrive, they are apologetic about the delays and clear about the diagnosis. “You’ve had a Transient Ischemic Attack, a TIA,” they tell my dad, “It’s like a mini-stroke.” They recommend bed rest and a watching brief. “If you’re not feeling better by tomorrow morning, and if the movement in your right leg doesn’t improve, you’re going to need to call your GP.”

When it comes time for me to return to where I live, I leave reluctantly. It’s not easy seeing my dad looking so weak and fragile.


When the phone call comes through on Monday morning, I am back at work. During that Sunday night, dad has had a full stroke, possibly more than one. His blood pressure is dangerously high; he is experiencing chest pain; and he’s been blue lighted to hospital. Please can I get there as soon as I can? 

My boss immediately releases me and I get in my car and do an about turn, driving back the way I came only yesterday, as fast as I can, as safely as I can. My prayers take on a sense of urgency. I can’t stop the tears.

Everything seems to be operating in slow motion. How can so much have changed in just 48 hours?

I find dad sitting up in an old fashioned metal framed hospital bed, wearing his old plaid pyjamas. He tries to greet me, but his speech is slightly slurred and he can’t lift his right arm. He seems to be overwhelmed by absolute exhaustion. It’s even more pronounced than the tiredness I’ve witnessed over the previous two days while I’ve been with him. He says it’s unlike anything he’s ever experienced before. All he wants to do is sleep.

I feel completely numb and, in a state of shock, I sit with him and pray with him. Literally overnight, there’s been a reversal of the generations, and I can feel myself fighting it. It’s not meant to be like this. It’s happening too soon. He’s only 60.


The doctor suggests a game of Solitaire. “It will test your dexterity,” he tells dad. “It will show me how your right hand has been affected.” Obediently, dad tries with his right hand and fails miserably. Then he tries with his left hand, but he’s not left handed and never has been.

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this,” the doctor says, “but you’re never going to be able to write again.”

The stroke has been sudden and unexpected. The whole of his right hand side feels like a dead weight. To be followed so soon by this pronouncement is devastating. Lying in his hospital bed, dad cries out to the Lord in utter desperation. He has never experienced such a low in all his life. He is a university professor. Books. Articles. Papers. Essays. He writes all of them long hand, with his right hand. Writing is part of his identity.

When mum visits the ward, later that day, she brings him a fresh stash of cards and letters. One by one, he opens them, and then he begins to cry. In message after message, his Christian friends and acquaintances are pointing him towards Isaiah 41 v.13:

For I am the LORD your God, who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you’.

It’s a Scripture that couldn’t be clearer. God is promising him, right there and then, that he is will take hold of his right hand and help him. Whatever the doctors might be pronouncing over him, God is countering their words.


Dad has tests, the results of which show he has a tumour on his adrenal gland. It should be benign, but they can’t be certain. What’s clear is that this will have been part of the cause of the stroke.

Having none of it, dad has asked the church leadership to visit him in hospital, to pray for him and anoint him with oil. A nurse sets aside a hospital room and dad is pushed into it in a wheelchair.

Claiming spiritual authority in the room, the vicar places his right hand on dad’s back as near to his adrenal gland as is possible and, full of faith, he begins to pray. “Father God,” he says, out loud, “We pray for healing and health, and we ask you for full recovery from this stroke. Please take the tumour off the adrenal gland now, in the name of Jesus.

The vicar picks up the anointing oil and continues, as dad sits back in his wheelchair. “I anoint you now with the sign of the cross in the name of Jesus,” he declares, ever so softly, making the sign of a cross on his forehead with his thumb and forefinger, each covered with a thin film of oil.

Immediately and instantaneously, dad experiences an intensely hot burning sensation in his back, and he knows the Holy Spirit is touching him. Before he’s even able to express what’s happening to him, the tears well up from nowhere and he begins to cry.


I don’t understand. Something must have gone wrong with the tests.” The endocrinologist is clearly baffled. “See, here is your Xray and here are your text results,” he says, peering over his glasses, and pointing to the Xray and the piece of paper, held, overlapping, in his other hand. “For some utterly inexplicable reason, they are both completely clear.”

Looking the endocrinologist straight in the eye, dad says calmly, “My church leaders prayed for me and anointed me with oil, in the name of Jesus. I felt a burning sensation and I believe God healed me. The fact you can’t find the tumour is evidence that He has, indeed, healed me.”

The consultant, an expert in his field, has never heard anything like this in his life before. He stops and stares, wide eyed, as he listens to dad’s explanation, clearly confused.

I’ve never come across a tumour just disappearing without trace,” he muses, pausing for a moment, before finishing with a flourish. “This is quite remarkable!


It’s a sunny Sunday morning in early autumn, six months on from the stroke, and dad is standing in a stream of sunlight, at the front of the church that he and mum have attended for decades. Placing his Bible open in front of him on the lectern, and leaning heavily on his stick, he reads from Isaiah 41 v.13 and testifies to those who are listening.

 … The Lord is my God,” he declares with confidence. “He has taken hold of my right hand. He told me not to fear because He would help me, and He has taken away my fear and He has helped me. I am right handed, and I was told that I would never write again, but God has taken hold of my right hand and helped me to write … “


[Photo via Pixabay]


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