The symbol of Easter from a worldly perspective is the Easter bunny, and from the Christian perspective it's the Cross. Both symbols hold significance for me.
Around Easter when I was seven years old, I was, as usual, in church on a Sunday evening. I sat on the edge of the pew swinging my legs, as seven-year-olds do. However, at the end of the service, I tried to stand but couldn't--my legs buckled under me. I had an odd feeling of pain and heat in my ankles and knees, and I didn't like it. My mom carried me to the car. I didn't know that this was just the beginning of a week that would remain forever in my memory.
As soon as our family doctor had examined me, he sent me straight to Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C. He suspected rheumatic fever was the culprit.
Rheumatic fever first attacks the joints, causing inflammation. Most patients who survive rheumatic fever in childhood are left with damaged hearts.
Our doctor's original suspicion was confirmed--I was checked into the hospital with an acute case of rheumatic fever, apparently brought on by an earlier strep infection, which had been treated with antibiotics. Coincidentally, a team of seven doctors and research specialists were at work in that very hospital, undertaking a project on rheumatic fever. I was an interesting case study for them because my illness progressed unusually rapidly. I just remember lots of people standing around my bed in a circle talking about me as if I weren't there.
As the week wore on, I began to wish I really wasn't there. The pain was unbearable. Movement aggravated the already inflamed joints, and being absolutely still was a tall order for a seven-year-old. The terrible pain and heat that started in my ankles and knees progressed to my hips, and by midweek attacked my arms and shoulders. A hand held a few inches above my knee could feel heat as if I had a bad sunburn, but the heat came from deep in my joints. I remember that Wednesday night clearly. Any movement set off a new shock wave of pain. I cried and screamed for someone to help me until late in the night, when I was finally sedated.
In just three days, the disease had enveloped every joint in my body, and I was in serious to critical condition. If the illness did not stop its onslaught, I could expect heart damage or even death.
Meanwhile, on the home front, my church gathered for the usual Wednesday evening prayer service, but this time they had an urgent request--the pastor's daughter was seriously ill. Unless the progress of the disease was stopped, she would likely not survive. They prayed.
Later that night, my mom, like Jacob, struggled with the Lord. Finally, she prayed those words most Christian parents dread, "She's Yours. I dedicated her to You. Take her if it's Your will." She was immediately filled with a sense of peace--not a knowledge that I would live or die, only God's "peace that passes understanding." We believe that I finally fell asleep that night about the same time she gave my future to God.
Thursday morning, the rheumatic fever was gone. All traces of the disease had vanished.
My medical research team was surprised--so much so that they kept me in the hospital through Saturday morning trying to figure out what had happened. The poking and prodding when I was sick was nothing compared to what I went through after I was healed.
And that is exactly what happened--I was miraculously healed overnight, with only a wobbly walk for a few hours. When Mom came in to see me, I was bouncing on the bed. I had none of the usual residual signs of rheumatic fever--no heart troubles, nothing--just a complete healing. My parents knew it; my church family knew it. Somehow everyone had a very firm grip on this fact except the medical experts. They would not accept the fact that God heals and, particularly, that He had healed me. Finally, they decided that I had not had rheumatic fever at all and removed it from my medical records. The original diagnosis was changed to "migratory juvenile rheumatism."
On Saturday morning, I was released. When I got home, I found a pink stuffed rabbit from a special friend at church. I named it Bunny Bunny (give me a break, I was seven). I still have that rabbit. It's in appalling condition. The fur is dirty, one of the legs hangs at an uncomfortable-looking angle (the result of some battle with a sibling), and, if it tips over, the head falls off, leaving what looks like a bent coat hanger coming up out of the body! Nevertheless, Bunny Bunny is precious to me. She represents life.
On that Easter long ago, God gave me a special gift. This Easter, I will gently pick up Bunny Bunny and thank Jesus for His death on the Cross that made not only my healing possible, but gave me new life in Him.