The Miracle That Could Not Be Told
by Deacon Daniel Dauvin, TOSF
After our wedding in San Francisco on December 21, 1970, my wife, Mary, and I decided to go on retreat to study Scripture, to learn more about our Catholic faith and to pray more deeply to find out God’s will for our lives. We simply did not wish to jump into the cycle of modern day life that is : get married, have children, buy a house, get a car, and continue keeping up with the Jones’ and the rat race we call civilization. We wanted to stop, look at our lives, speak to God and to listen to His Spirit while communing with His wonderful creation.
I was born near Leoville, Saskatchewan and Mary is from Hilbert, Wisconsin. After a fruitless search to find a place of retreat, I jokingly suggested to Mary the possibility of making our retreat in a cabin my brother and I had built in northern Canada. It was situated across the lake from the Chipewyan village of Turnor Lake. This was in the wilderness of northern Saskatchewan where the weather gets very, very cold compared to Wisconsin winter weather.
Mary’s response to my suggestion was, “If it is God’s will, I’ll go. Let’s try it.” I admired her courage and desire to do God’s will whatever the cost. It was indeed a step in faith for her, though less so for me because I was born in this kind of country. However, God richly blessed this decision.
In the winter of 1971, we were living in our isolated cabin when on , some people from the native village of Turnor Lake came to our cabin. They were wondering if we were still alive since we hadn’t come to town in a long while. Because of the weather few of the villagers had venture out to trap, hunt or fish that winter, and none had come out for a visit. According to the Oblate priest, it was the coldest winter in forty years.
They finally sent someone out to our cabin to check on us using, as their transportation, an old yellow beetle-shaped bombardiers with skis and tracts, common in the North before the coming of the skidoo or snowmobile. When they arrived in our bay and saw no tracks on the lake, they feared we were in trouble or perhaps dead.
Hearing the vehicle come in the bay I ran down the hill from the cabin and waved them in. Satisfied that we seemed in good health, they agreed to come back a few days later to take us to town for Christmas. We were able to attend the Mass in La Loche a neighbouring town, about an hour away by road. The next day we returned to Turnor Lake Village by car. Fr. Bertrand Mathieu OMI celebrated another mass for the people there of Turnor Lake. We counted ourselves fortunate in having the opportunity to be present at two masses at Christmas. Our spiritual cup was overflowing as we eagerly walked back to our solitary cabin across the lake .
However , on , Mary was really sick. She was aching all over and could barely get out of bed to go to the bathroom. We concluded that she had probably caught some bug during our visit to civilization. Since her father had warned me that his daughter had weak lungs I was very concerned for her health. Ordinarily, down south, for this kind of illness, she would need to see a doctor and be given antibiotics. Unfortunately, our only form of transportation was walking and Mary couldn’t leave the cabin. This was a moment I dreaded but had shoved in the back of my mind and given it to the Lord. I suggested calling her father on the Ham radio. He could then phoned someone in Saskatoon who could call the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to send for help, get her medicine or transport her to the nearest doctor in Ile la Crosse some 120 miles away.
It was precisely for emergencies like this that Mary’s father, Mr. Greve had come all the way from Wisconsin by airline to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and by car from Saskatoon to Buffalo Narrows, then by bush plane with skis to our cabin, in order to install a transceiver Ham radio and aerial at the cabin. He wanted to make certain that Mary had access to the outside world. Unfortunately, when we needed help the most, nobody was there to answer our call. Mr. and Mrs. Greve had gone on their Christmas holidays to Las Vegas and were also visiting family.
I looked across the big lake towards the tiny village of Turnor Lake but couldn’t see it. It was cold and a wind was blowing. There was about a foot of snow on the lake and more snow seemed to be coming. The weather was unpredictable. I was reluctant to leave Mary practically helpless and alone in the cabin while I walked for help. What if something happened to me or to her? What if a stranger with bad intentions would visit while I was gone? It was very cold! Would she be able to keep the fire going? What if she got much worse while I was gone? Had I brought my wife out into the wilderness to die? All these questions ran through my mind. With an anguished heart I turned to God, .“Lord, we came out here to get to know you and to do your will. It was for you that we came. Please, you’ve got to help us now, Lord. What should I do? I also wondered why we had not been able to contact anyone by Ham radio to ask for help. Was God calling us to a greater step in faith or in greater suffering?
Since I couldn’t bring myself to leaving Mary by herself I made the decision to stay. I would care for her myself as best I could. I went back to the cabin and said, “I am staying here, Mary. Let’s pray for warmer weather.” That night we both slept in peace.
The next day something had happened. The sun was shining outside. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I looked at the thermometer. It had jumped by some 50 and 60 degree Fahrenheit overnight. Grateful tears flowed. The weather remained that way for several more days. At one point, it went up to a phenomenal 25 above zero. Unheard of this far north, especially in month of January. During this time Mary somehow recovered and there was no need of medicine or doctors. We saw this sudden change in the weather and Mary’s healing as a sign of God’s providential love for us. God had actually answered our prayer. We were ecstatic. It changed everything, especially the way we read Scripture.
Stories like the Crossing of the Red Sea by Moses and other such miracles in the Bible had appeared to us as simply pious exaggerations, but now they seemed more believable. We had experienced how God had actually changed the weather for a couple of insignificant human beings or rather nincompoops like us. Could he not do much more for the whole Jewish nation in the desert. From that time on we began to pray with more faith once we realized that anything is possible with God. There is no limit to His power. After this experience had sunk in we realized, we were reading Sacred Scripture with a greater reverence, with a deeper humility and with a childlike simplicity and devotion.
To bring home the greatness of this miraculous event, the weather turned cold again. Bitter cold. Less than two weeks later, on January 14, 1971, the temperature plummeted to -65 Fahrenheit. The villagers were able to verify this. To us it seemed clear that God wanted us to trust in Him and in Him alone. He was taking care of us.
Something else happened during Mary’s sickness. A great gift was given to us, the gift of working together as heralds of God. He had shown us the direction for our life as a couple. Seeing Mary was so sick, I wanted to console her by singing a song I had composed shortly before our wedding in San Francisco. It was a song entitled “Little Children”. In this song Christ is speaking to us.
LITTLE CHILDREN (A song for the healing of hearts.)
Little children, come to me, Give me all and then be free.
For the gift that I give, Is a life for you to live.
O weary ones, go to sleep, Though your pains do look deep,
For the reason that I came, Was to cure the sick and lame.
O the hope of your heart is not in vain,
Though the depth of your love will cause you pain.
Lift your hearts, little ones: My sweet daughters, My dear sons.
For the burning that you feel Is My love in you that heals.
Son of God, Son of Man, I came down to lend a hand.
And My voice within your soul Will lead you onward to your goal.
Refrain O the hope of your heart...
Little children, come to Me, Give Me all and then be free.
For the gift that I give Is a life for you to live.
Mary loved the song and wondered where I had gotten it. She didn’t know I wrote songs. After she had recovered completely, she put chords to it and sang it with the guitar. We began doing music together. Soon many other songs came. A little tape recorder and microphone on the ceiling log was our recording studio. Music was to become an important part of our work in the missions.
Because Mary’s parents would have been too worried about us if we told them exactly what happened, we agreed not to include in the next letter the desperate straits we had been in. Instead we emphasized the warm weather and play down Mary’s condition, otherwise they would have insisted that we leave the cabin and come back to civilization. This we did not want to do because we treasured each day of solitude in our little log cabin on a lonely bay, as we sang the praises of God through song and while studying the Gospels and communing with God and the harmony of His creation.
Nevertheless, in order not to tempt God or push our luck, as some would say, I made certain we wouldn’t be caught in a situation like this again. We needed to have reliable transportation to town, so I got a dog team and toboggan. Now the one who was injured or sick could ride the toboggan while the other mushed the four dogs.
This extraordinary change in the weather was always a reminder to us that God loves us and He is to be trusted no matter what the circumstances may be. All things are possible with God and no prayer is too big or too small for Him.
Little did we realize at the time that our family of six (two boys and two girls) would become heralds of God as a Franciscan musical, missionary family, singing His praises wherever we went under the patronage of His Holy Mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe. To Him alone belongs the glory.
Note: Mary and I spent our 32 years of marriage trusting in God and working in the Canadian missions She died of cancer in 2002. I dedicated this story to her. May God bless her soul.
+God bless you all.
by Deacon Daniel Dauvin, TOSF