Updated on August 30, 2021
Doug Tales 29: Through Gratitude Comes My Peace
Doug Mendenhall shared openly in his writings about his reactions when his youngest daughter Denise went into a coma in 1999. At the time, the doctors at the hospital expected the worse, and Doug turned to God for help. The divine answer he received that night was not what he thought would happen, nor the other events that followed.
The following is an excerpt from Doug’s book, My Peace I Give Unto You (2001), on pages 56-65:
We left the conference room adjacent to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) in shock. The news the doctors had given us was bleak. They were very pessimistic. They didn’t expect [our ten year old daughter] Denise to live through the night. They tried to prepare us for the worst.
I was suffocating. I needed to leave the room, the hospital. I needed to talk to someone. I wanted to talk to my wife, Dianne, but our pain was the same and I knew I would break down if we talked.
“I’m gonna call Mike,” I said, “and see if he will come and give her another blessing.” Dianne nodded.
“I’ve got to get out of here, I’ve got to walk,” I told her.
Dianne headed to the PICU waiting room and her family. I stopped and turned to go to the lobby where I knew I would find a phone, and at this late hour, privacy.
“Doug . . . I’ll be in the waiting room with the family.” Dianne opened the door as I left.
I made my way down to the lobby, found a phone and dialed Mike.
“Hello?” a sleepy voice answered.
“Yeah . . . hey, I’m sorry to bother you so late, but I need a favor,” I said.
“No bother at all, Doug. How’s Denise?” Concern in his voice almost brought back the tears.
“She isn’t doing well at all. They said that she’s in a diabetic coma, that she suffered a massive stroke destroying two-thirds of the left side of her brain. They’re worried about the pressure in her skull building up . . .” I had to stop. I was choking on tears.
“Oh no, I’m so sorry, Doug. I take it that they’ve drained off the blood from the stroke that’s causing the pressure.”
“No, they said they couldn’t. The blood had started to congeal and couldn’t be drained off . . . they said they are just waiting and watching the pressure. If it gets too high she’ll die.” A chill froze me. She couldn’t die.
“How are you and Dianne doing?” His voice took on a greater concern.
“I don’t know, I don’t know what to do, what to say, I just don’t know. They said on the off chance that she does live through the night the best we can expect is for her to be . . . a . . . vegetable. I don’t know what to do,” I blurted out to my friend.
“Oh, Doug, I’m so sorry. What can I do for you?” His offer released more tears that raced down my cheeks.
“Can . . . you . . . come give . . . her . . . another blessing?” I sobbed.
“Sure, you bet I will. I’ll be there as soon as possible.”
I took strength from his voice.
“Thanks . . . I’ll meet you in the lobby.” I hung up.
I had to get out of the hospital.
I needed to walk, to think, to be outside.
I pushed through the revolving doors and found myself cloaked in a dark night. My breath created small, fragile clouds. If it was cold, I didn’t notice it, nor did I care. I walked.
“How could this happen, Father?” I pleaded, glancing up to the night stars.
“Father, Father,” I pleaded through frozen tears, “I don’t understand, please help me to understand, please help me. The pain and the fear are greater than I can bear . . . I’m so scared.” I stumbled forward a few steps.
“I need thee. Please . . . please help me . . . please heal Denise.” I fell to my knees and cried. My tears wet the sidewalk.
I stood after a time.
One step followed another and I found myself at the back of the hospital. Loneliness encompassed me.
“Father . . . please,” I started to plead again, begging for my daughter’s life.
The thought came, a thought that was more of a feeling.
My mind opened up to three months ago. I saw myself in the shower as all the hate and anger for Randy and Larry were taken from me.
“Father, there is no hate or anger in my heart. I’m just really scared, I can’t lose my daughter. The pain is too much. Please!”
Let not your heart be troubled or afraid.
It came again, more feeling than thought.
“How? Father, please . . .”
Through Gratitude comes My Peace.
It was unmistakable. I was supposed to be grateful. But, how could I be grateful for this? My little girl was going to die and I couldn’t stop it.
“Father in Heaven,” I began a prayer.
“I give thee . . . thanks . . . for,” I hesitated, distressed.
“I give unto thee thanks,” I started over, “for my daughter and her life.” Incredible pain filled me and forced me to my knees. Tears flowed as I thought of burying my little girl.
Somehow, I pushed the pain aside and continued.
“I give thee thanks, Father, for this . . . experience, for the pain and fear I feel.”
As the last word left my lips, the fear melted; the pain left.
I caught my breath. A sensation, like being doused by ice water, enveloped me. I shivered. Warmth, beautiful warmth, began in my toes and filled my entire body, to the top of my head.
Peace filled my heart. The warmth ushered in Peace. He gave me Peace. A Peace more profound than what I had experienced in the shower. A Peace that filled my soul to bursting, that left room for nothing else. Tears fell again, but this time they were tears of joy, of comfort.
Instantly, I knew all was well. It didn’t matter if my little girl died or lived. I accepted, no, I agreed with whatever the outcome was to be. I knew no doubt, all was in His hands; the hands of my Lord and Savior. If my daughter died it was His will. If she lived as a vegetable it was His will. If she recovered it was His will. I was at peace — I accepted completely His will in all that happened.
I started walking again. I was filled with Peace, marveling at His love.
I found myself back by the revolving doors of the hospital just as Mike appeared from the parking lot…
“Doug, is that you?” Mike asked. “It’s freezing out here, where’s your coat?”
“Coat? I don’t know.” I answered. “I didn’t even realize that it was cold until you mentioned it.”
“Doug, are you okay?”
“Yeah, I am now.”
“Has something happened since we talked? Has Denise’s condition changed?” he questioned.
“No, nothing’s changed . . . and yet Mike, everything’s changed.” He looked puzzled.
“I don’t understand, Doug.”
“It’s okay. Let’s go give Denise a blessing.” I headed to the revolving doors of the hospital.
We entered and made our way up to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit waiting room where Dianne’s family surrounded her. Her face was buried in her hands; she was crying. I needed to share my experience with her. I wanted to tell her that it was all right, that Denise was in the hands of the Lord and that whatever happened was fine. I wanted to tell her that all my pain had been taken away and I was at Peace.
Because of the people with us, I couldn’t tell her. Something so choice, so special couldn’t be blurted out in a crowd, even if it was family.
“Um . . . is anybody in with Denise?” I asked. The hospital only let two in at a time to be with her.
“No.” Dianne’s father responded.
“Okay then, Mike and I are going in to give Denise a blessing. We’ll be right back.” Dianne looked up at me. Her eyes reflected what I felt. There was no fear or pain, just love.
I wanted — I needed to talk to her.
Much later that night, after all our family and friends had finally left the hospital, we were given a small room off the PICU waiting room to sleep. There was one bed and a small cot.
I finally had the chance to share with Dianne all that had happened to me as I walked around the hospital. To my amazement and relief, Dianne recounted her own experience with being blessed with that same Peace that I had. Our hearts opened to one another as we both expressed our surety that whatever happened was His will and was fine.
Very seldom in a marriage does a couple get the opportunity to join as one soul so completely as we did that early morning. We were truly one with our Savior and our Father in Heaven; one in heart and mind and joy and Peace!
We knelt down as one to offer up our gratitude and love for God in prayer. The prayer we shared was of complete oneness, for though the words came from my mouth, they were His. We were one together in Him…
“Daddy . . . I’m . . . hungry.”
I thought I was dreaming when Denise opened and closed her eyes moments earlier. It had been three days since she went into the coma, since they said she would die, since they said if she lived she would never walk or talk again. Now she opened her eyes. Now she spoke to me!
“I love you, Denise!” I said, with tears falling on my cheeks.
“I . . . love . . . you, . . . too.” She closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep. Her breathing seemed to ease.
“Did she just speak?!” A passing nurse grabbed my arm.
“Yes, she said she was hungry.” I smiled at the nurse, wiping away the tears from my cheeks.
“Mary, quickly page Dr. Withers! The Mendenhall girl woke up!” She threw the command to the passing receptionist, dropping my arm and grabbing at another passing nurse.
I only caught bits and pieces of the conversation but it became obvious that they realized a miracle had just taken place.
I now knew my Father’s will.
Through the defining doors of pain and tragedy He had given Dianne and me the miracle of His Peace. Now He blessed us with a second miracle; He gave us back Denise.
There is a place I retreat to from time to time; a place where I can ponder the defining moments of my life. It was there that I went to think and pray while Denise lay comatose.
As I pondered the majesty of His peace, I knew that it was this Peace I wanted every day of my life. I knew that to find His Peace I needed to understand it.