On his first trip home in Akron, Ohio, he sat with his mom at their kitchen table and told her the story of that rescue. She listened intently, tears in her eyes. When he got to the part about the rubber life belt saving his life by keeping him afloat even after he wanted to give up, he jumped up from his chair, ran to his duffle bag and came back to the table holding it out for her to see.
The expression on his mom’s face changed. “Could I see that belt just a second?” she asked. He handed it to her and she turned it over — inside out — as she said, almost in a whisper, “Look son. So I felt I was helping the war effort, I went to work at Firestone making equipment to be used by our troops.” As she turned it over, sure enough, the stamp said it had been made in the very same factory where his mom worked. And then — in a voice so faint and trembly — she pointed to the next line. There were a bunch of numbers. “Those numbers were my ID numbers. Son, I made the very rubber life belt that, halfway around the world and under the worst of predicaments, saved your life. It is like I put my arms around you and kept you safe all the way from Ohio.”
The son’s mouth fell open, speechless. His eyes filled with tears. He tried to say something to her and could not. He simply got up from his chair in the kitchen he knew so well, walked quickly to where his mom sat. He took her two hands, pulled her to her feet and put his arms around her, resting his head on top of hers.
There were no words for such a “miracle moment” but he realized there was no need for words. The two — mother and son — arms around each other tightly and together they gently swayed back and forth for a long, long time.
Now, how is that for a miracle? How could such an amazing thing even happen that among thousands of young sailors using thousands of those rubber life belts, that Elgin would be issued the very one his own mother made and inspected? But it really happened and they had the proof right in their hands!
Oh, I believe in miracles. I believe they happen in all different places under all kinds of situations. I do not believe in coincidences and I do not believe we create them. And I believe that mothers bring life into the world and they sustain these lives for the rest of the lives of both the mother and the child. I believe that a mother’s love is as close to unconditional love as we are capable of.
When I read this true story, I got this image in my head of a mom standing and holding a life belt out, offering life and stretching as far out as possible. And then I see a young man about to lose his life. When he sees his beloved mother, he, too, stretches as far as possible to receive her never-failing, ever sustaining love and safety.
You know what? I honestly believe that just below God’s love for His children is a mother’s love for her children. Actually, I see them together in my heart and this story is as good an example of this as I know. Miracles. Maybe, love is the miracle and God manifests them to remind us of it.
The view from the mountains is wondrous.
PS — A personal note: This same story can be found in the Chicken Soup for the Veteran’s Soul. Elgin Staples himself wrote and submitted it on page 38. My own story, “The Doorman,” appears in the same book on page 273. I feel honored to be in the same book with this hero.