Who Willed a Miracle
(Click on the title above for a link
to used copies available at Amazon.com)
I’m no movie critic, but if my opinion counts for anything and if you do occasionally watch movies, you will want to watch The Woman Who Willed a Miracle. You’ll have to work to find a copy. It’s one of those after-school special, made for TV movies from 1983, but copies can be had.
Mine arrived in the mail not too long ago. I half-expected it to be a poorly written dramatization of a true story. I didn’t expect to have much in common with the mother as she was an adoptive mother who agreed to raise a child with multiple physical and developmental difficulties. I noticed that the movie won 4 Emmy Awards. Still skeptical, I inserted the cassette and watched Cloris Leachmen (she portrayed May Lemke) blow all of my misconceptions away.
May and Joe Lemke have already raised their family and are nearing retirement when they get a message from the nearby hospital asking if they will take a blind infant to raise. The hospital doesn’t expect the infant to live beyond the week. They know that May is a former nanny and trained in nursing. The Lemkes agree to open their hearts and home to a little boy who looks like a hopeless case to everyone else.
May and Joe trust that the heart knows things that the intellect of men cannot conceive. Their unreserved faithfulness, investing their time, energies and resources into a child that – from outward appearances – cannot perceive or return their love is nothing less than amazing.
I won’t give away too much of the story, but I will share with you some of the scenes that most spoke to me:
- When the infant is given to May, the nurse insists on relating the doctors’ findings and prognosis BEFORE this mother is given a chance to even get to know the 6 month old. While she is still reeling from the baby’s appearance and unresponsiveness, this new mother gathers her wits enough to inform the nurse that, “No one comes to May’s house to die!”
- The scenes from the first 24 hours in their home. Painstakingly this mother places nourishment on the baby’s tongue, massages his throat and teaches him how to move his muscles to swallow. This was before infant G.I. tubes and this exhausting vigil was what saved Leslie’s life. He would have starved if she had not taught him how to eat. I remember a similar time when Z-man was first born.
- Well-meaning neighbors, friends and doctors do their best to convince May not to waste her energies on this ‘hopeless’ case. May and her husband Joe selflessly continue to give of themselves even when no one else is willing to look for evidence of progress. They are constantly finding ways to stimulate Leslie mentally and physically.
- Joe’s protectiveness of May and his devotion to his son are both understated and inspiring. Despite exhaustion and no reason to hope for progress, Joe is unflinching in his support and help to give this child every reason to succeed.
- Leslie’s response when May asks him, “What is love?” I won’t spoil it by telling you. Just keep a tissue ready.
Of course, you’ll not be able to watch the movie without wondering what happened to the family. I can tell you that May and Joe have both passed. Even though May suffered with Alzheimer’s at the last, neither she nor Joe was placed in a care facility. They died (Joe before May) in the care of loving family. Leslie lives with Mary, May & Joe’s youngest daughter. He has never been institutionalized.
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for more information on Leslie Lemke: