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A Father's Forgiveness
I picked up Dick Musielak at the Nashville airport on a Wednesday evening around 7:30 p.m. He had flown in from Houston to be interviewed for the film we were making for TLC (The Learning Channel) on the subject of modern-day miracles. We had dinner that evening in a nice Italian restaurant. I traditionally like to share a meal with people whose stories we will be filming so that we can get to know each other. This allows them to get beyond the first blush of telling what are often some very personal details and gives me a chance to connect with them, eye to eye.
I had first read about Dick's experience in Joan Wester Anderson's book Where Miracles Happen, and by the time I met him we had already talked on the phone at length. Still, as we waited for dinner, breathing in the aroma of roast garlic and oregano, I asked Dick if he would go over his story one more time to prepare for our filming the next day.
The Beloved Son
It had been a balmy Friday night in Houston, Texas, when twenty-three-year-old Paul Musielak swung into a local convenience store on his way home from a friend's house. He parked in his usual spot and had no sooner gotten out of his car and turned around when--wham! From out of nowhere he was broadsided across the head with a blunt object. Repeated bursts of pain to the face and head blurred the image of the two thugs who brutally pummeled him into the pavement. Paul's bloody body was left lying in the parking lot--the unfortunate victim of a random attack.
Upon news of his son's attack, Dick Musielak rushed to the hospital to be at his side. As he entered the room and caught sight of Paul, Dick was stopped cold in his tracks.
"I couldn't believe what I saw," Dick recalls. "Paul's eyes were bleeding . . . They were so swollen shut and out of proportion that he looked like some strange creature--literally out to here." Dick put a fist to each of his eyes to demonstrate the appalling swelling he had witnessed. "And blood all over his face," he continued. "Paul looked like a piece of raw meat that had just been slaughtered . . . and no one knew yet if his vision would be permanently damaged." He had multiple contusions on his face. Along with a fractured nose and orbital bone, X rays also showed a skull fracture. Doctors suspected that Paul may have suffered brain damage.
Because Paul had received a trauma to the head he was not allowed any pain medication even though he was still conscious. Dick stood by helplessly, watching his precious son suffer in excruciating pain. As endless moments slowly ticked by, one question rolled over and over in his mind: Who would do this to my boy? Neither the police nor Paul could offer any clues as to why he had been attacked.
In a daze, Dick left the hospital and headed for home. As he drove, a smoldering anger ignited and began to burn within him. He became obsessed with finding the men who had hurt his son. Not only was he going to catch them, Dick was going to make them pay for the pain they had caused. He planned carefully how he would find them and break their kneecaps before turning them over to authorities.
He awoke early Saturday morning, exhausted after a restless night, but more than ready to begin his search for the two hoodlums. He tacked up wanted posters in the neighborhood where the crime had occurred. He talked to people on the street, offering rewards for information leading to the two men's capture. Dick did everything he could think of. But by day's end he still had nothing. Nothing except an all-consuming desire for revenge. This was further heightened by a visit to the hospital to see Paul that afternoon. The doctors reported there had been no improvement in his condition.
Sunday morning found Dick more determined than ever to catch those men. He explains, "I went to church with a baseball bat in my car."
He paid little attention to the sermon. Instead, his mind wandered throughout the service, and he visualized what he would like to do to these horrible thugs.
At some point, though, the minister's powerful words slowly began to seep in. Dick recalls, "Wouldn't you know it, the sermon that day was on forgiveness!"
The minister had been quoting Jesus' teachings, "Forgive your enemies and pray for those who mistreat you." Dick braced himself, holding firmly to his anger and almost said out loud, Not today, Lord.
But try as he might, Dick could not deny the message that was speaking directly to his heart. The words seemed to be aimed especially at him that morning, "--And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in Heaven may forgive you of your sins." Dick stopped for a moment. He closed his eyes. And as he did, the realization came that he could no longer pursue his vindictive behavior toward those men. He had to forgive them. Somewhere deep inside he knew that he could not ask God for his son's healing if he held bitterness toward the attackers.
And so he began to silently pray, Oh, God, help me. Help me to forgive those people, whoever they are. Please take these awful feelings from my heart . . . Alone in his pew, Dick Musielak sensed a wave of peace overcome him. And there was a tangible shift in his emotional state. Something in his heart was breaking loose, as if a curse had been lifted. And as he forgave the misguided men, tears of compassion welled up as he focused on new prayers for his son. He wept for his son, for the attackers, and at the Lord's ability to forgive.
After church Dick drove to the hospital to visit with Paul. As he exited the elevator, one of the nurses spotted him and said, "Mr. Musielak, it's your son, we don't know how to explain it . . ." Fearing something awful had happened, Dick immediately raced past her and down the hall to Paul's room. He was totally unprepared for the scene that awaited him as he entered.
There was Paul, sitting up in bed! Dick recollects, "The swelling had gone down and he had opened his eyes. That, in and of itself was a miracle." His eyes were only slightly bloodshot and there were no scars, scabs, or bruising. Nothing remained to indicate that he had been severely beaten just two days earlier. New X rays showed no sign of a fracture.
Astonished, he asked, "How can this be?"
No one in the hospital had an answer for him. The doctors just shook their heads in amazement.
On Monday Dick and his wife went back to the hospital to check the doctor's exit report for Paul. There it was in black and white. On Saturday's X ray was the evidence of a fractured skull and brain damage. On Monday there was no trace of any fracture at all. Whereas only two days earlier Paul had been treated for deep lacerations and was given the prognosis of certain disfigurement and possibly permanent blindness, he left the hospital as free of blemish as if nothing had ever happened.
As I paid our check and prepared to take Dick to his hotel, I puzzled over his amazing story. I asked myself, What kind of power had been released by the act of forgiveness in this miraculous healing? And not only the healing of the son's physical injuries, but of the even deeper ill that had been brewing in the heart of the father? This was just one of many questions we would need to address in the film Stories of Miracles, which we were producing for The Learning Channel.
Over the next several months, I would hear many other amazing stories. Little did I know, at the time, that the miraculous memories told by so many people would be transporting me back to my own earliest recollections, and then to a time long before that . . .