Molly (my great-aunt), my great-grandmother Ethel ("Nan") holding Arthur, and my grandmother Alice
Molly (my great-aunt), my great-grandmother Ethel (“Nan”) holding Arthur, and my grandmother Alice

I come from a long line of women with a deep belief in the healing power of prayer. Not showy televangelist healing, with its throw-aside-your-crutches-and-walk theatrics— but rather a quiet, healing-begins-from-within kind of faith rooted in Anglican doctrine, and a hint of British stiff upper lip.

That is not to say my foremothers didn’t believe in miracles. My own journeys into illness and back have taught me that there is as much mystery as there is science involved in the practice of medicine. Even so, sometimes the miracle comes too late.

Arthur with his mother, my great-grandmother
Arthur with Nan

I cannot imagine any wound deeper than the loss of a child. My great-uncle Arthur was only 12 years old when he succumbed to what his generation called “sugar diabetes.” His mother, my great-grandmother, was devastated by the death of her youngest, and her only son. No other loss could come close to the agony of watching her boy suffer such an end. As Arthur died, Nan prayed.

And prayed. When the time had come when she could no longer pray for Arthur to be healed, she prayed on from the depths of her grief and depression. But rather than praying for healing of her own wounds, she prayed for others. Nan’s prayer was for a miracle of medical science—a treatment for this dreadful disease that had stolen her son, so that other sons and daughters would not need to die, and other mothers would be spared such crushing grief.Arthur Thring_0004 (2)

Arthur died in 1921. The answer to Nan’s prayer came to her first in a dream in the weeks following his death. In her dream—a public announcement of the discovery of a new medicine for the treatment of diabetes.

Two weeks later—this time for real— a newspaper article heralded the groundbreaking work of Banting and Best, and the first successful clinical trial of insulin in the treatment of diabetes.

Arthur Thring_0008 (2)Arthur Thring_0001 (2)


7 thoughts on “Arthur

  1. How terrible for your great-grandmother to see her son die…and then witness the cure invented not long after. I fear many modern parents have forgotten how common an experience it was. So many I know refuse to allow their children to be immunized, and have no sound reason for their decision….just Internet rumours or ignorance.

  2. I can’t imagine such a horrible loss and hope I never have to. Too bad it was too late for Arthur. But Insulin really was (and still is) a groundbreaking therapy.

  3. Natalie DeYoung

    I love all the old pictures in this! I also love the stories of old, how we do what we can in the absence of any other options.

  4. Pingback: A healthy dose of disagreement | Muddy River Muse

  5. Gloria

    Beautifully written. I wonder if prayer works more for the person doing the praying, because people who have lots of people praying for them still die. When reading a news story about 2 or more people involved in an accident, and all were hurt, and sent to the hospital, and a family member of one of the survivors says something about prayer working, I always wonder how that makes the people who lost their family member feel, when they also prayed.

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