‘For the Unbelieving Husband’

By Marc Massery

For 20 years, Susan Liljedahl of Fairfield, Iowa, had been away from the Sacraments. But after she started praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet — and witnessing miracles — she came back to the Church.

 Even though Susan was raised Catholic in an Italian-American family, when she married her husband, Keith, a professed atheist, she stopped going to Mass. “Though I didn’t go to church, I still prayed the Rosary. … Jesus was still in my heart. He’s always with me. I know this because He answered my prayers,” she said.

 In March 2014, Susan stumbled upon a pamphlet about the Divine Mercy Chaplet in the student center at the university where she worked. About a year later, Valentine’s Day 2015, Susan and Keith were moving into a new apartment when, at around 11 a.m., Keith suffered a massive heart attack. “I was there to catch him and keep his head from hitting the floor, otherwise he might have died instantly,” Susan recalled.

 As Keith lay on the floor, Susan revived him by administering CPR. 

Paramedics came and eventually Keith was airlifted to University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City. Over the span of 36 hours, Keith suffered a total of seven heart attacks.

 His last heart attack hit at 9 p.m. the next night. “This seemed to be the fatal one,” Susan remembers. While doctors tried to revive Keith, Susan prayed with her mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and Keith’s best friend.

 “His heart still wasn’t beating. It had been around 20 minutes since it stopped. The curtain around his bed was closed. They were about to call the coroner to pronounce him dead,” Susan said. Meanwhile, Susan could hear the nurse from behind the curtain saying, “Come on, Keith! Come back. Come back.”

 Susan clutched her Rosary beads as she prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet for a miracle. “I believe in what You can do,” she prayed. “Jesus, no doctor or nurse can bring him back now. Only You can do it, Lord. Please save him, Lord. Bring him back to me.” Within minutes after she finished praying, his heart started beating again.

 The doctors and nurses were amazed. “They all thought he was gone for sure and were discussing it among themselves. They couldn’t believe it. The doctor said it was absolutely amazing. Later on, he told me that Keith had a 5 percent chance of survival,” she said.

 The doctors couldn’t explain why he survived. Susan credits praying the Chaplet. “It’s the way you pray it — you’ve got to believe it!” she exclaimed.

 When Keith woke up, he laughed when he heard he had died and come back seven times. Susan told him how she believed that Jesus had brought him back. But Keith refused to believe, crediting the doctors and nurses alone for saving his life. “He didn’t believe in an afterlife. It hurt me deeply,” Susan lamented. “I cried.”

 Keith continued to get better and went home two weeks later. The next year, in April 2016, however, Keith was diagnosed with lung cancer.

 “Keith was a heavy smoker,” Susan recalled. “He had a terrible cough. ... He couldn’t catch his breath.” One night, after he had been diagnosed with cancer, Susan laid a crucifix on his chest as he slept.

 “I begged Jesus to take away the cancer. I prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet for him again,” Susan said. Keith returned to the doctor two weeks later only to discover that his cancer was completely gone. The doctors and nurses at the University of Iowa Hospital were amazed at what had happened — first with his heart and then with his cancer.

 Despite another astounding recovery, Keith denied that God had intervened. “He said he must not have had cancer to begin with,” Susan said. “He always wanted ‘proof.’ I guess two miracles in his own body were not what he would call proof. …  I know what I saw, and it was the power of God’s merciful love working through my faith and the Chaplet that brought my husband back to me.”

 More than two years after Keith’s cancer disappeared, his heart and health began to deteriorate again. He had lost a lot of weight and was unable to walk without catching his breath. Susan felt that her husband’s time was nearing the end. “And Keith told me that, too — that he would die soon. But he still didn’t believe,” she said.

 On Aug. 7, 2018, Keith began to bleed internally as a result of the blood thinners he was on. The next day, he went into cardiac arrest and died. The night before Keith died, he told Susan, “I love you, and I always will.”

 Susan frequently prays the Chaplet for Keith’s soul and hopes for his salvation. After all, Scripture says, “For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife” (1 Cor 7:14).

 Though Keith never seemed to accept God into his life, through all of these experiences, Susan’s faith has only become stronger. “This was an incredible experience for me and an incredible miracle I had from the Lord,” she said. “I know it was from Him. Thank you, Jesus. You gave my husband two more years of life. Amen.”  


Photo by camilo jimenez on Unsplash

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