Family celebrates Easter miracle |

Family celebrates Easter miracle

Andrew Pridgen
Appeal Staff Writer
Photo by Rick Roach for the Nevada Appeal Loretta Williams, 88, of Gardnerville, talks Saturday with her daughter Mary Clark, left, and niece Michele Roach at Evergreen Healthcare. Saturday morning, caregivers at the facility found Williams in her bed not breathing and without a heartbeat. After running a series of checks, an official confirmed Williams was deceased and pronounced her dead at 11:43 a.m. About an hour and a half later, Williams, already in a transport bag, stunned the coroner when he found her with her eyes open and breathing. Williams told family members that during that time she saw her late husband who died on the same date 26 years earlier.

As Mary Clark made last-minute Easter Sunday preparations to her Bridgeport, Calif., home Saturday, she did so thinking about her mother, Loretta Williams.

Williams, 88, a Northern Nevada resident since 1982, had lived with Mary and her husband, Chuck, for two years – but in January her health began to fail. She took up residence at Evergreen Healthcare Management in Gardnerville on January 23.

Though Clark describes her mother as “frail but feisty,” all in the family knew Williams’ time would be short.

Mid-morning Saturday, the call came.

“The phone rang, and it was Evergreen,” Clark said. “And it was one of those phone calls where you just kind of say ‘OK, this is it’ – you just kind of know.

The nursing facility’s staff told Clark her mother passed away peacefully at 11:43 a.m.

“I said, ‘OK this makes sense’,” Clark said, noting that her father passed away on March 22, 1982 – 26 years ago to the day. “I thought, this is good, mom just wants to be with dad.”

And so, Clark began sending e-mails and starting a phone tree – first to her three siblings and then to extended family – in-laws, cousins, nieces, nephews, grandchildren.

“I was on the phone for an hour and we’re going into grieving mode,” she said. “Eventually I checked my voicemail, and there was another message from Evergreen – they wanted me to call.”

Clark called, and said when the nurse on duty picked up the line – there was a pause.

“I was wondering what was wrong,” Clark said. “And then (the nurse) said, ‘Do you believe in Easter miracles?'”

Loretta Williams was alive.

According to the family, at 1:09 p.m., Loretta Williams, who was reportedly lying in a body bag and undergoing a final examination by a doctor, readied to be taken away by staff from Walton’s Family of Funeral Homes, opened her eyes.

“They said she just came back,” Clark said. “When they called it the first time, they said she had no heartbeat, her pupils were fixed and dilated. They were getting her ready to (take away) and she was breathing and her eyes were open.”

“I didn’t really believe in miracles, but I do now.”

Staff from Evergreen would not comment Sunday.

Mike Crews, who was the Walton’s representative called to Evergreen Saturday, said Williams was, in fact, pronounced dead – at least for a little bit.

“Um, yep – all I know is I was called, she was pronounced (dead),” he said. “She had passed away for a few minutes, I guess. But when I came into the room, she was there, breathing.”

Dr. Mark Ewens, who practices family medicine in Yolo County, Calif., said Sunday that he has heard of a handful of incidents where people wake up in morgues.

“Usually, it’s because of (human) error,” he said. “No, you don’t just die and wake up. That really doesn’t happen.”

Whether there is a simple medical explanation behind Williams’ unexpected return from the other side on Easter weekend, the family strongly believes there are other forces at work.

“We’re a Catholic family,” said Michelle Roach, Williams’ niece who, with her husband, Rick, was en route from Vacaville, Calif. Saturday to visit the rest of the grieving relatives when they got the second call. “All I could think was I couldn’t believe this was happening on Easter.”

“We’re all here for a reason,” Clark said. “We’re all here for a purpose. Maybe my mother’s here a little bit longer to say good-bye. Maybe it just wasn’t her time. I asked her if she saw dad, she seemed to think so – I asked her what she saw and she said, ‘you’re not to know’.”