Commentary Magazine


Small Miracles in Tucson, Arizona

Mike Allen’s Playbook this morning has an incredibly poignant anecdote from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, about their visit with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the hospital yesterday.

While the two lawmakers sat at Giffords’s bedside, they joked about what the three of them would do once she recovered, and Giffords actually began to move in response.

“And the more we joked about what we were going to do, she started to open her eyes literally. And then you have to recognize, her eyes hadn’t opened — we didn’t know that — and so she started to struggle,” said Gillibrand.

Seeing this, Giffords’s husband, Mark, immediately jumped to her side and started urging her to keep her eyes open:

“And one of her eyes is covered with a bandage because it was damaged in the gunfire. So her eye is flickering. And Mark sees this and gets extremely excited. … And so he said, Gabby, open your eyes, open your eyes. And he’s really urging her forward. And the doctor is like perking up and everyone is coming around the bed. And she’s struggling. … And then she finally opens her eyes and you could she was like desperately trying to focus and it took enormous strength from her. And Mark could just — can’t believe it. I mean, he’s so happy. And we’re crying because we’re witnessing something that we never imagined would happen in front of us. And so Mark says, he says — he said, Gabby, if you can see me, give us the thumbs up, give us the thumbs up.”

But instead of giving a thumbs-up sign, Giffords reached out to try to embrace her husband:

“And then she reaches out and starts grabbing Mark and is touching him and starts to nearly choke him — she was clearly trying to hug him. … And we were just in tears of joy watching this and beyond ourselves, honestly. And then Mark said, you know, touch my ring, touch my ring. And she touches his ring and then she grabs his whole watch and wrist. And then the doctor was just so excited. He said, you don’t understand, this is amazing, what’s she’s doing right now, and beyond our greatest hopes.”

Imagine what a tremendous physical exertion it must have been for Giffords to simply raise an arm to touch her husband. She could have remained still, kept her eyes shut, saved the effort. But even this basic act of connecting was worth the struggle.

There has been a lot of talk in recent days about the mindset of the man who put a bullet through Giffords’s head. His friends called him a nihilist who would often ramble about the pointlessness of the world. It’s stories like this one that remind us how false that philosophy is, how even the smallest acts can be full of meaning.