I had a bit of an argument with G‑d a while ago. To my credit, it wasn’t over petty stuff this time. I didn’t really whine either, although I’m fully capable of it. I wanted my way, though, even demanded it and expected it. After all, G‑d had always come through before. Granted, oftentimes He would take His own sweet time, ignoring my schedule, and no doubt shaking His head at my infantile temper tantrums as I urged Him to get His act together and hurry up. But come through He would. But not this time. He ignored my heartfelt cries, the Psalms that I recited, the prayers and the bargaining. He did it His way, and in the process my heart was shattered.

She was a woman who had quickly become a mother figure for meI lost a good friend, a woman whom I had met when I was fifteen, some fifty years ago. She was a woman who had quickly become a mother figure for me, a woman who loved me unconditionally, accepted me and held my head above water during difficult times. For the past several years we had spoken nightly, often our conversations filling up the phone line for well over an hour. We would discuss recipes, politics, family, future plans, and the past which had blessed us both. She had no children, so we adopted each other. My children became her grandchildren. We were family.

She had been a healthy woman. Ninety-four years with just a few blips. Oh, there had been cancer, twenty-five years ago or so, but she had dealt with that quickly, never looking back. And colds had been few, and amounted to nothing more than a minor irritation.

Then she fell. No bones had been broken, but some muscles felt like they had been pulled clear across the country and back. The doctor gave her pain pills, pills that attacked her body and only masked her extreme discomfort. She ended up in the hospital, and my pleading with G‑d began in earnest.

I spoke with her twice a day, then, trying to diminish the miles between the Canadian north and her hospital room in central California. I told her to hang in there. G‑d still needed her in this world, and her vote was needed in the 2012 election. She didn’t know about the first, but she had readily agreed on the second.

She apologized for missing my birthday, and I told her that we would celebrate when I was there in June. After a week, it seemed that G‑d was finally listening. She improved a great deal. The treatment was working, and they moved her to a transition house, with the next step being assisted living. I thanked G‑d profusely for His miracle—and He responded by sending her a stroke which took her within a matter of hours. Talk about backstabbing.

So, in turn, I responded by denying that He had created any miracles at all. I gave Him credit only for creating a hole in my life as well as the lives of my family.

I rushed to her funeral, stayed in her home, kissed her casket before she was consigned to the darkness, and was comforted by her many friends. And during those few days, I did what I had done since the whole ordeal had begun. I buried my head in the sand once more, telling myself that it couldn’t really be true, that she would walk through the door at any time and our lives would return to normal. But G‑d didn’t offer up a miracle then, either. He was fresh out of miracles as far as I could see, and I became even more irritated with Him.

When I returned home, the numbness that had been a constant companion since the beginning of her illness, began to wear off. It was then that the tears began to stalk me, threatening to spill over at the slightest infraction—whether straightening a twisted string, or glancing at a picture that she had painted, or even allowing my fingers to brush over the fridge magnets that I had brought home from her place. I was turning into a real mess.

After a week, it seemed that G‑d was finally listeningThen, on the first Shabbat after my return, just before the end of Shabbat, I was blessed with an overwhelming sense of peace and love. It was as if G‑d had reached out to touch me as I was looking out the window at the darkening sky. It was then that my mind began to clear, and I realized that I had fallen into the miracle trap. I had come to believe that miracles defied nature, overruled the mundane, split the oceans, dried the sea, stopped the sun and turned a ragtag bunch of whiners into a holy people. I had wanted a showstopper, and as a result, closed my eyes to the miracles that kept my life going and kept the world going.

I had forgotten the miracle of a chance encounter of a young girl and a woman with a generous heart. I had ignored the miracle of a woman who had lived for ninety-four years in a body that had seldom betrayed her, a body that healed quickly and carried her up ski hills, up ladders as she reached for the reddest and plumpest of cherries. I had ignored the miracle of a mind that could grasp the ungraspable, see both sides of an argument, and hold onto thoughts and facts when the memories of so many people her age had diminished.

But, most importantly, I had not seen the miracle of a soul who had reached out to her neighbors, gave generously to charity, and overwhelmingly loved and respected her country. She was a woman who had laughed easily, and was not ashamed to let tears flow. And she listened. Oh, how she would listen, really listen. No mind-wandering for her. She would gather up words, parse them to the best of her ability, and give advice—if she were asked. Is that not a miracle itself? How many people really listen? How many have the ability to climb inside another’s heart, as Helen did? What a miracle that was. What a miracle she was.

All of us, I think, want the jaw-dropping kind of miracle, the kind that heals the sick and prevents wars and catastrophes. And when this kind of miracle doesn’t drop into our lap when we want it, we tend to blame G‑d. By expecting the fireworks, we turn a blind eye to the subtle beauty that permeates our lives, whether awakening each morning to a fresh world, the kiss of the sun on your cheek, or the loved one who had showered you with so much love throughout her lifetime.

When it comes to grief and mourning, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the darkness, and no matter the amount of faith that we have, many of us feel abandoned, as if we’re walking through the shadows alone. Softly spoken words of condolence seem trivial to our loss. There are no miracles at such times. Or so it seems. But that’s not true, of course. Because, as I learned on that Shabbat, after my return from Helen’s funeral, the biggest miracle of all was the realization that none of us is alone in our grief. We don’t have to walk a solitary path. If we just hold out our hand, G‑d will surely take it and accompany us through the valley that is shadowed by death.