A Heartbroken Farewell to Stephanie Savage, “Miracle Girl”

A Heartbroken Farewell to Stephanie Savage, “Miracle Girl” March 2, 2018

“It all began with a Miracle of God™,” she wrote with a smirk. And now, after years battling everything from Legionnaires’ disease to multiple strokes, a unique and remarkable life has ended. Stephanie Savage died unexpectedly in the early hours of March 2, 2018.

“I’ve been told my recovery was a miracle so many times that I’ve called myself Miracle Girl,” she wrote in August 2015, two years after the stroke that put her in a six-week coma. And when the Washington Post called her “Funny, frequently profane and adamantly atheistic,” Stephanie said, “I want that on my tombstone.”

“Now, I’ll allow that my recovery was remarkable, even unlikely,” she added. “My doctors proclaimed me profoundly brain damaged and advised my loved ones to give up hope for my recovery. But it was far from a miracle, unless you mean a miracle of modern science.” In an article for Skeptical Inquirer titled “Covert Cognition: My So-Called Near-Death Experience,” she outlined the steps that her doctors took to subvert their own prediction, assuring her readers that “God had nothing to do with it.”

It’s hard to see how theists could continue to think my recovery was a miracle. What god would give a miracle to a lifelong nonbeliever in order for her to build a new career attacking him with her writing?

What followed was a steady flow of writing that brings to mind the line from Hamilton: “Why do you write like you’re running out of time?” Of course the idea that she was writing with precognition of her own end would have struck her as hilarious. After that line about her own tombstone, she said, “Thanks to my doctors and my body’s Darwinian survival mechanisms, I probably won’t need it for a while.”

What began with a focus on her coma and recovery soon grew to encompass such diverse topics as evolution, marriage equality, climate change, gun violence, science denial, and religious (and nonreligious) identity. Her writing was always fluent and deeply informed, and no matter how serious the topic, she always seemed able to pull a thread of absurdity, leavening any subject with humor and insight.

Theists like to say things like, “When a door closes, God opens a window.” Atheists roll our eyes and open the window ourselves.

Stephanie was a great friend and daily supporter of the other writers at Patheos Nonreligious, and her absence is already painfully felt. If you ever need a reminder that it’s possible to meet ridiculous obstacles without losing your sense of humor or invoking the divine, her blog will be right here. Well done, Stephanie.

If this is your first visit to Miracle Girl, there’s no better place to start than the beginning.

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