Friday, January 16, 2015

Disabled Prayers

I watched my fourteen-month-old granddaughter watching me as she embedded herself on an adult hospital mattress in the pediatric intensive care unit at Fairfax Children’s Hospital in Virginia. A prolonged respiratory virus causing high fevers,consistent coughing, and rapid breathing convinced her parents that it was time to take her to the emergency room.  Four days and three nights of constant medical intrusions and interventions escalated into one traumatic episode for my daughter, her husband, and our extended family. Several times, I was alone with Shoshana Naomi when my daughter took a well-deserved break.  I stared into her dark cimmerian eyes and leaned forward so she could see and, perhaps, feel my deep empathy for her well-being.  I hunched over her adorableness and became absorbed in a moment-to-moment healing ritual of being. I did not speak the words of my familiar prayers. They remained irretrievable and silent.My essentiality and ego faded into the background.  In the foreground was this disconsolate child, my soul’s present priority. Focused and fixated, I recorded every minute movement from her struggling body. Was sheasleep? Was she nursing comfortably? Was her breathing optimal? Was her cough waning?  How might we reduce her tiny tremblings?  I sat and swayed her in a chair that did not rock.  She was my safety and I was her anchor.  We slipped into the harbor together, heading toward the lighthouse of recovery.  But where were the prayers? Where were the Hebrew prayers of my childhood that I know by heart? Disconnected. Disarmed. Disabled. Lost in fear. I remember visiting my late father following his hip surgery ten years ago. Frail and pale, his body sank sullenly into the hospital bed. In an attempt to raise his spirits, I offered him a siddur, a yarmulke, and his well-worn tallit. My devout father, who prayed every morning and evening, refused his personal paraphernalia. “I cannot pray today. I am too weak. Today, God will need to pray for me.” For four days and three nights, not one prayer passed through my mind or mouth. I simply was not able. I was too busy watching my granddaughter watching me.
Could I boldly ask God to pray for my granddaughter? Perhaps you, Papa, with your ever-persuasive prayers, could engage with God for Shoshana’s healing, and also bring my prayers back to life.

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