I did that yesterday. I got down on my knees in a hospital corridor and prayed. I gave thanks. A couple of official looking people with clipboards saw me and possibly considered alerting either security or the Psych Unit, but they let me go. Even they could see I was in the grip of acknowledging the power of prayer. The power of something.
I am a big fan of praying. Not in the Catholic sense that I was taught where you say endless Hail Marys and Our Fathers and ask the saints to bless all the people you like while pointedly leaving out the people you don’t like.
I pray in a different way. It’s a melding of meditation, creative visualisation and little bits of cognitive behavioural therapy that I’ve picked up along the way. And wishing. Lots of wishing. You can’t have a good prayer without a wish or two.
I usually go somewhere quiet when I pray – near the water or under a tree – and oddly enough, with a rosary; and just think of the person I am praying for. I think of them, I hope they are alright, I ask whoever is up there to help them out.
And sometimes it works. And sometimes it doesn’t. That’s the thing with prayer. There are no guarantees. You could pray for days, weeks, months and still not have the outcome you desire. Or your prayers could be answered straight away.
Ever since I learned of Jules’ mother’s stroke I have been praying. I’ve gone all out with pictures of the saints and candles and lucky charms all over the place because it is my most ardent and fervent wish that Jules and her mother reconcile.
Jules got in to Sydney late Sunday night. I went to the hospital with her yesterday. Where her mother is. I gasped when I saw her mother because there is only one way to describe what has become of her and that is grisly. Her face is all contorted and lop-sided with the stroke. Her eyes are full of anguish. To see her in that state – so helpless, so vulnerable – didn’t make me feel vindicated, or glad or that she somehow deserved it – it made me feel almost overwhelmingly sad.
I think I was rattling a bit as Jules and I walked along the hospital corridors to her mother’s room. I was trying to walk very carefully, very unobtrusively because I didn’t want to alert Jules to the full extent of my praying on her behalf, nor did I want her to worry about what she sees as my ever-increasing eccentricity.
You’re a bit fruity, she frequently says to me, which I take as a compliment but which I suspect she sees as something I need to work on.
Anyway, I was rattling a bit because I wanted to ensure I had a high impact prayer situation going on. I wanted the full metal jacket prayer package. So I brought along some little helpers.
My lucky white feather. My lucky shell. My lucky piece of obsidian. The bit of seaglass I found in the shape of a heart. My lucky bit of velvet. My miniature gonk and the lucky dime I found when I visited my sister in San Francisco in the ’80s. I had all those lucky bits and pieces attached to me in various ways as well as wearing my rosary beads.
I will admit when I had all that stuff concealed about my person and I was rattling away and walking and praying and wishing, that I did feel a bit fruity and I did wonder momentarily what non-fruity people do in such situations and then I forgot about varying levels of fruitiness because my lucky white feather that I had concealed in my bra began to stick into me much worse than a loose piece of underwire ever could and I had to walk with my left arm at a 45 degree angle to prevent some kind of impalement.
Then Jules walked into her mother’s hospital room. And she looked at her mother and her mother looked at her and her right hand, her good hand, twitched. And Jules rushed to her mother’s side, kissing her, stroking her head, telling her she loved her and her mother held out her good hand and took her daughter’s hand and clasped it. Hard.
And so they sat. Hands held. Together.
And that was all I needed to see to know that my prayers had been answered. I didn’t care that people might think I was a bit strange if they knew all the things that were lurking under my clothes. I didn’t care if I had correctly (or incorrectly) followed the prayer code of conduct. I didn’t even care about that blasted white feather, ready to sever an artery. All I cared about was Jules and her mother, together at last.
So I got on my knees and prayed and gave thanks in a hospital corridor with off white walls and insipid green linoleum floors. And I got to thinking that prayers are a lot like wishes. I got to thinking that prayers and wishes might just be the same thing.
They say it all the time, don’t they? Be careful what you wish for.
Maybe you should also be careful what you pray for.
Because sometimes what you pray for can turn out to be really good.