Our next-door neighbor is an ER doctor. It’s comforting to know he’s right there, not just because he’s a capable medical professional, but because he’s pretty much the nicest human on the planet. Last month he was teaching one of his sons how to repair sprinklers in his front yard as I was driving a bit of hot soup over to my friend Sharla. We stopped and chatted. I told him that Sharla’s husband, Frank, had just been transferred to McKay Dee Hospital with Covid 19 and was unconscious and intubated. My neighbor exhaled, dropped his head, and asked a few more details. “To be perfectly frank, he’s not likely to make it. All the factors combined make the odds pretty bad. I don’t know how you prepare a family for something like that, but you may want to try. I am so sorry.” I thanked him for his candor, and drove off with a pit in my stomach.
Because Sharla also had symptoms of Covid 19, (she later tested positive) she’s been completely isolating herself, so I left the soup and bread on her porch. It’s probably a good thing I couldn’t see her because knowing something terrible and trying to hide it is hard. Frank was not likely to survive this.
Who among us has not done “the Google” in an attempt to put lines around the unshaped monster who took up residence on planet earth in the last few months? We average folk, who do not understand medical jargon, are left to conjure up synopses from various stories floating around the internet and spewing at us from radios and televisions. The monster morphs according to the thread we follow down the virtual rabbit hole of internet search engines.
I stayed up till 5 am reading all sorts of frightening stuff. I finally went to bed when the birds outside my bedroom window were starting their first chorus.
With all due respect for that information, and gratitude to the professionals who fight the monster even when they are not likely to win, I tucked my head into my pillow and did my prayer thing. I would not call myself a pro in the prayer category. Because of residual neuropathy I do not kneel well. I don’t kneel at all, in fact. When I am trying to be particularly reverent I place my hand over my heart when I pray. That’s my version of kneeling. Over the years this prayer stance has evolved. When I am uttering a prayer that I think should be recorded in my personal history, by my personal angels, then I speak it or whisper it, making my thoughts slow down and fit into word form. More often, though, this prayer stance has become a sort of pondering-praying-formulating-discussing conversation with either myself or my Greater Power. I’m not entirely sure what form that Greater Power takes, whether it’s my special guardian-type angels who are assigned to help me (who may or may not include ancestors and folks to follow on our family tree), or the Holy Ghost, or the Lord Himself. Or maybe it’s just me talking to me. My faith leads me to believe that these ponderings become prayers when they invoke the power of my advocate, Jesus Christ. Then they make their way, filtered or not, to our Creator. And I believe that Creator has all sorts of power. My pillow is familiar with these conversations at all hours of the day and night.
So, here’s how that 5 a.m. conversation went:
“Well, God. You’ve got Frank. It’s you and the people wearing full protective gear in his ICU unit. Nobody else has an ounce of power to help him. So please, God, bless Sharla and their family with as much peace as can be mustered. Peace is the only thing that can pierce the confusion and the great overpowering helplessness.”
I was praying for Sharla and Co., because… you know… there wasn’t much hope for Frank. And then, in a flash, I had a stupor of thought. My mind shifted from praying mostly for his family to confidently praying for Frank himself. I felt physically compelled to pray for Frank individually. Separate prayers were for his family.
I really have very little understanding of how prayer works. I don’t know how much what we want can change what God wants, or needs. But I do know we, who carry spiritual trust in our hearts, are encouraged to pray. Whether or not praying changes any outcome, or it changes us, I do believe it is essential, for me at least. I just need to feel like I am communicating. Things get a bit more focused and organized when I have to arrange my thoughts in a communicable fashion. Sometimes it’s helpful for me to even write down my prayers, so I don’t swirl in the mush of mumble. Like, when one of my kids wanted something, and they rambled on and around and up and down, and I finally stopped them and said: TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT! Then the actual words were easier to answer. So, I think maybe I should present things to God that way, after my pillow ponderings. Boil those thoughts down to actual answerable supplications.
And so, with regard to Frank, I got pretty specific. And then I had this thought that there could be strength in numbers. I got up from my bed, and sat at my computer, and called all angels in Facebook-world, and Instagram-land. A simple request to unite in prayer, if you were the praying sort. I have a wonderful bunch of friends, and most of them are believers. Within hours the energy was shimmering and hope was rising from all over; from our sleepy little towns of Farmington and Fruit Heights, to the eastern and western shores, and over to Europe and Australia and the UK. Up in Alaska, and down in the southern hemisphere. People I do not know, and people, many of them, who have no idea who Frank is. My daughter tells me that every blessing on every meal at their house, spoken in the tiny voices of her small children, carries the words “…and please bless Gummy’s friend, Frank.” They’ve never met Frank. I’ll betcha half of the people praying daily for Frank have never met him.
Let me pause here and say something. I think it is pretty awesome that the most powerful force in the history of everything has invited us to talk to him. Through whatever channels he uses on his end, he gives us access. Even the littlest among us. Even the most unworthy. Even people who are general sceptics, who use prayer as a last-ditch effort. There are not many world-leaders, celebrities or even friends who extend that sort of unlimited access.
So, for one solid month Frank’s Army has been doing the prayer thing. Sending positive vibes, if that’s the limit of belief, and fasting and speaking specific requests for the serious believers. We have all been faithful to Frank and Sharla and their plight. Hooray for the internet in keeping us united and connected.
There was a time, that first week, when I thought my neighbor’s prediction was coming true. There were a few nights when I wondered what I might hear in the morning. But the prayers continued to rise, like a fountain spewing heavenward. Day by day things got a bit worse, then a bit better. Then there came that day when Frank opened his eyes. And a day when he gave a thumb’s up when he heard the voices of his family over an iPad the nurse took into his room. And then they removed the tube from his lungs. And then he coughed. Each little thing brought a collective cheer, and a shout of thanks shot through that fountain of prayer.
|Frank's nurse, bless her heart,|
sent a video to the family when
Frank finally had the tube removed.
Today Sharla drove to the hospital and they let her in. For the first time, they let her in. She has lived the sorrow of social distance since that day a month ago when she dropped Frank off at the hospital, parked the car, and then when she tried to enter to admit him, they turned her away. For her own safety, and the safety of others. Today she walked through those doors.
“Can I hug him?” she asked. The nurse replied that she wouldn’t look, and wouldn’t tell. Finally, Sharla’s throbbing heart beat against Frank’s. I believe that particular moment was celebrated on both sides of the veil. Sharla spent most of the day learning, step by step, how to care for someone who survived three weeks of intubation in a virtual coma.
|Sharla is learning the ropes of physical therapy.|
Tomorrow, one month and one day after Frank was first cocooned in his private fighting place, Frank is coming home. That’s home, with a lower case “h”. They can wait a while to get him in the eternal Home, with the capital “H”. My pillow, tonight, will hear the words of gratitude repeated over and over, my hand over my heart.
Logic, one month ago, would not have sent us to this place. And God would still be God, if Frank were not coming home, with the lower case “h.” But if all good things come from the Lord, then we are blowing Him one gigantic kiss over this one. I guess it wasn’t Frank’s time. And to be perfectly “frank”, we are fine with that.