I click through a few blogs and pause at one. Red Booty Woman…isn’t that the Christina who came a few wweeks ago with Rogue and gave me the birthday paddle? I’ve always been too shy to comment on blogs–and not permitted by Natalie who is hyper-concerned about internet safety–but this message strikes me cold. I read it again, sure that I’ve misunderstood, but the letters remain the same no matter how many times I read them. I don’t quite understand “encephalitis” or “meningitis”, but vaguely I remember that they must be serious. I shudder, thinking of when my mom’s medications failed to control her pain and she slipped into a state of not knowing anyone, not my siblings or our dad.
“Natty,” I call, but she shushes me.
“I’ve got to get this done by tomorrow or we won’t get the contract,” she says, her eyes glued to her computer screen as her fingers fly across the keyboard. “Can you tell Mom for me that I’m sorry but I can’t talk to her today?”
That’s right. It’s Sunday, and we haven’t called Dad and Mama Jane yet. “Okay,” I answer, picking up the cordless phone and punching number one on speed dial. Suddenly, I want to talk to Mama Jane more than anyone in the world.
“Kat!” Mama Jane’s voice sings out from the phone as if she is right next to me. “I’ve been waiting for you girls to call. Is everything okay?”
No, I think. But Natalie wouldn’t understand. I glance at her, and she waves her hand at me.
“Tell Mom I’m sorry,” she says.
“Natty’s got to do some work, so is it okay if I talk to you by myself today?” I ask. We usually call together, and I half-expect Mama Jane to tell me to call back when Natalie is available.
“On Sunday? Tell her that a day of rest is…”
I shrug at Natalie, mouthing “Sorry!” as Mama Jane changes topics.
“But you’re the one who called, so you shouldn’t have to listen to this. How are you?”
I get to my feet and take the phone with me upstairs to my room, closing the door behind me. I can tell Natalie that I didn’t want to interrupt her while she was working.
“Mama Jane?” I ask, and it’s hard to keep my voice from shaking.
“What’s wrong?” she responds, in the warm mother voice that never fails to make me feel safe. At least until now.
“A friend of mine, her name is Christina, well she and her husband Jim’s daughter is in the ICU and her family is all worried about her, and she’s only six and…” I have to stop before the tears overwhelm me. I may have met Christina less than a month ago, but her wisdom could only have come from years of life experience nurturing, guiding, and loving the people around her.
Mama Jane tsks in dismay. “Oh dear, will you visit her?”
“I can’t!” I wail. “They’re in Canada, and they barely know me and I can’t do anything at all for them.” I didn’t cry when my mother was in the ICU, but I am crying now. “What can I do?” I beg, knowing that if anyone can make things better it is Mama Jane. “Some of her friends are saying we should have five minutes for Emily and to pray at nine o’clock at night, but…” My voice trails off. Out of respect for Mama Jane, Natalie and I attend church weekly. She was raised to believe, but I wasn’t. I don’t really understand what it’s all about, but praying together as a family makes me feel safe. On my own, though, I have never tried. It doesn’t make sense to talk to someone you can’t see.
Then again, I’m talking to Mama Jane when I can’t see her, right?
“I’ll pray for her too, honey. What is her name?”
“Emily,” I choke out. “She’s six. God will listen to you if you pray. God will make Emily better, right?”
Mama Jane gives a heavy sigh. “I wish it were that easy. And God will listen to you just as much as me. There’s no preferred membership.”
“Wait,” I protest. “So we’re going to pray and it won’t make her better? What’s the point of praying, then?”
“Honey,” she says, with a gentle note of reproof. “You don’t pray to God only because you get what you want. What if Natalie only talked to you when you did what she wanted?”
I smile in spite of myself. Natalie does talk to me when I don’t do what she wants, but not in a way that I’m willing to tell Mama Jane! “I don’t mean to be rude,” I say, “but if the point of praying is to make sure Emily gets well, why pray if we don’t know that will happen for sure?”
Another sigh. “That’s the topic of a lot of theological discussions, Kat, and some people might think there is no satisfactory answer. But we pray because we need to be centered, because we need to be connected with our Creator, and because life can sometimes be so cruel that our only recourse is to trust in God.”
I’ve sung Christmas carols and held hands around the dinner table with Kat’s family, but I’ve never asked in this way before. “Mama Jane?” I pause, not wanting to sound childish. “I don’t think I can pray for her, I mean not if it won’t make her recover.” She starts to say something, but I forge on. “Can you pray instead of me?”
Mama Jane might say God will listen to me, but I’m not sure. If it’s this important, it’s probably better to have the expert do it.
“Of course,” she agrees. “Now, over the phone?”
I meant later, after we hung up, but I agree. It can’t hurt. And maybe God won’t mind my listening in, since I don’t know how to do the prayer myself.
As I hear rustling, I picture Mama Jane closing her eyes and bowing her head.
“Dear Lord in heaven,” she begins, and I rush to imitate her from several states away. “We thank you for all that you have given us, and for your loving care that you shower on those around us. Thank you for this day to celebrate you, and thank you for my daughters who are safe and well. We have many things for which to thank you, Lord, but today we gather in your name because one of your youngest servants needs your special care. Emily, daughter of Kat’s friends Jim and Christina, is in the ICU. To watch a child suffer is the worst thing that could happen to a parent–”
Involuntarily, I remember Mama Jane and Dad’s anguish when they found out what had happened to Natalie. I swallow hard.
“–and you know how much I pleaded for you to save my Rachel.”
The daughter she lost in infancy. I blink, surprised that I hadn’t made the connection before.
“It was the worst time of my life, Lord, and I beg for you to spare Jim and Christina the anguish of losing a child.”
For the second time, I think. The only thing worse than losing a child is to lose a second.
“We ask for you to restore her to health and to bring her safely back to her parents, but we understand that your ways are too infinite for us to understand. We ask your blessing and guidance on the medical team who treats her, and we especially ask for your loving care to surround Jim and Christina. They have other children who are frightened, and their duties as parents are split between caring for their children at home and little Emily at the hospital. Please shower them with your love, and gather them into your arms for comfort, rest, and renewal so they can return to caring for your little ones.”
I am sniffling, wondering for a mad moment if it can actually work. Will a prayer do something even if I’m not really sure I believe in it?
“We ask also for your guidance for Jim and Christina’s friends as they gather around the world to lift up Emily and her family in prayer. Please help us to pray for the right things, to accept your will, and to send positive energy instead of our fear and worry. Help those closest to Jim and Christina to be strong for them, to be supportive, and to know what is needed.”
Tears trickle down my cheeks. How did Mama Jane know?
“Most of all, Lord, we ask you to help us trust in you, to trust in your goodness and mercy, and to trust that you will do what is right. We ask all these things in your name because you promised that whenever two or three of us gather in your name, you are with us. In the name of your son Jesus who taught us to pray, Amen.”
“Amen,” I whisper through my tears, unable to say anything more.
“Kat,” Mama Jane says, and her voice makes me think I can climb mountains if she only asks. “When the world seems dark and scary, that’s the time to pray. Do you understand?”
For the first time in my life, I do. “Mama Jane?” I ask. “Can you keep praying for Emily? I know you said God will listen to me, too, but you do it better.”
“Of course,” she says, and her voice seeps out of the phone to envelop me in a hug. “Why don’t you call me at nine o’clock every night so we can join in the prayer vigil? And we will pray together.”
I want to say thank you, but instead I fumble for a tissue and wipe my eyes. “God will listen?” I ask, knowing what she will say but needing to hear it again.
“God will always listen, my dear.”
Emily, I think. Maybe we can’t do much, but we can pray. And Mama Jane is one of the best prayer allies you’ve got.
As Rogue told us, Jim and Christina’s youngest daughter is extremely sick. Emily is in the ICU with encephalitis and meningitis. They have already lost one child, and to have their six-year-old going through seizures and scary medical treatment is a nightmare no parent ever wants to face. At one point, it seems that the doctors asked them about a do not resuscitate order. Another nightmare no parent ever wants to face.
As a community, we are doing “Five Minutes for Emily”. Because we are worldwide, if each of us spends five minutes at 9 PM (our local time) praying for Emily (or sending her your positive healing energy in the manner that fits best with your style), we can have round-the-clock prayer vigils.