Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Gift of Prayer

Ever since the birth and death of my daughter Therese, I have had a special place in my heart for sick babies. Each night I pray for the general intentions of all parents caring for sick children. Unfortunately, I also pray for some of these children and their families by name.

This past month, I had to add another baby boy to my ever growing list. My friend's beautiful, smiley, 11 month old son (who I will call baby F) was diagnosed with SMA. SMA is like Lou Gehrig's disease in children, it is a degenerative and fatal neuro-muscual condition. The news brought me to my knees in prayer.

Any time I get the news that a baby is sick or dying, it touches a very broken part of my heart, a part I feel will never fully heal. I am not normally the type to shed tears over the joy and sorrow of another. Empathy is not a natural gift. And yet the face of baby F, and other babies like him, is with me regularly. Each night I lay awake and pray for baby F and his parents. I know too well that there are few things I can physically do to help my friend and her family. While I can offer some help with their practical needs (things like meals, babysitting for her other children, or fundraising), I cannot help them sleep at night, and I cannot take away their tears. When my friend lays down to sleep each night, she is very much alone in her grief and fears. Only God can comfort her broken heart. Only God can give her the strength she needs to wake up each day and face the reality of caring for her family. Only God can give her the grace she needs to choose love over fear.

I know this too well, and it is why I fall to my knees in prayer. For an overly practical person like me, a sick child is a real reminder that the most important thing I can do is pray. And by that I mean remember to pray. It is easy to go on with my own life, and forget their very real need for prayer. Months or even years from now, baby F will still be sick, and their family will still need prayer. Through my prayers, I can help this family carry the very heavy cross they have set before them. But I have to remember to pray.

When I was pregnant with Therese, the prayers of others gave me the grace I needed to love my daughter for the short time she was with us on earth. Prayers sustained me in the first weeks after Therese's death. But only two short months after her death, I felt a real drop in the day-to-day level of grace in my life. At the time, I thought I was just going through the normal grieving process and feeling really depressed and down. In retrospect, I realize that many of our dear friends and family had stopped praying. It wasn't as if they didn't love us, or didn't care, it was just that everyone else had very naturally moved forward. And yet we still needed the prayers.

As time passes, it becomes easier to forget. It is hard work to think about and pray for a sick baby and his mother each day. Baby F reminds me that like my short time with Therese, I am not guaranteed a tomorrow with any of my children. Each day is a gift to be lived and cherished, because another day like it may not come along. Such a reminder is amazingly true and beautiful, but can fill my heart with fear. It brings up emotions in me that are not always easy to control. With time, I have grown to see these emotions--the empathy I feel for sick babies--as a great gift, one of the many lasting gifts our sweet Therese left for me.

It is a gift I will now give to baby F and his family. Following the advice of a wise priest, I will feel the sorrow, pray, and then place the burden on the shoulders of Jesus.


Anonymous said...

This post really touched me (I'm a new reader). Sorry for your the lose of your daughter Therese. The part where you explained how you felt after others stopped praying really touched home. I feel like I too do this...stop praying. It is amazing how powerful prayers can be and I need to remember to keep praying!

I too have a friend whose little boy was recently diagnosed with SMA. She has become very involved in the fight for a cure. She is an amazing faith filled mother whom I admire. Just wanted to share a link to a petition to help get funding for SMA.
It is very easy! Thank you for your amazing blog and strong words.

Kat said...

Red, thank you for this post and for the reminder to be praying for families with sick babies. Sometimes, a situation is so overwhelmingly difficult that it can be hard to pray for one's own intentions. In these cases, the prayers of dear friends are especially cherished. I am sure that your friend appreciates your prayers and your presence more than you know, and by the grace of God she will get through each day.

4ddintx said...

Red, Thanks for such a great reminder to pray...and keep praying.

I often drop the ball when I shouldn't.

Great reflection.

Lori said...

Thanks, Red! I have a family that I've been praying for whenever they come to mind over the last three years. They had a child at the same time that my youngest was born, but their baby died. I still don't know any details. But, my prayers for them have increased this year as they happen to have a daughter in my 5 year old's class. Thank you for reminding me that these prayers are still needed...and I hope that I am adding to the grace in their lives.

Jennifer Frey said...

It can be very hard to remember all the people we need to pray for, and so the following practice is very worthwhile (recommended by Fr. Corapi). When you become aware of someone who is in need of prayer (which, in my life, is almost daily), you can entrust that specific intention to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and then you will be sure of continuous prayers of intercession for that specific intention. Those intentions that are most dear to us (those of friends and family, usually) we will remember to pray for continuously, but for those which we are more than likely to lose track we can call on our great intercessors for help. It is best to do this as soon as you become aware of the need for the prayer intention, before it slips away from your mind.

texas mommy said...

A very inspirational post, Red. Thank you. I know your prayers for the sick babies you know and their families are so meaningful!