When illness shatters the security and predictability of our lives, when our existence is revealed to be fragile and tenuous, human beings seek to somehow have the world make sense again. Two ways of “reweaving meaning and order into the torn fabric” are poetry and prayer. Here is a poem and a passage on prayer that I find enriching.
The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry
When Despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water,
and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with the light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
From Philip Yancey’s book Prayer
“I became a father, with a daughter and a son. As they slept, I would step into their rooms, make the sign of the cross over them, and pray for their future. A parent has such little control. You have to fall back on to God.
My son has epilepsy. His first grand mal seizure terrified me. We called for an ambulance, and I held him in my arms as my head shook from side to side, stroking his forehead, trying to say calming words while inside I felt the opposite of calm. Consciously I tried to pour my spirit into his, to take on his pain. I doubt I’ve ever felt closer to my son than during that first seizure when I held him—both of us so helpless, so afraid.
Prayer for me has become a form of blessing. . . Bless you, child, I would say over my daughter’s crib. Bless you, I would say while holding my convulsing son. I want to be a conduit of God’s blessing to others. I want to feel that blessing for myself, in prayer.
Sometimes I rest, relaxed, in God’s love. Sometimes I thrash and tremble, like my son during a seizure.”