I believe in the power of prayer. For me, simple, old Christian prayers are amazingly soothing, especially in times of need.
One time, I was in a hospital surgery room, in Bangkok, Thailand. The surgery that I was scheduled for was not a pleasant event. To top it off, the surgeon was stuck in traffic, so I was lying in the surgical room, wrapped in a strait-jacket-like device, designed to keep my arms from flopping over the side of the surgical gurney. As I lay there, I could not help thinking about why I was there. I was once again having an ectopic pregnancy, and as ectopic babies are unable to survive–ever– the surgery was to remove the baby—only three months old—from one of my fallopian tubes. I had met my baby on an ultrasound monitor just the day before, and remembered bursting into tears as I had been given the heart-wrenching news. As I lay on that gurney, I felt tears come to my eyes, and then spill down into my ears. I could scarcely breathe, as I had become so congested. Suddenly, the words of the Catholic Hail Mary came to me.
Now, bear in mind, I was not raised Catholic, but prayer calms me, and the “amen” at the end makes me think of my family. I can’t count the Thanksgiving dinners I’ve shared with Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother, and beloved grandparents with a before-dinner prayer of thanks–the traditional “Our Father, who art in heaven”–and that family “Amen” said in unison. So, here I was with a bright surgical light staring me down, trustled uncomfortably in a situation of no control, and suddenly, I heard “Hail Mary” prayer in my mind. I could not remember the words at first, so I concentrated initially on remembering them…Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
I knew that I was probably not at the hour of my death, but lying there all alone for what seemed like forever but was in fact about an hour, it felt like death!
I was in Thailand, without family nearby. I was facing a surgery, with only a friend waiting outside. The friend, a young British woman named Sharon, was a friend of mine from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and was about six months pregnant. She and her husband, Paul, were going through some marriage problems, and I had run into her on the plane, only a one-hour flight from Phnom Penh to Bangkok. It was so reassuring to know that Sharon was there with me; if you can imagine, my own first marriage was also tanking at that time. That my spouse was not with me when I had received the horrendous news bore testimony to that.
Holy Mary, Mother of God….I thought of all mothers, and all of their struggles. My own mother was back in Washington state. I had always appreciated her strength, her wit, her beauty. Full of grace, the Lord is with thee….I had perhaps recited the Hail Mary—in my mind, not aloud—about fifty times when the doctor breezed in. He was always so damn flippant that I had already decided I could not stand him.
“Have you been crying? What’s wrong with you?” At that point, I just looked at him and responded, “I’m pregnant and losing a baby” That’s what, dumb ass. Sometimes the idiocy of doctors is too much to bear. Anyway, that Hail Mary prayer got me through a terrible hour: more than the sedative. Certainly much more so than dwelling on the event at hand. That’s why I believe—wholeheartedly —in the enduring, soothing power of prayer.