Amazing Woman breathed her last at summer’s end two years ago. Cancer had savaged her most cruelly, so much so that her body had no choice but to raise the white flag and surrender the ghost.
Two years and one week later, I received an e-mail from a friend with whom I had had a relationship of sorts. The relationship was a modest affair, but it lasted long enough for me to know my friend was a woman of consequence, of talent, spirit and good will. She wrote to tell me she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She had already endured surgery and multiple rounds of chemotherapy. She was about to start a course of radiation therapy. She was battling for her life.
From the moment I received her note, I’ve been praying daily. These acts of prayer brought with them this contemplation regarding prayer itself.
I was raised a Catholic. A true believer I was, as a young boy. I mouthed my daily prayers religiously. I recited the Rosary countless times, repeating the Our Father and Hail Mary so often the words are forever imprinted within me. I was told this constituted "prayer" and that it was necessary, imperative even, to repeat these words over and over, for ever and ever, to safeguard my soul and those of others.
As I progressed in age and disbelief, I gave up praying as I had been taught. I no longer believed that mouthing words directed towards ears that only existed as matters of faith mattered.
I gave up praying as it was once defined for me, but I continued praying after a fashion. As I’ve grown older, I’ve taken to praying more often and more fervently. But what is it that I’m doing?
Neither words nor a specific deity are involved.
I find myself overcome often with emotion. The emotions vary. More often than not, I find myself hopefully yearning. But my prayers can be grounded in caring, loving, empathy or sympathy, too. In any case, the emotion is the prayer. The emotion is for souls outside my own. The belief is that somehow, someway, these feelings can traverse time and space (improbable as that may seem) to reach the intended audience (a loved one).
The mission of the prayer is to bring comfort and strength. May it be a karma rocket unerring in its trajectory and target vectors.
I consider myself a rational being. I studied science because I marvel how the cosmos behaves in accordance with the principles of physics, chemistry and biology. Even so, I’ve experienced the numinous and stubbornly cling to the notion that emotions flung to the heavens can somehow matter.
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