Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Prayer

“I want you to know that I feel like crap. My face hurts, my eyes hurt, my whole body is sore, my ears ache and I have a fever. And, unfortunately for you, Dear Readers, if I can’t read blind, I can still write and I am going to take this opportunity to tell you how I feel: like crap. I can’t eat properly because there is metal in my jaw. I am not sure I believe the doctor when he tells me I will see and hear normally. I sleep barely at all-only in short spells, punctuated by vivid nightmares. No, not about the bombing….”

This is the one piece of expository writing I have from the hospital. I believe that I wrote it a couple days into my stay in the General Ward. I was feeling wretched. The shrapnel in my jaw had become infected, and I was running a fever. My sleep patterns had been wrecked by the stay in the ICU, and were being further disturbed by the nightmares. I could not sleep for more than a few hours at a stretch and I was exhausted and miserable. I tried to write, but soon gave up. I do not remember why; perhaps it was the frustration of trying to write blind. I laid back down and felt sorry for myself.

I wish I could say that this type of reaction was totally out of character for me, and that I am normally the type of person who shuns self-pity like the proverbial plague, who is always positive, who always looks on the bright side and so on and so forth. Alas, that would not be exactly correct. While I am not quite as heinous a whiner as I was as a child (a tendency which drove my mother absolutely bonkers) I do have my moments, and they are not especially rare. In fact, just how not rare these moments are, was recently driven home to me. I received a particularly good job offer and called a close friend to share the news. Her warm congratulations was followed up with a gentle: "now, even you have to admit that sometimes, pretty damn good things happen to you, and that G-d does not just send you catastrophes and other bad stuff". I got the point. I mean, I still whine, but she is right.

All that being said, when it came to the bombing, I did a pretty solid job of keeping my baser impulses in check. My mother had passed away twelve years before, but after hearing her lecture on the subject of self-pity approximately five million times growing up, I had no trouble remembering her words and adopting them as a sort of mantra that got me through those first tough weeks during which we did not know how much of my vision was going to be restored. "Do you think blind people ask for sympathy? Do you think deaf people want sympathy? No! They do not want sympathy! They are offended by sympathy! They spit on your sympathy!!" (Here, I may be embellishing my mother's words with those of Monty Python, but whatever, it still works). Accordingly, I did not cry at the thought of going blind, nor did I think my life was over. Instead, I kept telling myself: "there are plenty of blind people who have jobs and who have lives and who have families and who do everything...and if they can do it, you can do it. G-d helps those who help themselves. You will work and you will do it".

Until this morning, I did my job and G-d did His. I was almost maniacally peppy and optimistic and G-d made me better. The de facto partnership was working great. But this particular morning, I just could not do it. It was early-too early for visitors and even too early for the doctors. I had nothing to do and no one to comfort me. I lay there, with nothing to fill my mind but sadness, self pity and despair. I had no strength to fight them.

And then I heard the prayer.

At some point during the night, an Ethiopian woman had been placed into the bed next to mine. She lay there, tightly curled up, and moaning in pain. An elderly Ethiopian man started to pray over her in Amharic. But as everyone knows, prayers cannot be controlled, and sometimes they go places we do not intend for them to go. This particular prayer filled the room, searched out pain and found it. It curled around me, and I felt a cool tingling all over my body. By the time the prayer was over, my sadness was gone. “And thy word broke their swords when our own strength failed us”. When I had no strength, when I was alone, when I could not help myself any longer, G-d came to me.

Since that day, I have yet to have another prayer affect me so much, to touch me so directly. But that is okay. For something such as this, once in a lifetime is still a great gift.

Even I have to admit that.

(A special "thank you" to Gayle Meyers Cooper for her help with this post.)


david santos said...

Hello, Gila!
Thanks for your postinga and have a good weekend.

sparrow said...

The English writer CS Lewis once said "I pray not because it changes G_d, but because it changes me". How true. Thanks for your beautiful and inspiring post.

Rahel Jaskow said...

Hi, Gila! I just discovered your blog via Treppenwitz, and have put a link to it on mine.

Jack Steiner said...

(Here, I may be embellishing my mother's words with those of Monty Python, but whatever, it still works).

I often try to discipline my children by using various lines from Monty Python movies.

In fact, I once demanded they bring me a shrubbery, but that is a story for a different day.

Gila said...

Nu, have they brought you any?

Baila said...


Batya said...

Very powerful and very real.
Sometimes it's necesary to cry out.

I feel your pain and I feel your strength! May G-d give you health.

RivkA with a capital A said...

Wow, this was a powerful post!



ps. I have thoughts about the previous post as well, but they are longer and more complex and more suited to a conversation than email.

Anonymous said...

they say no prayer goes unanswered.
thank you for your inspiring post.

Anonymous said...

Why are you wasting your time on this blog when you should be out on the lecture circuit inspiring people?

Anonymous said...

I just discovered your blog and have been working my way through your archives.

Most of them have been plain inspiring and funny and smart. This was the first that made me cry.

P.S. The captcha for this comment is "beedvsh"--which I choose to read as "with honey." How appropriate for a honey of a blog!

Gila said...

Actually, I did a fair amount of public speaking (for Hadassah and UIA). To be honest, I really like blogging because I am not doing this on behalf of anyone. I am not trying to sell you anything. So if I want to kvetch about tour groups or mean doctors or whatever, I can. And I will. Trust me.

We are still in the euphoric "thank G-d I am alive everything is so beauuuutiful" stage of the bombing. That does pass! And then I get nice and cranky. :)

Fun for reading; not so good on the lecture circuit.