This, is not normal.
Not for my very Italian (AKA: genetically loud) grandfather. The bruised,twig like-bruised arms, the stubbly chin or the hospital bed that I see him in are also not normal. For my whole life I have seen him looking almost the same each time- moving. Wearing either his old guy Russian type faux fur hat or a Boystown ball cap. And talking. Lots of talking. Loud talking with a strong opinion- about everything from olives to slot machine strategies. Always planning or talking about implementing a project.
Mine, is the McGyver of Grandpa’s. I won’t divulge all of his secret medical tips- but they involve epsom salts and Neosporin. With a side of: if the doctor won’t fix it- I’ll fix it myself.
Instead- my grandpa looks: Sick. Frail. Quiet.
Every once in a while there are glimpses of his “old” self. His hand reaches up to rub his perennially-bald head. Every once in a while they momentarily both rise up and give a lil’ jazz hand signal that was for him- more emphasis and frustration (usually over politics) than jazz. (True fact: if you restrain an Italian’s-hands- we cannot speak. Mouth- hands and minimal brain involvement- that’s how talking works for us. Go ahead Ask a neurologist. An Italian one. Of course.) We talk.
We think he hears.
We desperately want him to hear.
He holds our hands. We hold his.
He fidgets. He’s uncomfortable. Instead of in punctation to speech—his hands flutter at the sheets- the catheter… the tubes. The wires. I wonder if he’s thinking of a better way to engineer all this stuff with more comfort. He’s probably wishing he had his electronics stuff…. wire harness’ would be handy. Or, maybe electrical tape. I’m sure he is. Somewhere- deep in his brain- he ‘s thinking he could do this better. And we know: he could.
Before our visit ends- my husband asks if it’s ok to pray with him.
Suddenly- His hands quiet. They clasp in prayer. He bows his head. We pray.
Was it autonomic from years spent hearing the invitation to pray and then folding his hands almost automatically? Or was it a real engagement in prayer?
Does it matter? I doubt it.
When I am so sick that no one knows if I can hear- (we all get there- sometimes we come back- sometimes not) understand- or respond- I want prayer to be so entrenched in my heart, spirit and person- that whether I am cognizant or not— my spirit prays.
Like my Grandpa. A hero of heart and Spirit.
Roman’s 8:26-27 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
“Dear Lord- so many things to pray for- I can’t list them all— from health to finances, jobs, to babies and stress. God be present- be so entrenched in each of us- that we pray whenever the call to pray arises….. in hospital beds- in waiting rooms, in grief, in living rooms, in dark nights, in mental illness and in bathrooms. (Lord- I’m a mom- you know the shower is my prayer closet. and the Bathroom is as close to a quiet altar as it gets some days.) Whether we physically bow our heads and clasp our hands – or not—– let our Sprits be drawn to prayer. When we’re not? Let your Spirit pray over us. I love you lord- amen.”