My thoughts often turn to Christianity and the power of prayer.
Years ago I read a story which never left me. A little girl longed for blue eyes. In her prayers each night, she asked to wake up with blue eyes instead of brown. One night she told her Mother, “I am not saying my prayers any more as Jesus never listens.” Her mother smiled and told her gently: “Of course Jesus listened. He said ‘No’. Isn’t ‘No’ an answer?”
Four years ago, I had a stroke that left me paralysed on the left side and in a wheelchair for life. I wept to my eldest daughter: “This stroke has taken my life from me. I will never walk the downs, swim in the sea, go to the bluebell woods at Mottistone, and – worst of all – after 51 years of caring for your sister (who was born with congenital brain damage), she has to go into residential care.”My worst nightmare!
That night I prayed for a miracle, saying: “Jesus, please get me out of bed, stand and prove them wrong. Give me back my old life; I swear I will never take it for granted again!” After continuing this prayer for several days, I woke one morning and thought, “Your old life has gone, so make a new life!” I realised that prayers can be answered by teaching us to accept what has happened.
Four years later, I have that new life. I can stand (holding on to something), get in and out of bed and make myself a meal. I have great helpers who get me into the shower and take me shopping in my wheelchair, using a car bought for me by my son.
No, I cannot swim in the sea or walk to bluebell woods, but for eighty years I did all these things.
Looking back, I had a great life. Working for Pan Am, I travelled the world first class to Australia, America and Europe, and I played every leading role I dreamed of on stage. I had five plays published, winning awards for one of them. I fostered many children, had six of my own, and have 21 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren, which I have been blessed to meet; more than some ever do. I have been in love and been loved in return.
So life in a wheelchair is not so bad and my prayer was answered, not in the way I hoped, but by giving me strength to accept.
As for my youngest daughter, for years one of my sons and her older sister told me that keeping her home with me was stopping her learn to be independent! I was upset, feeling that loving her and keeping her close was best for her, and one of her brothers always said she would have a home with him; surely this was the best possible scenario? Of course I was wrong – she needed to loosen those ties, and learn to be independent, as we all must.
She settled well into an excellent home, clearly happy to come to lunch with me once a week, spend a day with me every weekend and staying overnight once a month. She has friends, she goes on holiday and enjoys outings. In short she has learned to live independently of me, but still enjoys time with me. I thought she needed me – I guess I needed her! It took a stroke to show me that I had to let her go.
So take heart, all you who pray, and be prepared for an answer you did not expect, because an answer will come even if it is “No!”
Listen to the answer you get; the rest is up to you.