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September 11, 2011

There is a family in our neighborhood who lost an infant to SIDS about five and a half years ago. When it happened, I also had a baby just a few months older, and it hit me hard. I heard about it from a mutual friend, but I didn’t know the mom at all, although we had older girls almost the same age.

I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to send a note or leave a gift, but it felt intrusive, as if the whole neighborhood was gossiping, so I did the only thing I could do: I added the family, especially the mother and older daughter, to the list of people I pray for daily.

Back then, the list was small: my immediate family and close friends. Now, the list has grown, because people often say to me, “Oh, my mother/sister/aunt/friend has cancer,” and I say, “I’ll pray,” and I do. I pray for my friend who just lost her daughter to the nightmare that is addiction. I pray for the people who have supported me in so many ways, through their friendship, or their writing, or by bringing by food. I pray for people who have encouraged me, sometimes 20 years ago, but I remember, and I pray. It takes me over an hour to get through everything I pray about every day, so I multitask. I pray while I do housework, or especially while I go for a walk. I should wear earbuds so that when my lips move, it looks as though I am singing along instead of talking to myself, but I don’t. I just walk, and pray.

Sometimes I miss a day, and then I fret that I may have forgotten someone: someone’s aunt, or someone I met at the grocery store, or in the waiting room. I’m sure that people have dropped off the list. I can’t worry too much about it: I say, “I’ll pray,” and I do — it doesn’t mean forever. But always, the woman who woke up one morning to find her baby no longer breathing has been at the very top of my litany. It was then that I began the routine of praying daily for someone I didn’t know.

I ask God to bless that family and give them comfort, but after 1600 days of praying for the same thing, it gets boring, so I have gotten creative in my prayers. I ask God to make them laugh and bring them joy. I ask him to reach into her heart and sharpen the good memories of her baby and dull the pain of her loss, a pain I cannot imagine, and don’t even try to.  I ask God to bring her peace, and to make His presence known.

When I began praying for this woman, I did not even know her name. Now, I do know her. We’re becoming friends, but I still don’t know her very well.

Sometimes I want to let her know that I have held her in my prayers for over five years, but that’s not the kind of thing you can just up and tell someone. Maybe someday it will come up in conversation naturally, and maybe it never will. That’s okay. I’ll keep praying.

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  1. Abigail Carlton permalink

    Lovely. That’s a gift: to pray, to care enough to give some of the breath of your life to others.

  2. Thanks, ER, It doesn’t matter if she ever finds out, but I’ll bet that if she does, she’ll know that’s why she always loved you.

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