A Prayer for Richard
By Gregory Smith
Undergoing major surgery can make you more aware of god’s gifts, if you’re willing to pay attention. I haven’t always been listening when the good lord dialed my number. Thanks to a quiet, lonely night in a hospital I have a better understanding about the power of prayer. Not just for myself, but for others. In particular, for one man whom I may never meet again.
Less than two months ago, a large tumor was found in my brain. The health problems I had been having for more than a decade could be explained by the trouble this growth was causing. The good news, it was not cancerous. At about two-inches, by two inches, by half-an -inch, it had to be removed.
Like many people who find themselves heading toward major surgery, I asked friends to think good thoughts and to pray for me. By the time I checked into the hospital I had a lot of support both emotionally and mentally. Later, I learned I was included in prayers at services in three different towns. I was truly blessed.
Didn’t feel that way after the more than seven hour surgery. Head hurt, so weak I couldn’t get up and I had a machines and several intravenous bags of different kinds of fluids hooked up to my body. Felt more like a machine than a man. On top of that, I couldn’t even get up to use the restroom without the help of two nurses.
The worst part was seeing the worried look on my wife’s face while she cared for me. I knew she loved me, but to daily spend 12 hours and more at my side fretting about me was more than I wanted to deal with. I would have done the same for her, but that didn’t make me feel any better. I could see she was wearing herself out.
Late one night I was really going into a pity party about how bad my life had turned out when I heard my roommate, Richard, moaning. He did that a lot. One of the nurses told me he had a stroke and had an infection in his lungs. I had seen his family come and go. The man was such a sad sight that they never stayed in the room very long. I was starting to appreciate my wife even more. She would read out loud interesting things she found in a newspaper or a magazine. Just hearing her voice helped me get through. Poor Richard had no one reading to him.
So here I was feeling sorry for myself late one night when I began to hear Richard moaning again. Only this time he was calling for someone. I couldn’t tell who, so I answered him.
“Richard. Is there something I can do for you?” I asked.
“I’ll call a nurse,” I said.
“No. No one cares.”
The man could barely speak from the one good side of his mouth. His breathing was labored and his voice weak.
“Not true. Someone cares,” I said.
Not knowing what else to say, I said, “God cares.”
“Sure he does,” I said. “We have no idea what he has planned for us, but he cares.”
Richard said nothing. I didn’t know if he was thinking over what I just said or if he’d passed out. Taking a chance he was still awake, I urged myself up, IVs and all, so I was standing at the foot of my bed. Peering into his part of the room, I whispered, “Richard, you there?”
“Would you like me to pray for you,” I said, not sure what I was going to say in the prayer.
So I stood there, bare feet on the cold tiled floor, wearing a hospital gown that left little room for modesty, the IVs and the machine hooked to my body and said the Lord’s Prayer.
I had said the Lord’s Prayer many times before in church and before meal time when I was a boy. Even though I knew every word by heart, I had never placed as much meaning on each word the way I did that night. I wasn’t just praying for myself. I was praying for Richard.
As I prayed, head bowed, asking for forgiveness, and acknowledging a higher power, I felt a warmth wash over me. I had never felt such a comfortable warmth before as I did that night. The floor didn’t feel so cold, the IVs didn’t hurt so much and the draft in the back of my gown didn’t seem so big.
When the prayer was done, I stood there quietly for a few moments to think about what I had just done. Completely unlike me to do such a thing. Sure, I had prayed for people whose names were mentioned during service at church who were in need of support. This was different.
“Richard, are you okay?” I asked.
“Richard,” I said again, only to hear pastoral snoring. The kind you might hear when a small child falls asleep. The kind that comes with a mind at peace with itself. Or in this case maybe it was his soul that was at peace.
Carefully, I crawled back into bed so I wouldn’t accidently pull one of the IVs or heart monitors. As I laid back and settled in, I knew I would soon be sleeping. Most likely the rest of someone who is at peace.
I left the hospital the following day. Before I did so, I mentioned to Richard’s son that reading the funny pages to his father might help his dad. The young man shrug his shoulders. Then I told him his father likes it when someone prays for him.
The young man looked at me strangely.
“No really, give it a try,” I said. “What do you have to loose.”
For me, going with the “What do I have to loose,” approach the night before did both of us good. Maybe this story will help others.