Day 39- leafing on a prayer

When a friend tells us that someone they know has died, it is impossible to know what to say. We offer an apology even when we had nothing to do with the death. It is always a little bit harder if the person who has passed is not somebody that we know. We don’t feel any specific grief because we never knew the person. We may feel sadness for our friend who is suffering the loss, but any more emotion than that would be almost inappropriate. We can’t say anything that will make our friend feel better; we can’t take away their pain, or bring their loved one back. There is no magical word that will make them suddenly accept the death and move on. Would they want to? Grief is a natural process and while it is painful, it is necessary and beautiful in its own way. We can’t say much at all. All we can really do is pray.

A dear friend of mine lost someone close to him. I stared at the email on the computer screen for a long time, fingers hovering over the keys. I wanted to hug him, I wanted to make him a cup of tea and give him that reassuring pat on the back that every friend knows how to give. But I can’t because I am in Mexico and he is in Australia. So I offered him the only thing I could. I offered him my prayers.

I pray but not in a traditional way. I especially don’t go to church or recite any of the prayers that were drilled into the back of my eyelids in the endless Catholic education I endured. In fact, the only place I have ever consistently found myself praying is in the bathroom. It isn’t as un-holy as one would think. For starters, most bathrooms are really white, which sort of gives it a sacred hue. They are also the one place where I can go, no matter where I am, and be completely and utterly alone. Whether at work, at the shops, at home or travelling, if you need to be alone, the loo is sometimes the only place for it. No disturbances. No distractions. And it is there, surrounded by white tiles that I occasionally find myself staring at mouldy ceilings and speaking to someone. I have no idea who I am praying to. Does anybody? In my family, our friendly euphemism for going to the toilet was, “I’m going to talk to John.” So I guess, that is what I do. I talk to John. And if you think about the millions of names that people have addressed their prayers to, John is as good a name as any.

Today I don’t pray to John. I don’t go to the toilet. I decide to use a piece of nature for my prayers. One of my favourite ways of praying outdoors (when I don’t need the sanctuary of a toilet) is to find a piece of nature, tell it my prayer and then bury it, or throw it in the ocean, or send it off with the wind, like a message in a bottle. I trust that Mother Nature will know where to take the message.

Walking up the stairs to our little balcony among the trees, I find a dried up leaf sitting on the steps. It is big and green and still in one piece. It is beautiful. I say a quiet thank you to the tree that has placed this on my path so obviously. I walk up to the balcony and sit outside. I stare at the leaf and offer it my prayers. No “Dear John…” or “Our Father…” or even “Dear leaf…” In fact I don’t even form complete sentences. I just think of the person I am praying for and then think of a small affirmation that embodies what I am asking for. Acceptance. Peace. Courage. Understanding. Liberation from worrying. Finally, I offer the leaf a prayer for myself. The serenity prayer.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things that I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

A gentle wind has suddenly picked up around me and I let go of my leaf and watch it float away.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Day 74- meditating in an empty bathtub « 365 Days in Bliss

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