Praying For Dawn

The Dead Sea just before sunrise. The picture ...

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It starts in the evening, the darkening of the sky, winds starting to get cold enough to slap your face; you try to remember what summer felt like. It all goes by so quickly that we are all taken by surprise. A friend looks weak and frail and even though you see her from a distance, you gasp inwardly and feel your stomach plummeting right down to your now-numb toes. You pray, you hope, you wish on the first star that sparkles brightly in the too-black sky.

This is a story about a real woman, a beautiful woman with three lovely children and a wonderful husband. A woman who is nice to everybody she meets, and when out of interest you ask her how she is, she replies, always with a smile and the word “fine.” She doesn’t ask for help unless she really has to, she’s proud and positive and a very loving woman. This person has been sick in the past and we pray that she is not sick again but we fear that she might be.

Not too many people know details, people, friends, well-wishers talk and NOT out of malice or gossip, but only out of love and concern. There is a whole neighborhood where she lives that is on the watch for her, keeps an eye on her, follows her slow, measured walk.  People are always friendly to her incredible children because they are great kids; They love their mom with all their heart. Everyone loves her, she is a friend waiting to meet you. She makes a mark on your life so that you feel blessed to know her, to see her lightening-quick spirit, the stubborn warrior, the beautiful woman she is, inside and out.

In the middle of the night when things feel grossly exaggerated, and emotions run high, we look for dawn, for the first shimmer of hope, having made it through the night. Night time is for monsters, and anxiety, it’s where your dreams become nightmares and you are waiting for the sunrise to hurry. It’s only when dawn arrives that things feel more positive and hopeful.

It is staying up and saying “I will fight this” with the most determined, strong voice. Sunrise, sunlight, peacefulness brings hope. We pray, we weep, we think, we beg. Life is so unfair sometimes and this person does not deserve this; she deserves hope and treatment and the knowledge that good friends, acquaintances, people in the community love her dearly. She should know that she leaves an indelible mark on every person she meets and if you asked her if she knew this she would laugh heartily and deny it. We know the truth though, we all do.

We pray, we love, we ask God for blessings for everyone’s friend. Let the dawn come quickly and erase the troubled nights, replacing them with hope and a circle of love from far away and near-by. We pray for strength, courage and healing. We pray individually in a thousand different ways, we pray in groups, in hushed whispers; we all pray together, for one woman, for one family to be blessed with hope and strength and with great, everlasting love.

Those 3AM Monsters

I am trying to picture a small, clear glass bowl filled to the top with plump blueberries sprinkled lightly with sugar.  The color, taste and texture of a red-green mango ripened to perfection. I am trying to remember the rare moments in time that life feels perfect. The moon making my bedroom alight as if someone forgot to turn off the downstairs lamp. The first smell of spring after an especially long winter.

When I cannot sleep, like last night between 3am and 6am,  I tried to remember things that make me happy. It doesn’t help me fall asleep but once in a while it fights off the anxiety that lurks in my stomach and slows down the racing of confused mind; I wish I could tell you it worked last night but it didn’t. Nothing did.

Everything seems worse at 3am, doesn’t it? The bed is lumpy and the pillows are too hot, I turn them over and around but nothing works, they are either too plump or not plump enough. Sometimes I take my hand and try to finger the softness of my pink and beige fuzzy blanket, thinking that may calm me down, but no luck.  I reach across the bed to where my husband sleeps and I take my hand and try to wrap it around his arm or lay it on his back; but even that reassurance does not help me chase the terrors away

In the past when I could not sleep I would take my flashlight and sneak down the uneven, noisy, stairs and my dog would follow me. Every time she sees me get up from bed with a flashlight she knows it’s snack time and she joins me; she is my snack buddy. It’s our own little secret and everything I taste, I give her half. A slice of hard salami, a digestive cookie, a slice of sharp orange cheddar cheese, toast with butter. I like our time together, my dog and I. We are both getting older and yet it affects me more to see her almost- white chin, than any wrinkles I may have gathered on my cheeks. I watch my best friend try and jump on my bed and I know it is not as easy as it was when she was much younger. She is turning nine on March 1st and I worry about that too.

Without the sleep I so desperately need everything is dark black and I still feel scared. Breathing exercises don’t work, counting backwards from 5,3066 does not work. I feel frightened and  confused and at 3 in the morning every thought or fear that I have are magnified one hundred percent.  I am anxious, I worry about little things that I need to do, not that they are difficult, just that I have not done them. Everything balloons up with intensity and my body flips from side to side to see if I can find comfort in a different part of the bed, deeper in or throwing off the blankets or taking my night-shirt off.

Children know all about the monsters in the dark. As parents we sweep closets and look under the bed with flashlights and leave a light on in the hall or a nightlight in the corner of a room. We will do anything and everything to make our child feel safe, comforted, cherished and loved. Grown-ups don’t have the privilege of people taking care of us. There is no one to sweep under the beds for us or shout random phrases for the monsters to flee.

We cannot be so easily reassured. We suffer through the hours, the minutes, the seconds, it takes for our brains to slow down; until we are so over- tired that we drift off to sleep without the comfort of knowing it.