My son called me to his room several weeks ago. "Wait," he said. After a few minutes, I saw him shudder involuntarily. Then he looked at me and said, "That's what I wanted you to see." It had been going on for months, and growing more frequent. "Would you like me to pray for you?" I asked, and he said, "Yes."
We spoke for a few moments more, and then I went to my room and listened quietly for Love's direction about how to pray. I've learned from deep study of the Bible, and a corresponding commitment to put the Bible's teaching into daily practice, that what appear to be physical conditions actually have a mental cause. So I was confident that prayer would reveal a spiritual correction that would bring healing.
My husband had passed on a few months earlier, and it occurred to me that my son's sense of the stability and continuity of life had been shaken by his father's passing. They'd been very close, and he missed his dad a lot. I'd spent many hours in prayer myself, and had found great comfort and support from the understanding I was gaining of the real meaning and substance of life. How could I draw on the comfort I'd received and share it with my son?
To begin with, I reminded myself that God was in fact my son's Father, and I prayed for him to feel the steady, unchanging, fathering presence of divine Love as something tangible and real, prayed to know that he could respond to this Love and rely on it as a stabilizing and peaceful presence.
A few days later, I took him out to dinner and talked to him about God's fathering Love. I could see he was struggling with the idea. He wanted to have a dad around that he could see and hear and hang out with. I understood where he was coming from, but I also understood that the Bible promises us something better and deeper than even the finest of human relationships.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Monitor's founder, and a groundbreaking thinker and writer on spiritual healing, once wrote, "When angels visit us, we do not hear the rustle of wings, nor feel the feathery touch of the breast of a dove; but we know their presence by the love they create in our hearts. Oh, may you feel this touch, - it is not the clasping of hands, nor a loved person present; it is more than this: it is a spiritual idea that lights your path!" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," page 306).
The idea that the presence of divine Love could be more tangible and comforting than a loved person present is a deeply healing truth, and I wanted very much for him to feel and understand that fact.
Another passage of Mrs. Eddy's that I reflected on was a public statement she issued in response to the passing of Pope Leo XIII: "I sympathize with those who mourn, but rejoice in knowing our dear God comforts such with the blessed assurance that life is not lost; its influence remains in the minds of men, and divine Love holds its substance safe in the certainty of immortality" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," page 295). Much of my prayer for my son was a quiet trust that God was comforting him and that he could feel that assurance.
The shuddering has stopped, and we're grateful. He doesn't speak much of his thoughts about his dad (he's generally a quiet sort of guy), but I see the physical healing as evidence that the grief behind it is also yielding to a higher sense.
I know that we're not the only family who has to face the loss of a "loved person present." One of the beautiful and unexpected answers to my prayers for my son has been a more tender compassion for the grief other families are facing.
I think sometimes we feel an obligation to grieve, as though accepting Love's tender, comforting presence and the healing that brings would mean that we didn't really love that loved person. If we loved them, we must surely miss them and feel a deep sadness at not being with them. Certainly the impact of suddenly being separated from someone we love, and with whom we've shared the ins and outs of each day's experience, is not something to be brushed off lightly.
But I can't believe that anyone who truly loved me would require me to remain buried in sadness and grief as proof of my love. And more important, I can't believe that a caring, loving God, who offers gentle assurance that "life is not lost," would have us focus on loss when there is so much of life to be lived and loved each moment. "O death, where is thy sting?" the Apostle Paul wrote, "O grave, where is thy victory?" (I Cor. 15:55). The heart that worships God as the source of life, and trusts that life, like God, is eternal, has been given permission to rejoice and to feel complete, companioned, and at peace.
So my prayers for every family that is searching today for this healing presence includes a quiet trust that the Love that's been such a faithful, caring influence in our lives is caring for all, and bringing this tangible comfort to light in their lives.