Saturday, March 21, 2009

The One Time I Couldn't Pray

It is something that to this day I still cannot explain. It had never happened to me before. It hasn’t happened to me since. I hope it never happens to me again. It was a lonely feeling. I felt lost. I felt alone. I was isolated. I never want to be in that horrible, hopeless place again. It was a poverty of the soul.
I have a hard time trying to make sense of it. I did not feel bitter. I was not resentful. I wasn’t angry with God, and I wasn’t questioning God as I had done in the past, and as I have done since that time. I knew God had a Plan, and I knew I needed Him, but I could not pray.
Our youngest daughter Ellie had just been diagnosed with Hydrocephalus and she was about to undergo surgery to drain the fluid off her brain, the doctor explained that he was going to insert a shunt that would drain the fluid and relieve the pressure. It would not be a cure, but it would save her life, and it would alleviate her headaches and put a stop to her seizures. All good news, and I was thankful, but I could not pray.
I had always known there was something different about Ellie, from the time she was an infant, I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something wasn’t right. As she got older and was in school I mentioned it to her teachers, they thought I was just comparing her to my older children who were all overachievers. I mentioned it to her doctors, but they just said that children progress at different rates. But I firmly believe that a mother knows her children, a mother just knows. And I knew there was something not right with my baby girl. When Ellie reached the age of ten her headaches became more frequent and more severe, and then Ellie started having seizures. I changed doctors, I think this new doctor too thought I was over-reacting, but then we were Blessed in that Ellie had one of her little seizures right there in the doctor’s office. The doctor then called ahead to the hospital and we went to the ER where they did a number of tests on Ellie. They told us everything checked out okay, they were just waiting for one more test, but Ellie could get dressed, they would not be admitting her to the hospital, and it was most likely a virus that she had. Although that was very good news, I shook my head in utter disbelief and bewilderment. Then a doctor came to talk to us about the results of the CAT scan, Ellie had a build-up of fluid on her brain, she would have to stay, and a neurosurgeon would look at her pictures and be in to talk to us.
He told us Ellie suffered from water on the brain, he said this was a condition that Ellie was most likely born with, he said the valve in her brain that drains the fluid off was smaller than it should be, he said it probably functioned okay for awhile, but as she grew it couldn’t keep up with the build up of fluid. He said it explained her problems with school, he told us that her brain in order to compensate for the fluid did not grow properly. He said it was now to the point where the fluid was hardly draining at all, there was no choice but surgery, and he would operate the next morning.
My husband and I spent the night at her bedside, she slept on and off between bouts of vomiting, and Ray and I would take turns massaging her forehead trying to alleviate her pain. I had my Rosary with me, and I would finger the beads, but no words would come. God felt far away. I not only couldn’t find words, I couldn’t give Him my feelings. Fear and dread gripped my very being. I had no doubt that God had a Plan for Ellie, I just wasn’t sure it was the same plan I wanted for her. My spirit was frozen, unmoving, and it was a dark place to be. My sister-in-law Susie and her husband came to the hospital that night, and I told Susie that I couldn’t pray, I couldn’t pray for my own little girl. And I asked her to take it on for me, I asked her to do the praying for me, I asked her to hand my little girl over into God’s Hands. And God was good to me that night, I needed to be surrounded by steadfast, unwavering faith and love, and I was fortunate to have Ray and Susie by my side.
The next morning Ellie had her surgery, she pulled through fine, and the doctor told us that she’d probably need more surgery down the road. He explained that he had put in the shunt and also a length of tubing from the shunt to drain the fluid, but that as Ellie grew the tubing would have to be replaced, and he told us that sometimes the body rejected the shunt, or there might be shunt malfunction. Ellie did need another surgery for shunt malfunction, and then again, but the last time the doctor preformed a new, experimental surgery that is allowing Ellie to live shunt-free for over thirteen years now.
I am happy to say that throughout those subsequent surgeries, and throughout all other trying times and trials in my life, before and since, I have felt very close to God, I have been able to pray, and, thankfully, my spirit has never been bound in that way again.
I can’t imagine anyone refusing to pray. I cannot imagine anyone choosing not to have a relationship with God. It is a desolate place to be. I never want to revisit that pitiful, despondent, desperate, forlorn place my soul was in the one time I couldn’t pray.


  1. Hi Eileen,
    Sometimes I think we feel we have to use formal words or prayers when praying. God knows you were praying even if you felt you weren't. When something very traumatic happens, I too, cannot say the rosary or any formal prayer, maybe just please help me/us, God and angels in heaven. One of our saints said "Preach often and use words when necessary." I humbly think that can be applied to prayer because love and loving is a prayer.
    P.S. See, even I can be serious, but it warms my heart to make people laugh and smile!

  2. Thank you, Marcy, that was beautiful! And I love visiting your blog! It does make me laugh and smile!

  3. I love this blog, Eileen. Your Ellie is beautiful, your whole family is, but Ellie's picture is there next to your essay, just perfect!

    I've had this praying problem too. I don't feel too badly when it happens though. There have been times when I didn't want to share my troubles with my husband, either. I just wanted to "be" and nothing else. He has always been respectful of that and supportive. He waits in loving silence. I believe God does the same. He knows our hearts, every hair on our heads. He knows our troubles and desires, too.

    It's when I argue with God that I wonder if he gets a little tired of my prayer life! Lol!

  4. Oh, Saint, I got chills reading your comment. And you are so lucky to have a husband like that, I'm just as lucky with my soul mate too. And I know that we are all lucky to have a God Like That too. Thanks for the reminder.
    And I know exactly what you mean about the arguing/prayer - I did that a LOT when my parents were sick.
    Thanks for all your kind thoughts and words, Saint.

  5. Not one full hour after I read and responded to this post on Monday, we received the news that my husband's youngest brother took his own life. Yesterday, I couldn't even remember where I read about "not praying" just "being." I knew I'd just read it, and here it is. I know you'll feel sorry for me...but that's not my purpose writing this now. I just wanted to reread the post and thank you for the reminder. For me your message was heaven-sent.

  6. Oh, Saint, I am more than sorry for you all. It hurt my heart to read your words. The devastation must be unbearable. I will hold you all in my prayers.
    I know that in immense sorrow with thoughts racing it is hard to find a quiet place inside you, just find that place, Saint, seek it out and trust God to do the rest.
    I am offering many, many prayers.

  7. You are such a nice lady. We do need the prayers. We need a little peace. It will come.

  8. I don't know if you'll be back here in the next few days or so, Saint, but I was going to ask for everyone on the other blog we go to for prayers for you and your family, but I don't want to intrude. That may be something you'll want to do in your own way and in your own time.
    But I am going to ask for prayers for a special intention from my family and friends.
    And I in no way do I want to make this about me, but, Saint, our family has some experience with this sadness too. It is something I choose not to talk about, something I can't even write about. Just know I share your pain. And know that God's Peace does come.

  9. Thanks, Eileen. Ups and downs. We are feeling a little better because some questions were answered today. Prayers are so welcome to us. God bless.

  10. God Bless you and yours, Saint.