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The Prayer


Michael Russo

  He was getting married, but he didn’t know why. Not that he didn’t want to get married or that he didn’t posses some love for his potential bride. He just felt he was not in control, something was taking over his senses. It was the winter of 1985; he knew his fiancée for only a few months. They only dated a month before something once again took control of him and he asked the question he had been longing to ask. It would be years of growing, loving, and understanding before he truly came to realize what those first few months with her were all about. He wanted to get married. She was the one.

   He just knew it was right. It all fit into place. She was the wife he needed. She was the one savior that would carry him through until the end. Some days near the beginning he would wonder about the permanence of their relationship, just to be surprised again and be re-introduced to how wonderful she really was. More times than not, he knew they would be married until the end.

   As their engagement was made public, he knew he was doing what was right. He also knew how much it pleased her to find a man that would love her like he would. He knew he was up to the task. He understood her. She was simple in her emotions. She never played games with him and she was always honest.  She just wanted to be loved, and he knew she found the right guy to do it.

    He enjoyed the roller coaster social ride of a marriage engagement. Though her parents were somewhat suspicious of his motives and his faith for the long run, they were happy for her that she found someone that would love her like he would. He certainly wanted to please them. So, to this day, they must have known he was on his best behavior.  Her friends reveled in her happiness and envied her for the joy she seemed to have found. He watched her glow as she gathered together with family and friends to plan the big day. He watched her show off the tiny engagement ring on her hand, that to her was the biggest stone she could have ever imagined. They spent those few months before their wedding day, planning their lives. They talked about their dreams, their past struggles, their past mistakes, what they wanted for their children and what they wanted for themselves. They were truly in love. However, the real love was yet to come.

   He met many of her friends as she showed him off to all she knew. Most of the girls she was close with were all friends she grew up with back in her small hometown. Out of all her friends though, she chose a girl named Peggy to be the Maid of Honor at her wedding.  Her closest friend had moved away to Italy after getting married to another navy man. To the potential bridegroom, her selection of Peggy to be Maid of Honor didn’t seem like a hard choice. He never met her other friend at the time and it seemed Peggy was just as good a friend. As the days moved closer to the wedding, he saw more and more of Peggy. Each time they went home to her parents, she would come over and discuss plans for the big day. He liked to watch Peggy, because it seemed that she was also uncomplicated, loving, and ready for a life together with a special person. He saw in her the same emotions as he did his own fiancé, the simplest form of true affection. She was kind, pretty, gentle and polite. !

 When he was around her, he knew she longed for the same happiness that his finance had found. In a way, he wished he could give it to her.  He was certain that someday she would make a great wife and mother.

    The days got shorter to him and time seemed to pick-up pace the closer it came to the day of the wedding. His life was a whirlwind of romance, love, passion and excitement. He was thrilled to know he’d have a partner in his life. He knew it was right and at the same time he felt a weight which was slowly being put upon his shoulders. He was getting married and for some reason he was just along for the ride. But he knew one thing throughout the entire complicated ordeal. He knew she was the one and he knew he was going to have a special life with her. In a way, he figured that was really all he needed to know.

   The night soon came for the rehearsal of the wedding and afterwards, their family and friends all gathered at the house of the church pianist for the dinner that followed the rehearsal. He could see the excitement in his future bride’s eyes and the anticipation of what would be the biggest day of both their lives so far. Peggy was there along with many of his fiancés other friends and relatives and he saw how much they all envied her once again and dreamt of a similar day for themselves. He could see the awe in Peggy’s eyes the most. She seemed to glow with life and love wherever she went and it was hard for him not to notice what was going through her mind. She wanted to be loved in the same manner his fiancée was loved. She wanted the dream life that came with a loving, successful marriage, a life full of happiness, laughter, excitement, peace, understanding and fulfillment. But most of all, she wanted to be loved. She wanted children as well. He could tell. She had enough love stored inside her to love a dozen children he thought to himself. He’d certainly be watching her as the days and years went by and he’d be interested in her well being and her life.
   When the dinner and fellowship came to end that night, everyone started heading home. He was outside with his fiancée saying good-bye to everyone. When it was time for Peggy to go home, she started walking towards her car with the girl he was soon to marry. He stayed on the porch and watched them walk towards Peggy’s car that was parked at the end of the driveway. He watched as it looked as though they were going to say their last good-byes of the night. Peggy turned and gave his fiancée a hug.
  With that cue, he yelled out from the porch, “See ya Peggy!”

  At the time, he yelled just to get her attention and to actually just bid her a good night. Peggy turned quickly and realized who had hollered a good night to her. She looked excited.

   “Oh, I forgot!” She half-screamed.

   She turned around quickly and started running towards the porch at him. She ran up to him, and literally jumped in his arms. She wrapped her arms around his neck nearly as tight as anyone ever did and hugged him with a hug that would literally last him a lifetime. It was a genuine hug of pure heavenly love and affection. It was special and it was real. He was a little worried as to what his fiancée might have been thinking. But at the same time it felt very good.

   “Do you have a brother?” she asked.

    He followed up with a nervous giggle and said, “I don’t think you’d want my brother.”

     The wedding went relatively well. It was small, but still filled with the right amount of family and friends to make it the best day of their lives. They were happy and they went away from the wedding reception ready to live a full, loving life. Though still knowing little of each other, they knew they had what it would take to make a successful marriage. The years ahead would often be trying times, getting to really know one another and coming to realize they were, in fact, different people. However, their differences seemed to compliment each other’s personalities and luckily they came to accept each other for who they truly were. This full, understanding acceptance is what they would often credit for the love and happiness that would forever fill their lives.

   The first few years of marriage were happy and exciting. Marriage was new and passionate and it wasn’t long before the new bride was about to have their first child. It was a boy and the gift God bestowed upon them both to love, nurture and cherish. He and his brother would end up multiplying the love that already existed and inspired the young bride and groom.
   Traveling home to her parents became routine, since the arrival of the boys and even prior to that. Her parents were merely a few hours away and the time they spent as two and three, and most times four generations let her parents and her grandmother really get to know their new son-in-law and grandson-in-law. It was on one of these trips home that would forever change his life. It was a moment that would certainly begin a journey of the utmost spiritual experience.

   Upon the arrival of him and his wife, his mother-in-law sat them down and gave them the bad news. It was discovered that Peggy had cancer, a particular form of leukemia that would require immediate treatment. His heart stopped at the news. He could not believe this was happening. So much happiness had recently transpired in the momentous life of him and his new wife; it just didn’t make sense. His concern for her must surely have been hidden somewhat by the fact that he couldn’t show the feelings he really felt. It wouldn’t have seemed right to actually express his feeling for Peggy, because that would make it seem like he was closer to her emotionally than would seem appropriate.  His eyes began to well up with tears and he quickly escaped to the bathroom.

   While hidden in the bathroom, he thought to himself, “How could an angel of such love and feeling be stricken in such a way?” He imagined the therapy and treatments her young, tender body and soul were to endure. If it led to the ultimate heartbreak, it would surely be the world’s worst injustice.

   “How could God let that happen?” he thought.
   After the witness he had at the joy and anticipation of the love she so endeavored to find and the pure tenderness of her soul, it seemed inconceivable to him that something like this could occur. He began to feel somewhat guilty for feeling so close to her, especially being recently married and hardly knowing Peggy at all. His emotional attachment to her seemed to be a shadow of betrayal. He didn’t quite understand it. But, in fact, he couldn’t get her innocence out of his mind and the pureness of what seemed to be one of God’s chosen angels; an angel of the same caliber as his own wife. He wished only the strongest love and happiness for someone who so searched for it and certainly deserved it. Peggy should be destined for joy and love. She should be the ultimate wife and mom. Instead, he felt uncertain of the future and felt very sad for what was possibly to come.

   The days and weeks went by relatively uneventful, despite updates from back home as to Peggy’s deteriorating condition and the progress of treatments she was beginning to help arrest her condition. The doctors had determined that Peggy needed a bone marrow transplant.  The search for a donor began.
   He often found himself referring to God in his mind and wondering why life deals certain people misfortune in their lives.  Why is he so lucky? Is misfortune in the cards for him? His religious and spiritual upbringing was limited to a scant few years when he was a child, attending a Catholic Church with his mother and sister. For him, praying was usually limited to asking God to make sure the Cubs had a good year and made it to the playoffs. After the news of Peggy’s diagnosis, he suddenly began to look to the clouds as they passed by on a windy day or stared at the clear, dark sky at night, packed full of the shining stars.

    “Where was Heaven and surely where was God when you needed Him?” he thought to himself.

   The night was like any other night back home in the house they lived in. It was normal three nights a week and every other weekend for his wife to be working nights in the hospital she worked in. Healthcare workers usually cannot choose their hours and she often pulled nights since he worked days, so one of them could be home with their son. This way their childcare bill was limited to a couple of hours between the time she dropped him off at the babysitters and the time he was able to pick him up in the afternoon on his way home from work. The time they had making ends meet working different hours and often separated may have been difficult at times. However, the limited time they had together was valued even more by both of them and together they cherished it. Ironically they came to grow closer by being apart. It was on one of these nights that his life would usher in a milestone of faith and spiritualism that would last his entire life.
    It was bedtime for his son, Jake and getting him into bed was not at all that hard for him. He learned that strong, energetic discipline, combined with the right amount of a loving tuck under the covers could get any child into a restful position. That and the threat of a spanking worked wonders. Jake listened to him and he felt comfortable with him. After getting Jake settled down, it wasn’t long before he was ready for bed as well. It was a Saturday night and despite the fact that he didn’t have to get up early the next morning, he felt the unrelenting need to get some sleep. His wife wouldn’t be home for a couple of hours and so with the humming of a nearby fan, he crawled under the covers. Strangely enough, he tossed and turned a few times. Not surprisingly, his thoughts drifted about Jake, his wife and what life had for him down the road. In darkness, quiet, and loneliness, we sometimes think of the times we’ve had to enjoy in our lives as well as the potential here!

 after. We develop thoughts of the people around us and wonder what life would be like if we suddenly were taken from the surroundings we currently enjoy. This night, he thought of how lucky he was. This night he thought of Peggy.

   It was not hard for him to think of what she must be going through. He saw her face and he felt her presence in but only a thought of regret. Regret for having all he had. Regret for the life he was living, when she could not imagine it at all. She was facing challenges he could only think about. It still never made sense to him. How could this happen to someone so full of life, someone that was looking at what could be the early end of that very precious existence? He closed his eyes. He decided he would pray.

    Dear God, I know I don’t come to you often enough. I know I’m not perfect and I should get to know you more. I should serve you more everyday that goes by. I’m so lucky to have what I have and I know you’re the one responsible for all my happiness.  But tonight I ask for just one thing. Please let Peggy live. Please God, let Peggy live.

    Tears began to fill his eyes. The lump in his throat was making his breathing seem rather constricted. He tried to catch his breath. 

   She’s so young and so full of life. It wouldn’t be at all fair for her to die.

   He thought and prayed to God with all he had in him. He wanted to touch God in any way possible if He might have been out there. He just had to hear his prayer! He just laid there with his eyes closed, wiping away the tears that streamed down his cheeks.

    Let her live…please let her live.

    Again, he thought of the joy she’d have in her life and the children she could have that would certainly fill her heart with affection.
   If she could only live, he thought again. 
   In a plea for forgiveness and in desperation, he pulled back the covers and rolled out of the bed. He felt light-headed, yet bound somehow with a holiness he had never felt before. He didn’t look at the room. He felt in some ways he was disconnected with his own existence, his own being. He knew it was His time. He bowed his head on the bed as he knelt down to pray yet again. His tears and crying became uncontrollable sobs of begging.

   I promise, I will be as good a man as I can be. Whatever happens God,  please just let her live!
  He kept his head bowed in silence, fighting back the tears. Minutes went by and he heard nothing but the sound of the fan on the other side of the room. In a way though, he was at peace. He just laid his head on the bed and cried. He could not pray enough; he knew that for certain. He couldn’t go back to bed so quickly. He needed to do this right, for her sake. He needed to pray and pray hard. He went to the bedroom door and heard the sound of the fan in the other room where Jake was sleeping.  He felt the laziness of his head again and wondered if he was going to pass out, but he didn’t. Closing the door and locking it, he knelt beside the bed once again, looked up to the ceiling and proceeded to ask God once more. Fighting back the tears again, he proceeded with a fervent soul. Never in his life had he felt the way he felt.

   Let her live, let her live, let her live…please God! Please God!

  Again, a head held down in silent remembrance of her. His guilt addressed him in the form of a thought from his wife who would soon be home. For a few brief moments he actually felt that he was somewhere else besides the room in which he always slept. It was surreal. It was somewhat magical. His head was light again and he knew he had to sleep. Suddenly, he felt tired, worn down. He arose again and unlocked the door. This time slipping in under the covers of a colder bed. He curled up in a fetal position, with the covers close around his neck. He reflected on the last minutes and what certainly could have been as long as an hour. He cried once more, twice more. One episode turned into the next. The tears were unbearable to stop at this point. He never prayed so hard and so long for anything in his life.

   Time went by, and though his body was tired, he could not sleep, both with his thoughts of Peggy and the unfamiliar movement of his soul he was just fortunate enough to experience.

    The slamming of the car door could be heard. His wife was home from work and he knew he had to pretend he was asleep. He couldn’t let her see him cry. She came in the front door and spent a few minutes downstairs before ascending up to the bedroom. He closed his eyes and covered up further. He heard her slowly open the bedroom door and get dressed for bed. She softly entered the bed and without disturbing him, turned and went to sleep in a short few moments. He, while turned the other way, spent the next couple hours reflecting again on the moment and the situation of his new close friend – a friend he hardly knew.

   This is his testimony. This is his one reason for living, as if for nothing else. He is convinced he touched the mere shadow of God that night and his prayer was answered. Today, over 15 years later, Peggy lives happily near Raleigh, North Carolina with her husband and her adopted daughter. She loves and she is loved. She’s never known how much she’s meant in his life and his faith.  In the many years since his prayer, he has seen Peggy less than a half dozen times. Each time he smiles and greets her like anyone of his wife’s other friends. He doesn’t need to see her though. He just needs to know she’s still alive.

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