By Cheryl Paden
Valerie joined our writers’group with the enthusiasm of a bee after nectar. She instantly became everyone’s encourager and energized us to write and to send out our work for publication. We rejoiced with her when she published her first article, and we thanked God for the birth of her long-awaited son, Jack.
Jack was six weeks old when doctors diagnosed Valerie with cancer. We all began to pray for healing. She started treatment and suffered from the side effects. After losing her hair, she glued sequins onto an oversized pink handkerchief. She bounced into our writers’ group that night and announced, “No one will notice that I am bald, they will only see my beautiful new bandana.”
We laughed as we watched her exaggerated modeling techniques and admired her new look.
At the close of the evening Valerie added, “I feel a cold coming on; as long as we are praying to heal the cancer, pray for that too. Might as well pray to heal everything.”
We agreed, and our praying continued.
We attended our annual writers’ group retreat at the St. Benedict Retreat Center. Valerie left the meeting to go visit with Father Thomas, the retreat center’s director. She explained that she wanted to ask him for prayers for her healing. As Valerie and I walked together that evening she confided, “I can just feel the love of everyone’s prayers. It is an amazing feeling. It’s wonderful!”
Valerie’s condition continued to worsen. We continued to pray, but the miracle we asked for would not happen. I called Valerie to ask what I could do. “Just come hold my hand.”
So I did. I sat at her bedside and held her hand. She whispered to me about her fears of leaving two-year-old Jack.
Valerie died the next day. Our writers’ group attended the funeral. The prayers for healing—at least our idea of complete, physical healing—were not answered.
Valerie’s words, “I can feel the love,” I believe was God’s response to our prayers. Our requested miracle of healing was not answered, but we loved our friend through her illness, and I believe she knew that.
Years later, when I suffered from my own illness, I spent time in the emergency room, doctors’ offices, and completing medical tests. Unable to attend work, social functions, or keep to my regular routine, I sat at home, fretted, and waited for medical answers. For that entire month, no one knew the details of my situation.
Then I remembered Valerie’s words.
I went to my keyboard and emailed every friend that I knew to be a prayer warrior and asked for prayers. By that afternoon, the burden of the illness had lifted. I still did not have the medical answers, but I felt the love of God and of my friends.
Through shared prayers and through simple presence, I learned the significance of what Valerie conveyed to us: Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).
This article was originally published at: graceandpeacemagazine.org