The Prayer

I was describing her desperate condition to my pastor, after the service one Sunday when he solemnly asked me, “Have you prayed the prayer?” I knew exactly what he meant. His compassionate question touched me deeply. Pastors seem to have a way of doing that.

Mom had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for more than ten years, and the continuing progress of the malady was devastating. Her ability to speak had been gone for some time, and she had been forced to depend on facial expressions to communicate. Now even that was gone as was almost any ability for independent movement, leaving her in need of total care. My dad was always the first in line to serve. He spent hours each day patiently coaxing his beloved wife to eat and take in fluids. He always told people, “She would have done this for me if the circumstances were reversed.”

Having gone from a delightful woman of great mental acuity to a non-communicative, almost comatose patient was a dramatic descent. Now she had stopped eating and rarely opened her eyes. She had made a pact with Dad when she was first diagnosed that no extreme measures would be allowed to artificially prolong life as her condition deteriorated. No feeding tubes or breathing assistance would be employed to prevent her earthly exit. Dad was committed to this agreement, but found that keeping it was a gut wrenching experience.

That Sunday, I left speaking with my pastor, and went to the nursing home to join my father at her bedside. Even in an unconscious condition, she was beginning to show grimaces of pain. I asked dad if he was ready to give her up, and pray the prayer. He understood ramifications of what I was saying. This is a man who had committed his finances, his time, and most importantly of all, his physical health to her care. He had a real concern that he wouldn’t live long enough to see his mission through to the end. Little did he understand how close his arduous work would take him toward his own physical collapse.

He responded to my question by saying that he was ready to pray the prayer. Seeing her suffering and deteriorating condition had finally moved him to let go of that which he had worked so hard to keep. On that Sunday, around noon, we prayed (my father, my wife, and I) and asked God to take the one we loved so much to heaven, if it was His will. We had no idea how God would respond to that heartfelt request, but we had prayed the prayer with sincerity and all due gravity. We knew that God does all things well, and this situation would be no different.

On Monday morning I went back to the nursing home to check on her condition and see Dad, before teaching my class. I work at a school within walking distance of the nursing home. After a short visit I crossed the room intending to go back over to the school, but could find no freedom in my spirit to exit. It was as if God spoke to my heart and said, “Don’t leave.” I removed my coat, returned to her bedside, and waited.

As the time passed, my memory painted wonderful experiences of the past on the canvas of my consciousness until I noticed that her breathing had slowed. A nurse came by to check her pulse and found it to be very faint. She told us that mom could linger for days or even weeks in this condition. Dad knew there was a problem, he later told me, because her hand was growing colder. I sensed the difficulty of the situation and began mentally noting the widening time between her labored breaths. It was only a few minutes later that my mother stepped out into eternity. She exhaled her last earthly breath and immediately inhaled her first breath of Heaven.

Twenty one hours after we prayed the prayer, God took her home. He gave her dying grace, when the time was right. He gave my dad comforting grace for pain that can only be felt by one committed to a lifetime of loving and caring for another. And yes, real men do cry.

I thank the Lord, for answering the prayer and allowing me the privilege of witnessing the last moments of one of the Godliest women I have ever known. The experience makes me want to shout out loud—“Isn’t God’s grace a wonderful thing?!”

In loving memory of Ludie Cook

Roger Allen Cook Used by permission [email protected]

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