Monday, January 25, 2016

Dad's Bedtime Prayer

     A few years ago Dad had trouble sleeping—this from a man who throughout his adult life as far back as I can remember slept every night at ten-thirty after watching the local evening news and awoke every morning at six-thirty (a bit later on Saturdays when he didn't have golf and Sundays). His schedule was so steady and his self discipline in hygiene, work, recreation, household and yard chores, and all matters public so predictable and sound, it gave him a “rock-solid steady” reputation, as my childhood friend's father once described him to my naive surprise.
     So when he had trouble sleeping nights for weeks then months, he got quite distressed and sought help from doctors and various sleeping pills, all to little or no avail.
     He talked about his insomnia constantly to the eventual chagrin of relatives as it was apparent he had enough sleep—he dozed while watching TV throughout the day and what did he need more sleep for anyway, it's not like he was working or had important appointments to attend to? He just likely missed his comfortable and predictable bedtime sleep routine and lacked something to get excited about to fill the hours each day instead of fretting over whether he'd get a good sleep that night.
     I'd witnessed to him about my faith, which he received tepidly at best, implying it was fine for me and my family but not him. But I saw a tiny door open in his recent distresses and wrote him a letter sharing among other things a bedtime prayer he could recite aloud that might help and certainly wouldn't hurt. I don't remember the precise contents of the prayer but it was rather lengthy and a part of me hoped he wouldn't call to discuss it (as was his habit after receiving a letter from me) because in a roundabout way his response was always “Thank you; not interested”, which I always found disappointing.
     But surprise surprise, about a month later mom called to say that Dad prayed my prayer a couple weeks and quit but she told him to continue it, it's good for you. it's a good thing to do. So he did every night thereafter.
     Dad came on the line afterwards and confirmed that he did recite it and it helped him relax.
     I was grateful that he had finally received Christ as his Lord and Savior, as it's tough to recite such things without meaning them.
     Twice or thrice since, Dad reiterated gratitude for the prayer and said he recited it every night.
     But I had my doubts. Never had I seen him pray aloud. He had stated many times his lack of belief in any spiritual being. Was he really reading it aloud every night? Or was he just saying that to please me? He never lied, yet it seemed equally out of character for him to pray.
     When we were back in Hilo during New Years, the day of our departure Dad asked for a moment with me. (I dread these meetings; he sometimes uses them to scold me. Though it's always mild and reasonable, it's still tense.) In the living room while we sat, he discussed his and Mom's wishes upon their passings. Regarding the ceremonies, he asked when both their ashes were lowered into the plot beside Grandma's and Grandpa's (his parents) would I recite for him his bedtime prayer that I had given him for the last time?—very touching for a man who is quite unemotional.
     I told him sure, but I can't remember what I wrote. Can you write it out for me?
     He said it doesn't have to be exact, I'm sure you can get the gist of it.
     I said it's been so long, I just wrote whatever came to the top of my head. Please write it out and mail it to me anytime.
     He recited it in its entirety on the spot to my delight and surprise. I said it sounds good, please write it so I won't forget.
     He said he would and a note in his handwriting appeared on my desk later that morning. Here is its contents:

Lord Jesus, please hear my prayer. I recognize that I am a sinner and need you as my savior. Please forgive me my sins as only you can. I want to have the peace, calm, and rest that you can offer. Guide me in your ways, now and always. Amen.

     It's obvious to me that he took out (or forgot?) some of what I had written, but that's great because by doing so, he made it his prayer, not mine.
     I know now, when it's time for me to recite it for him, it's going to be rough going, as I can get very emotional at such times.  But it's the least I can do after all he's done for me throughout my life.

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