The final Prayer for the Day broadcast in this series.
I didn’t know the man admitted in the bed opposite me in the ward. He had arrived in the morning with his wife and 12-year-old son.
Later my neighbour came over to say hello. He announced to me that he had pancreatic cancer and had three weeks to live. I was shocked, and I didn’t know how to respond, aside from a weak commiseration.
After some time I remembered that when I was fourteen years old my father died of pancreatic cancer – and the connection dawned. I approached my neighbour and told him that before my father passed away he gave me very sound advice, based on his life’s experience, which has sustained me to this day. I suggested that it may be important to offer his advice now, reviewing his life in these terms for his son.
My neighbour grabbed two chairs and we sat down and spoke of his need to communicate with his son something substantial of his life. It was a moving exchange where he did most of the talking.
Later I had the opportunity to be introduced to his son and I was able to share with him my experience that at his age my father had the same disease and how it was important for him now to listen to his father’s advice and perspective so that he could reflect on it his whole life, as I have. He was wide-eyed and appreciative and I know it gave him hope.
When my neighbour left we embraced and said we would meet again but we know we won’t, not in this life.
Lord, not every story ends happily, but even in the worst circumstances we will find hope. Please guide us to see the hope and to our part in this play. Hare Krishna.
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BBC Radio 4 commissioned me to broadcast six prayers in their ‘Prayer for the Day’ slot again. They are being aired over the week of Diwali so most will reflect on themes associated with this festival.
I had to go to hospital recently to have an operation for – well, something to do with my bottom.
I had survived for thirteen years with this condition without anyone knowing and I thought I could have a simple operation without anyone guessing that I ever had such a malady.
Unfortunately the surgeons performed a more serious procedure and I ended up having three operations. So everyone found out and the jokes start piling in, so to speak. Did they get to the bottom of it? Can you put it behind you?
But the serious side was severe pain which even morphine was unable to fully alleviate. The situation was out of my control, and I realised that the only thing I could control was my response. In a mercifully timely reading of the Bhagavat Purana, a Hindu text, I found a verse which advised that the devotee of God sees everything as being a gift from God, whether it be pleasure or pain, happiness or distress, fame and infamy.
So, I could choose to respond like a devotee, even if I was having difficulty responding like a man. I realised, as I took my gaze from my own pain that others around me were suffering more. I became more thoughtful, more willing to be compassionate, less demanding of my needs and comforts, and so happy to find God in adversity, accepting suffering as a necessary and productive part of my life. My distress was now a gift.
I think I did get to the bottom of it and I will put it behind me.
Lord, Thank you for your gifts. Thank you for the pleasure – and the pain. I learn so much from both. Allow me to always accept your gifts with grace. Hare Krishna.
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