I would like to start out by saying that I am not the most religious person in the world. I believe in God, I believe in Jesus, but I do not necessarily believe that I have to show up at church every weekend for that to be known. I have seen too many hypocritical church-goers to believe that that's all there is to it. Just because you're "saved" probably doesn't mean that God thinks it's cool that you're out sleeping with random guys, you lie, cheat, steal, etc. I mean, maybe he doesn't mind all of that and I've got it all wrong. But the thing is - none of us are really truly going to know until it's too late, and then there won't be much we can do about it.
So, being as I am not incredibly religious and I, truth be told, don't pray or talk to God nearly as often as I ought to, I don't know what to expect when I DO pray.
Let me tell you about the last time (before this past week or so) that I really prayed:
My grandfather was pretty ill, in and out of the hospital, in his last year or so of life. Truth is, when my grandmother died, he just didn't want to live anymore. She died in December 0f 1993, after fifty-three years of marriage. Frankly, I don't blame my grandfather. If I was with the love of my life for over fifty years, and that person was suddenly gone, I don't think that I would see much reason for living either. So, one night when it had been getting pretty bad, my mom got a phone call. I was in bed, but I could hear her talking down the hall. I knew it was about Pop-pop, and just assumed that he had passed away that night, but I did not get out of bed to go and find out. That night I prayed. I prayed harder than I had ever prayed in my whole life. I talked to God, and I talked to my grandmother. I don't know if you are supposed to talk to deceased relatives as part of a prayer, but I figure us Catholics believe in Saints, and if you ever knew my grandmother, you would know that she was nothing short of a Saint herself. So, I talked to her. Probably for an hour. And I begged her to take my grandfather, because "he doesn't want to be here anymore anyway." I told her he would be happier if he was gone, to be with her again. And despite the fact that I would be heartbroken of course at his death, the idea of my grandparents together again - her free of her crippling arthritis, and him free of the depression he had sunk into without her - was quite appealing.
It turned out that my grandfather had not died that night. It was a call to say that he was back in the hospital (which was really no rare occurrence those last several months or so). He died the next morning, however. Probably about twelve hours after my prayers. It was at least two years before I told my mom what I had done. She herself was sick with cancer when I broke the news that I thought I had killed Pop-pop by praying him dead. She told me that it wasn't my fault, and that maybe all he was waiting for was for one of us to say "hey, we're fine. You can go now."
Fast forward to present-day. I've been praying this week. For Taylor. I've been praying that she gets well, I've been thanking God for putting her into my life, and been thanking God for the good things that I DO have, which sadly are so much easier to see when you see someone whose life is so hard. So, yesterday when I was getting into my car, my walkie talkie was sitting on my seat. It's never on my seat. I always keep it on the passenger seat, until the next time I work and I need it. I know why it was there - because it had gotten tangled up on my backpack the night before, and I had just set it there when I got out of the car, instead of in its correct place. And there, yesterday morning, was the number "15" staring back at me on my walkie talkie. 15. Like the number represented on the blog about Taylor. The number that marked her chance of survival after her last surgery. She had a fifteen percent chance of making it through - and she did. I knew my walkie had a number on it, but never paid it much attention. But there it was, in a place it was never supposed to be, as if to say "hey, I'm listening."
And then last night, Donnie and I decided to head down to the casinos in Atlantic City. As I got out of his truck in the parking garage and met him in the back of it, something told me to look at his license plate. A license plate I have seen hundreds of times, and only ever noticed that it was light blues, with dark numbers on it. I looked down, and there it was. The Missouri state bird. A bluebird. As in the same kind of bird that has perched itself on Taylor's windowsill while she's been in the hospital this week. The bird that this week seems to represent hope, and perseverance, and God. I had to verify with someone that it was, in fact, a bluebird, as I don't know my birds all that well, and only recognized it based on a picture that's been posted on the Taylor blog of a bluebird.
And so there it is. I pray, and God hands me signs. He just hands them to me, straightforward, like it's nothing. Like he doesn't have six billion other people to attend to. I ask, and I receive. I am, truth be told, not at all sure what exactly these signs are supposed to mean. Except that He is listening, and that He is with her through this all.