Nighttime Prayers

Nighttime Prayers: Irene

Today’s guest blogger is my beloved brother, Dr. Ed Nelson. He is a research chemist by profession, but has the soul of a poet and the heart of a servant. He and his wife Janis demonstrate what it means to live a life of love as they selflessly care for their aging parents.

The piece featured below is especially meaningful to me. Many years ago, Irene prayed for the salvation of her daughter’s boyfriend, and then later, his wild -child sister. I am eternally grateful for the role she has played in my life as a spiritual mentor.


Nighttime Prayers

by Ed Nelson

My wife Janis desperately needed a night off, and so I encouraged her to take our daughter Corrie out to a movie. This left me with the job of putting my mother-in-law Irene, afflicted with Alzheimer’s, to bed. I pointed her toward the bathroom where she dutifully went in and brushed her teeth. It was sort of a messy business— I had to help her turn on the electric toothbrush and clean it and turn it off when done. Old age was taking its toll on her mind, and she was becoming less able, less aware, more confused with each passing day. I reminded her to put on her pajamas, and I went to repair her toothbrush.

When I came back a few minutes later, I opened the door and saw Irene kneeling by her bed. She was having her nighttime prayers. It surprised me. Here is someone who can’t operate a toothbrush, can’t remember the day of the week, the time of day or sometimes her own family members, yet she can remember to set apart this time of day before bed to pray.

I wondered when it had all started? How long had she been following this bended-knee-before-bed ritual that was more deeply ingrained in her pattern of life than brushing her teeth? At 93, she may have been doing this since her time at the orphanage at 12, or since she was born again at a NYC revival.

The contrast with my own life struck me. How she could remain so faithful over the years—even through the mental deterioration of her disease—while I can’t establish a constant pattern of prayer and devotion? Her example shows it is possible.This practice may be the spark that continues to guide her and keep her going through these many years.

To Irene, kneeling in prayer is more important than brushing her teeth or remembering how to dress herself. This is what it means to be “constant in prayer.” This is what it looks like to be in it for the long haul. This is what it sounds like when a grateful heart places a thankful “period’ at the end of each daily sentence of life.

An Orphan On Her Way: For Irene

I saw her smile today.

Waking, she heard the name of her Savior,
and said, “Praise God.”
Through the years and beyond the pain,
her heart raced.

Tremulous lips moved with the voice of the Psalmist,
“Blessed is the man,”
and the words reverberated through her life.

“Know ye that the Lord, He is God,”
and she knelt in gratitude.

“Though I walk through…
and she saw the other side, and the peace that endures.

“I will never leave you,” and he never would,
never did.

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