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On Praying

I read several articles—that Stanford researchers have found a cure or “potential treatment” for Alzheimer’s. And, yes, there’s the possibility of reversing the mind-robbing disease.

As usual, I wandered the comment section and saw personal stories, people whose parent or parents, aunt, uncle, some loved one had languished for years with the diagnosis. Many were frightened that they were marked, biding time, until their own short and long-term memories would vanish. Some were certain, because Alzheimer’s ran like a river in the family.

One commenter praised God—that, finally, there was treatment. This was followed by, and I paraphrase, that “God had nothing to do with it.” Instead, the researchers should be thanked for the potential cure. And with this detour, the comment section became an argument, with name-calling, about religion and the existence of God.

And speaking of God, I was asked to pray recently. For a one-year-old child diagnosed with neuroblastoma. “Please pray.”

I wrote, “Thanking of you, with love.”

I’d hit Google and read Mayo’s site about this particular malignancy:

Neuroblastoma is a cancer that develops from immature nerve cells found in several areas of the body. Neuroblastoma most commonly arises in and `around the adrenal glands, which have similar origins to nerve cells and sit atop the kidneys. However, neuroblastoma can also develop in other areas of the abdomen and in the chest, neck and near the spine, where groups of nerve cells exist.

Then I hit Google again and entered, “do atheists pray?” And I thought as I read that if there is a God, he/she/it wouldn’t micromanage anyway.

But later, I did say a prayer. Not really knowing how and feeling idiotic, hypocritical, I said, “Whatever you are—if you are—please be with this child, this family.” On and on, and then I added all children with this disease, and then I included all children with any disease, and then, all children, period—all the little children and big children of the world. Because that just seemed like the right thing to do, no matter how foolish I felt.

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com