In this story from June 1954, singer Peggy Lee shares how the prayers of friends and strangers from different backgrounds strengthened her faith.
For twelve days I sat in a hospital where someone very dear to me hovered between life and death. Nine times the doctors, excellent men and humble, gave up hope.
And nine times the message of faith was “the Spirit of the Lord (will give) beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” (Isaiah 61:3).
This was the answer to prayer. Not my prayers only, for there came a time when I couldn’t pray, when I thought I’d lost my faith.
But through it all I was sustained by the immense, impersonal Love of my fellow man.
All this took place in a Catholic hospital. I am not a Catholic. Yet the sisters prayed for my friend. At the end of the hall was a chapel.
“I’d appreciate it very much if you’d let me go in there,” I said. “But I don’t know how to act; please tell me what to do.”
“Just don’t worry about it,” said the sister in charge. “It’s the same God. Your heart and your intent are enough.”
Some of our friends were Christian Scientists. I am not a Christian Scientist. Yet they too prayed for us, in their own way, staying, as they would put it “in the high consciousness of God’s ever-present love.”
On one very dark day a close business friend, of the Hebrew faith, kept watch beside me for many hours. He too visited the chapel. But he soon came back into the waiting room looking distressed.
“We must find the priest,” he said.
We located him in the south wing. “Father,” said my Jewish friend, “your light, the light in the sanctuary is out.”
“You must be mistaken,” the Father replied. “That light is never out.” Together we three returned to the chapel. As my friend had said, the sanctuary lamp was out, and I watched as the two men rekindled the perpetual light of faith—to the same God.
There were no limits to the offers of love that came from so many persons, each made in his own way. The teenagers, who scrubbed and waxed the long immaculate corridors, put rags down on the slippery floors so that never, day or night, was I prevented from going from the waiting room to the patient’s room.
When a blood transfusion was needed, 40 volunteered, among them my faithful and beloved Negro housekeeper and the Japanese lad who tended my garden.
It was on the eleventh day that my own darkest hour came. There had been two operations, followed by paralysis and blindness. I called Ernest Holmes, my friend and spiritual teacher. “I’ve lost it,” I cried. “I’ve lost my faith. And I’m frightened.”
“Faith is of God,” Dr. Holmes replied steadily. “Yon couldn’t lose it if you tried. And your awareness of it will come back twofold.”
Back in the waiting room I picked up my Bible. A verse in the 91st Psalm which I must have read many times before leaped at me, and it was as though I read it with understanding for the first time:
“He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him, with long life…” (Psalm 91:15, 16).
A great feeling of Presence, of release, swept over me. In the room down the hall the improvement commenced almost immediately. I was able to go in with confidence. “You are going to be all right now,” I told him. “I’m so grateful.”
For the first time in 11 days, I went out to dinner, to a little restaurant across the way.
Suddenly I had an impulse to return. In the elevator I met one of the doctors, his face very grave. My dear friend had suffered a relapse and was very low. But, somehow, this failed to shake my new found serenity.
The special nurse was crying. I heard her say to the Mother Superior, “Don’t let Miss Lee go in. There’s no pulse.”
“He’s all right,” I said quietly.
The Mother Superior was gentle. She took my hand. “Dear, you must let go,” she said.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” I repeated. “But he’s all right.” Within me still was that wonderful assurance that all was well.
Ten minutes later the doctors came out of the room. They were all talking about the power of God. “It was beyond our power,” said one reverently. Then, with a grin, “But He certainly had us on our toes tonight.”
We stood there, then, wrapped in prayers of praise and thanksgiving-the Mother Superior of a Catholic hospital, physicians who were Protestant and Hebrew, and myself, a metaphysician (a member of the Church of Religious Science). How did each pray? I can’t answer that.
Instead, I remember a story about Joan of Arc when she was faced by inquisitors who sought to trap her with a question. “Does God speak to you in French?” they asked.
“I don’t know,” replied the Maid of Orleans. “But I hear him in French.”
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