Mary Ann Hughes

Grace Notes

The daughter of a very good friend is due any day with her first child. The waiting is evoking tender memories for me.

Years ago when my daughter was expecting, my heart filled with joy and trepidation.

Days before her due date, two friends sat with me one afternoon in the back of a fast-food restaurant. We didn’t talk about what she was facing as far as labor pains, but I knew that they were there to comfort me and ease my worries.

I believe the kindness of women has extended back 4,000 years to the days of Abraham and Sarah when they were living in the desert; even longer, I’m sure.

When Sarah was in labor, the older women of her tribe probably stayed with her in her tent. I’m sure they offered soothing words of comfort and applied damp cloths to her forehead. And I bet they prayed.

These older women probably remembered the joy of their own babies’ arrivals, and they remembered their own pain and fear. It probably seemed natural to be with Sarah.

Sometimes, we can’t be with those we love when they are in difficult straits. What then?

A ministry of prayer.

When my dear friend, Donna, moved into our neighborhood, she was in her 60s and didn’t know a soul. But she sure knew how to pray. She gradually learned the names of everyone on our street, and her prayer ministry for us began.

She prayed for each neighbor by name; and as she came to know us, she prayed for our concerns.

Her white cottage sat in the middle of the block; and within a year, neighbors were stopping by with prayer requests. When a young child was hospitalized, it seemed natural for us to all gather in her living room and pray for him.

As a neighborhood community, we saw so many wonderful answers to prayers. But sometimes we didn’t. There was the heartbreaking death of a precious granddaughter. Health situations that worsened. Family crises that deepened.

And still, she prayed for all of us.

Perhaps that’s the role of older women in faith communities. We’ve been through so much ourselves. We’ve seen so much along the way. Our younger more judgmental sides have evaporated, eroded by our own life experiences. Our pride is gone.

It’s important to remember that we still have a place, even as our careers ebb away and our children and grandchildren grow.

We can pray.