PRAYERS FOR THE SICK | Susan Baller-Shepard


You can think life is humming along

then you hear your dear friend’s digestive track stopped working?

A colleague’s heart valve shreds, threatens. Compound with another

friend’s right boob which has a mass that should not be gathering, brewing

cells of mass destruction under her expensive bra she says is the best bra

ever? Then

things become very grave very fast, the cancer she had kicked!

is now kicking her ass; her appearance when you see her gives you pause

the face you love, minus the smile, minus the pizzazz, minus your friend,

because the woman before you is half what she was, it’s taken that much—

Tell me again what holds, when your friend’s tibial plateau does not, shattered in

a fall down the stairs, or the tinnitus tea kettle whistle’s constant brew for another?

Or have the son who proclaims, “My immune system’s a BEAST,” have him text you

from studying abroad, per his raging fever, his missing passport, the doctor he found

on the internet who speaks English and makes house calls, gives him a shot of something

in the butt. Then, last night have him call you from college in the ER, the BEAST is AWOL,

and he’s hooked up to a second bag of IV fluids. Pray all night it’s merely a virus, nothing more.

Offer oblation as you scrub your face in the shower. Tell him to hydrate, no stupid college

cure-all, warn of mixing over-the-counter. Tell him you’ll come if he needs you. Recall horror

stories of the ill. Ask God for provision, intercession, list these names like groceries—

that they all might be well, whatever shit shape their bodies are in. In the hallways of souls,

let the lamb doze safely with the lion, let the BEAST rally and make well, let any broken interior

mend and be restored—

to whatever new wholeness may come. Then give it a rest. Or drive to your son, or don’t.


Susan Baller-Shepard lives and writes on the prairie. Her essays, poetry and photography have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post's 'On Faith section,' the Huffington Post, Spirituality & Health, Writer’s Digest, the Tattooed Buddha, Monasteries of the Heart, and other publications. Her poetry was featured on WGLT-FM Poetry Radio. Finishing Line Press will publish Susan’s poetry collection Doe in March 2019. As an ordained Presbyterian minister with a master of Social Work, she's presented on expressive writing techniques at the University of Iowa's Examined Life Conference, which links medicine and the arts. Baller-Shepard taught college-level religious studies and worked on international development projects in Brazil, China, and Haiti.