About eight years ago, long before Chico appeared in our lives, I developed a habit of praying with Hennessy. It came about, apparently, just by chance, but now that I look back on it, I’m sure that it was quite intentional on her part, and – probably – intentional on the part of those angels who watch over us, and urge us to better behavior and a life richer in spiritual elements and elevated thoughts.
When I was a little tyke, I used to pray daily with my mother. It was a lovely prelude to a beautiful evening, a moment of soulful peace in a troubled world. My parents, who were intensely political beings, never ceased to worry about the nature of events at home and abroad, and it seemed that there were always serious problems brewing. Poor as we were, poor as church-mice, there was always a monthly contribution to the political movement for black independence, and every March on Washington in support of equality for all, every effort to provide food and clothing and homes for disadvantaged youngsters, sent us all to the penny-jar to figure out what we could exchange at the supermarket for dollars, to help and support and send our good wishes. We prayed for the poor and the disadvantaged, and so I never thought of us as actually being poor. Dad used to say, “I’ve often been broke, but I’ve never been poor.” He saw “poor” as a state of mind, a giving-up, a defeat. We never had much money, but we were never defeated and poor. Somehow, there was always food, always heat in the coldest winters, and always enough money to replace broken ‘cello strings and warped string instrument bridges. And there was always music, food for the soul and the heart: string quartets, sonatas, and the endless sound of diligent scales, arpeggios and earnestly repeated passages seeking greater grace and eloquent shape.
So we prayed. Mom and I prayed at the edge of the bed, and our prayers were filled with hope for the poor, and tomorrow’s worries, and gratitude for the day’s accomplishments. How fortunate I was to have those moments with her, and how I loved her nearness to me, and the warmth and intelligence of her words and ideas. And as I grew up, I continued to pray, and despite occasional lapses and periods of doubt, I prayed often and often fervently. In fact, I should say that I often needed desperately to pray, as life was pretty tough at times.
One especially worrisome evening, I was in the smallest room in my house…yup, the bathroom….and praying with my head on the cold ceramic floor. It’d been a terrible day, and the next morning I’d lose my electricity. I just didn’t know what to do. There was a knock – or rather, a scratch – on the door, and I got up, sighing, and opened it. There was Hennessy, slowly wagging her tail, and looking quizzically at me. “Come on in, Henny-Benny,” I said. She sauntered in on silent pads (“she walks like a Chinese Princess,” said one of my observant friends; and indeed, she did) and lay down on the bathroom shower-mat. It was green, and a love woody contrast to her tree-brown fur. “Would you like to pray with me, Henny?” I asked.
She looked at me like I was crazy….not to ask, but to think she’d say “No.” She put her head down across her paw, and her eyes closed half-way. I snuggled in next to her head, and slowly began the Lord’s Prayer. “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name….” I whispered, nearly under my breath. Hennessy purred…a sound I don’t ever remember her making before…really more like a loud, comfortable cat’s purr. “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” She snuggled closer to me, wiggled her head next to mine, and I could hear her purring and breathing as I prayed half-aloud. “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses,” I whispered, “and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil….for Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory forever…Amen.” And I hugged and kissed her. She purred more loudly, and was comfortable, happy, calm.
I got up. “Thank you, dear heart. Let’s do that often, many times a day.” She looked up and agreed. And so we did…before meals, after meals, during the night, during the daylight. It was has been, remains, a wonderful habit, timeless moments of great joy, great peace. Mother would be proud and happy…happy at the presence of my appreciation for her soul in Henny’s. The next morning, there was a check for over $1,000 in the mailbox, from a friend who decided to invest in my little company. I deposited the check promptly, and the electricity never went off.
I prayer, occasionally, with Chico. He was calm, quiet, and affectionate, and we both loved the time together. We didn’t do it often, because somehow I felt it was kind of “cheating” on Hennessy, as prayer was a uniquely special time for her and me. One day, after Chico and I had prayed with especial earnestness (for the life and soul of a relative who seemed sure to die of brain cancer), I sat on the floor next to Chico and asked him about prayer. I was certain he would know far more about it than I, galactic traveler that he was, and in endless linked communication with the Universal Brain, or “Ubee” as the Woggs call it.
“Do you think, Chico, that you can change the world with prayer? The world around you, and the world – the bigger world – itself?” A look of faraway thought and calm came over his face, a look I saw sometimes, when he was pursuing truly deep thought, the thought of billenia of Wogg wisdom and experience. At that very instance, despite his eternal youth, Chico looked very, very old, as old as the stars, and as distant. I waited patiently. I knew he had heard me, and wanted to give me a well-considered response.
“Let me ask you a few questions, and I think we’ll both find the answers,” he said, in a kind of Socratic manner. It wasn’t an unusual approach for him, as he is ever the teacher, the explorer, the seeker and the compassionate minister of learning and wisdom. “Do you remember the passages in both the Old and New Book of the Holy Words,” he said (that was what he always called the Bible…I never asked him why, but I surely knew what he meant), “in which people are raised from the dead, those who are presumed dead, and may really be dead?” I thought for a moment, to collect my memories, and then said, slowly, slowly, “Yes, yes I remember some of them, maybe not all.” “Tell me about them,” he asked quietly, as if he’d not heard about them previously. “Well,” I started slowly, “there’s Elijah and the woman’s young son, and I think that Elisha also raised a woman’s son from the dead.” “Yup, said Chico, “the Shunamite woman’s son.” I looked up surprised…Chico hadn’t ever before demonstrated such direct knowledge to me, and it was a new experience to hear him speak so quietly, reverently, about the subject.
“And if I remember correctly, there’s the story of a dead man who sprang to life upon being buried next to Elijah!” “Yes, you’re right,” he said. “There is life in the very throes of death itself.. they are all of a unity.” I wanted to think about this, and I knew then, and know now, that there is a deep, deep wisdom in his words that is bedrock upon which the universe itself it built. “Perhaps there is no death,” I said. “Perhaps. A subject for another time. Tell me about other events you remember.” “OK…there’s the funeral that Christ runs into on the road, and brings a woman’s son back to life, and the famous raising of Barabbas from the dead after three days in the crypt.” “Right on,” said Chico. “And?” “Well,” I thought aloud, “there’s the actual re-emergence of Christ Himself, of course, after the third day again…must be a magic number, three…(Chico nodded quietly, and his tail wagged ever so slightly)…and I think Peter raised someone from the dead, and so did St. Paul…the guy who tumbled down a few stories and died and they thought he was a demon. Silly guys….” “Yes, yes indeed,” mumbled Chico, almost to himself, “I remember those, and should have been there, but I was on another mission far, far away from those days.”
“So,” said Chico with a hard, quiet, intense look into my blue eyes, with his bichromatic two, “was a profound element of reality profoundly altered by the actions and prayers of holy saints?” “Surely,” I said. “And further, my dear friend, what do you think is more difficult to do with prayer? To raise someone from the dead, or to shape and alter the potential future pathways of reality?” He looked quietly at me, and waited. No tail wagged, no ear or eye budged. I thought. I felt like a kid in a grade-school Spelling Bee, faced with an unknown word. I blinked, and swallowed. “I’m honestly not sure,” I warbled. “I suppose that raising someone from the dead somehow alters both the past and the future, changing death into sleep and creating life out of death. So the prayer has to work in two different directions of time…past and future – and even present, of course. Shaping future reality would only involve one direction, it seems to me. Am I right?”
As always, Chico was a bit hard to read as he sat there, military-style, looking at me and through me. Then he kinda came back to earth, and wagged his tail. “I like your answer,” he smiled, “and I think you’re correct. Please consider that the key element in all of these transformations from death-to-life involve a great deal of compassionate love and care. In all the cases you mentioned, and in all the ones I know of, the desire to abnegate suffering – of the living – and create joy from sorrow in a very pointed, careful way, is central to the meaning of the miracles.”
“I see what you mean, Chico,” I answered. “All of the stories are filled with compassion for the suffering living, those who remain lonely, lonely on earth.”
“So let me tell you a story, since we’re on the right track here,” said Chico. “It’s a story about love and love between two friends. In this case, the friends are dogs. “Wow,” I said. “I know that dogs have friendly relationships with one another, and even familial love, but prayerful and compassionate love, love that transforms death to life? With other dogs?” “Yes,” he said, “listen and you’ll see.”
“There was a story printed in a magazine,” started Chico. “The magazine is called “Modern Dog” and it’s filled with all sorts of tales and neat stuff about your canines. The guy who wrote the story – and it’s very much a true story – is named Coren, and I’ve visited with him. He is a wonderful man, and a true friend of dogs and of Woggs. He knows about us, about me, and is someone I respect and call ‘friend,’ as I do you,” smiled Chico. I stroked his head in thanks.
Chico continued. “Stanley Coren,” he said, “wrote a completely true and verifiable story about a Labrador retriever named Mickey, who lived in a house with another smaller dog, a Chihuahua, named Piercy. They were great friends, and did everything together, from eating to bathing to chasing frogs to loving their family members. Mickey, of course, was bigger, and somewhat older than Piercy. One day in summer, when he simply wasn’t paying attention to the sidewalk and the street – they lived in the city – Piercy ran into traffic and was hit by a car. He was killed instantly. The family ran out, the driver stopped, and they carried Piercy back to the house, crying and mourning. As they were sure he was dead, they put him into a sack, and buried him in a shallow grave in the backyard. He was, after all, a small dog, and a deep grave wasn’t needed.
Mickey looked mournful and gray, and sat by the grave. In fact, Mickey wouldn’t move, and stayed at the grave as the sun went down, the moon and the stars came up, and still he was motionless, sitting by the grave-side. The family was wise, and wonderful, and they let him stay there, touched and still crying. Everyone went to bed, sadly went to bed.”
Chico looked up at the sky, and gathered his words. I heard him sigh….not a sad sigh, but an emotional sigh, a sigh of breath, and life, and deep feeling. “Around about 2:00 AM, when the moon was high,” said Chico, “the father of the family heard some odd noises in the garden, and grabbed a flashlight and his bathrobe, and went outside into the cool September night. The moon’s light showed him that the grave had been dug open, and the sack torn apart. There was Mickey, feverishly licking Piercy all over, nuzzling him and licking him and gently whining, with great energy. The father wept and wept, and went to Mickey and stroked him as Mickey licked and nuzzled the dead Piercy. Suddenly, the father realized that Piercy was shaking, then moving, then his eyes opened and he got up, and shook himself, and wagged his tail. He was alive. Mickey and Piercy wagged their tails at each other, and ran around the yard.”
Chico paused. “Now tell me,” he said, “tell me, dear friend, whether the prayer of a righteous and compassionate friend transcends, in power, the nature of life and death, time and space.”
I was crying very quietly, and my words hung in my throat. I swallowed. “Yes, yes,” I said, and I sighed. “Yes, the prayer of a righteous being will be heard in Heaven, and can obviously shape reality, both past and present.”
Chico paused and looked me deep in the face, a look of ancient timelessness and enduring affection. “Go thou and do likewise,” he said. I hesitated, fearful of being thought incredulous and unbelieving. “You mean, raise the dead?”
“Yes, yes,” said Chico. “Now you know it can be done, and the most powerfully cast pathways of the past and the future can be reshaped and redrawn, by the force of friendship and love, in the context of infinite belief. Cultivate infinite belief, affirm faith in the nature of endless life and enduring compassion, and you will be able to choose the best future pathways, and reshape the errors of the past. With my love,” he said. “All with my love, and always.”