The Funny Prayer

13 Jan


When I was a child, I was in church all the time.  Sunday morning service, Sunday school, Wednesday dinner and fellowship and choir… My best friend Lisa went to church all the time, too, and her Sunday school teacher told the class that Christians should pray unceasingly during the waking hours of the day.  As an assignment, she told them to come the next Sunday with a prayer for a time when they didn’t normally pray.  So Lisa and I teamed up and wrote a bathroom prayer.

Now, being fifth-graders, we did not create a very sophisticated prayer.  It relied heavily on toilet humor, which is not surprising given that it has become a mainstay of children’s programming during our lifetime.  After all, what kid doesn’t laugh about poop or pee or farts?

But the idea of associating prayer with using the restroom isn’t limited to Christianity.  Jews, too, have a prayer for this daily activity, called the asher yatzar benediction.  In English, it goes more or less like this:

Blessed is He who has formed man in wisdom and created in him many orifices and many cavities. It is obvious and known before Your throne of glory that if one of them were to be ruptured or one of them blocked, it would be impossible for a man to survive and stand before You. Blessed are You that heals all flesh and does wonders.

The uninitiated are often incredulous when I first inform them of it, and then after I prove that it truly does exist, they think it’s funny and don’t really see why it’s necessary.  Once upon a time, I would have had the same reaction.  Then chemo happened.

(Shh.  This is the part that’s a secret.  Just between you and me, okay?  Nobody else knows.)

First, it makes you fart.  Which is rather unfortunate when you work in an open-floor office space and have to walk past not only the entirety of your department, but also the entirety of the IT department, to make it to the ladies’.  You try to be discreet because you don’t want to end up like your colleague downstairs, a portly middle-aged man who has been given the unfortunate nickname “Fartin’ Martin” because of his own personal problem with flatulence.

The flatulence problem also makes it difficult to order some of your favorite foods when you go out to eat.  Like the Margarita Grilled Chicken at Chili’s.  The chicken is fine, but it comes with a side of beans and rice… and those beans can be dangerous.  Especially when you get up to walk across the restaurant to go find the St. Jude Children’s Hospital fundraiser pepper that’s been colored to look like Daffy Duck.  You know it’s bad when your mother says to you in the car, “Kitty, was that you?!  Those poor people at that table!”

Then there is the problem with vomit.  The chemo irritates your lungs so much that you cough constantly, sometimes hard enough to suck air into your stomach, which forces you to throw up.  This does not always happen at the most convenient time…  it may, for example, happen in the middle of the night after a salmon dinner, when you are hyped up on codeine cough syrup and half-asleep.  That’s when you carry the dirty trash can to the bathroom and leave it there until you can deal with it in the morning after the medicine has worn off.  But in the morning, you notice that the trash can has been returned to your room, so you assume it has been cleaned.  Except that it hasn’t been.  So when you come back to your room at night, you think that the dog has had an accident, and you get your stepfather (who cannot abide the smell of fish) to come find where that accident happened.  He smells the bed sheets, underneath the bed, all over the floor, and then… he sticks his head in the trash can.  Which is full of now day-old rotten salmon vomit.  (There are some things in life that are brilliantly funny, even though they shouldn’t be.  That was one of them.)

And there’s also the problem with your bowels.  The chemo makes them difficult to control, which can be a problem when you’re stuck in the bathroom in the public lobby area of the oncologist’s office, waiting way past your appointment time for your mom to go collect a fresh change of pants for you.  It’s even more embarrassing when you have to call the receptionist from the toilet stall and explain where you are and why you are running late.

Yes, it is surely a blessing when all the orifices related to the digestive system work properly.


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