Saturday, March 24, 2007

A True Story About The Power Of Prayer

First let me say there is very little news this week other then the fact that on Wednesday I had a PET scan on my body and an MRI scan of my brain. These are standard and definitive tests that determine a course of treatment. I have an appointment with Dr. Sims, my oncologist, next Wednesday and should have an idea of what is going to be recommended as a course of treatment by the end of next week.

Now to the subject indicated in the title. This is a rather long story so bear with me. It starts in the mid eighties with a visit by an irascible old SOB (not meant to be construed as standing for Son Of Bob) and good friend named Charlie to Portsmouth.

Charlie Bergman was Vice President of Marketing for Bailey Controls, a large industrial controls company at the time. Charlie had contracted cancer, taken medical retirement and moved from Ohio, where Bailey was headquartered, to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Once there, he continued treatments until his cancer went into remission. Charlie, an active guy, looked around for something to do. During his last few years with Bailey, Charlie had noticed a growing number of a new kind of service providers who put together, the then relatively new, electronic industrial controls into functioning systems. These were most frequently one and two man companies, but some had gotten quite large. They all operated quite differently, they frequently started up, grew for a while and then went out of business. This phenomenon interested Charlie; he began to study it by getting in touch with some of the owners of these businesses, to interview them at first, then to collect and consolidate marketing data. This he began to publish in a monthly newsletter to a few of us. One of the things that Charlie noted was that no standards existed in this developing industry. Because of the lack of standards those practicing in it frequently got into technical, financial, personnel or business troubles that
resulted in either the work they preformed being unsatisfactory, going out of business or both.

Charlie arrived in Portsmouth to talk to me about these problems as we had dinner at the Oar House on the Portsmouth waterfront. During the evening Charlie and I devised a unique name for the fledgling industry that of “Control Systems Integrators” to differentiate us from the people who integrated data systems. Charlie, after getting into a beef with a waitress over getting him a pack of cigarettes, got us thrown out of the Oar House with a strong request by the management that we never return. Charlie went on to call a group of integrators to a meeting in Wrightsville Beach later on that year and form our trade association, the Control Systems Integrators Association. I was off on something else at that point in time but a few of years later I joined. When I got around to joining I told the Executive Director that it was a shame that Charlie hadn’t lived to see the Association come into being. He told me he had spoken to Charlie that morning. I was surprised because I had heard that Charlie had died several years before. The Executive Director gave me Charlie’s phone number and I called to ask why he wasn’t dead.

Charlie then told me the following story. Three years before his doctor had told Charlie that that he had only six weeks to two months to live because there was nothing more the medical profession could do for him. Charlie sought the opinion of other doctors, internet sites and a variety of other possible sources but kept getting the same discouraging opinion. He then turned to the only remaining possibility of help that he could think of; that of a higher power. Charlie was not a religious man, didn’t have much by way of belief but he didn’t know where else to turn. He had made a friend in the Navy during World War Two of man who became a Catholic priest in Chicago. This friend, who was by then retired, was asked by Charlie if he would do some ‘consulting’ for him in the area of prayer because he didn’t know how or where to start. His friend came to Wrightsville Beach, moved into Charlie’s guest room and he and Charlie began work on to prayer. At the end of six months Charlie was well enough for his friend to return to Chicago and for Charlie to take his wife for a long weekend trip to Washington.

On the plane coming back to North Carolina Charlie struck up a conversation with his seat mate and told the man his story. The man had a sister in Nashville who had received the same fatal opinion that Charlie had been given six months before that very week. The man asked if Charlie could call here and council her. Charlie, always looking for a new challenge did so and so became the center of a growing group who were pronounced beyond hope and had come to rely on prayer. At the time I spoke with Charlie he had worked with seventeen people over a period of three years and had lost only two. The remainder were praying and urging anyone who was interested to pray with them. If the people they asked didn’t believe in prayer, then to think positive thoughts. Charlie finally died about eighteen months later having lived nearly five years after his doctors had given up any hope of his living past a couple of months.

At the time I heard the story I was impressed and thought it wonderful and inspiring but it had no immediate relevance to me. In the passed few weeks it has come the forcefully to the front of my consciousness. Perhaps a little more on this subject in a later post.


Jennifer Higbee said...

Uncle Nels,

As I sit here this morning and look through the little fingerprints on the door I can see the sun coming up painting the sky pink and purple. I'm reminded that each day is a new day and how lucky I am. As I read your words I am moved to tears. I have always thought you are an amazing person and reading your thoughts affirms my feeling. Prayer is something I have spent my whole life doing and find the power of prayer to be immeasurable. I thank you for sharing this with everyone. You are in our thoughts and prayers. God Bless.
Your great neice

Nan said...

You write very well.