Remember to Breathe

Once a month I write a letter to the wonderful Prayer for Prodigals community I am part of.  Often those letters, though specific to those who love a prodigal, apply to any or all of us in the challenging circumstances of life. 

Dear Lover of Prodigals,

We’ve held our breath a lot in the past few weeks.

Our Josh’s grandfather—Papa—was slowly failing, with various ailments claiming more and more of his 88-year-old body.

Three weeks ago Josh and I went to visit him for the day.  The last time we had seen him he seemed fine—his usual chatty self.  He and Josh had good conversations.  But when we arrived this time, it was as though the breath was knocked out of us.He was sleeping—most of the time.  We were celebrating Josh’s birthday—I went to him with a cheery, “Papa, wake up.  It’s time for birthday cake.”  He raised his head, knew me, said something briefly, and was out again.  We did get him to eat a bite of cake.

We returned two days later, holding our breath.  Would he have revived?

No, the same or worse.  Josh spent the rest of the week there, loving his Mimi, encouraging his sister, and being the strongest he’s ever been.  Steady, calm, wise, adult—her rock, Mimi said.In long “conversations” Josh told Papa all he had meant to him—how he had been the dad he hadn’t had in those early years, how he had taught him to fish and handle a boat, how he had taken him to baseball and karate.  How he would become the man Papa believed him to be.I left for my trip to Uganda.  On Saturday afternoon the call came.  I held my breath.  Josh, through many tears, said Papa was gone.  We talked a long time.  The pain and loss flowed from my son.  He would grieve.  And he would be strong.  His Mimi needed him.  He had to help take care of things.

I held my breath.  Steve and I have dreaded this moment.  Yes, the loss of this dear man Josh had brought into our lives.  But especially the fear of what Josh would do.  Would he return to his old patterns for coping with unbearable circumstances?

So far, not really.  He goes from deep weeping to determination to make Papa proud.  Abundant tears are followed by resolve.   Faltering choices change to courage.

Still I hold my breath.  It’s hard to shake years of destructive responses.  Can he keep walking a better path?  Will he let God comfort and encourage and strengthen him?  Will this be a turning point of newness of life for him?

“Remember to breathe.”


God whispered it again.  “Remember to breathe.”

“I am with him.  I am holding him.  I have never let him go.  I have known this was coming.  I am doing a good work in Josh.  The legacy of Papa will help him go forward bravely, with hope.  He has a future.”

A little air began to escape.  Slowly I exhaled.


I was in Canada a few days ago and saw a promotion for the province of Alberta, called Remember to Breathe.  It is a grand tribute to the stunning beauty of Alberta, and even more to the magnificence of our Creator.  You can watch it here:

So, with your prodigal, remember to breathe.With love,JudyWhat about you?  Is something catching your breath?

c2013 Judy Douglass

If you would be interested in requesting prayer for a prodigal loved one, or being a part of our wonderful praying community, respond in comments or message me on FB.