In sickness and in health: Belief, even from others, reveals the soul in us all

Earlier this year, Rebecca's husband, Nick, was hit by a car and seriously injured. Here, in one of a series of columns, she writes about the aftermath of his accident

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The Independent Online

Last Friday was my – our –  fifth wedding anniversary. When we got married, it wasn’t in a church because I don’t believe in God. It wasn’t in a church because – despite not believing in God – I didn’t want to run the risk of being struck down by a bolt of lightning sent by something that had the hump with me not thinking it existed. I’m not alone in having a certain ambivalence in my beliefs, or lack thereof. My Dad always says that he doesn’t believe in anything, but that he’d be very happy to be proved wrong. Wedding anniversary notwithstanding, I’ve thought more about faith in the last three months than I have in the last three decades. While I haven’t found God during the process of almost losing my husband, I have found comfort in the fact that Nick has been in other people’s prayers.

The chap who runs the laundrette near our home has been praying, inshallah, for Nick’s recovery, as has his wife. A family friend has enlisted her church-going sister’s help to get Nick on the parish prayer tree (I’m not entirely sure what one of those is, but I like to think of it as a kind of magic faraway tree with Heaven at the top, rather than the Land of Do-As-You-Please).

My deputy has been dedicating her terrifying-sounding yoga practice to Nick, wishing him well and sending him positive energy as she takes on dynamic poses in a super-heated studio. My Dad was overheard quizzing his cleaning lady, who has a sideline in healing hands, whether she could do a bit of that remotely. Did she need his hospital’s address? His bed number? When I caught up with her at a later date, she gave me a healing-hands tutorial and mentioned that Nick had been in her prayers at church, too. I like her belt-and-braces approach.

A spiritually open-minded American friend who used to work with Nick suggested to his colleagues that they get together for a meditation session in his honour.

His workmates rather shrank from this suggestion. “Will everyone see me doing it?” asked one, anxiously. The consensus was that everyone would think about Nick in their own, private, British way.

One acquaintance, Lydia, has asked a number of times if there’s anything that she can do, and offered her prayers for Nick. She is the lady that I see most weeks on the streets near my office, asking for spare change as her lovely dog Brandy curls up next to her on a blanket. That she can find time in such a  hard world to offer help, both practical and religious, moves me beyond measure.

So while I don’t have a faith, I do have faith in others’ beliefs. How can that much positive thinking be negative? And I’m not beyond a bit of bet hedging, either. On a trip to St Paul’s with Nick’s mum and brother, I listened to a sermon asking visitors to pray for the sick in the nearby hospital – and indeed anyone else brought low by illness and injury – and lit a candle for Nick. I didn’t encounter any meteorological indication that I’d incurred the wrath of a vengeful higher being, so I’m still not sure if something’s up there. But if anyone’s listening, Nick’s in bed F3 and needs all the help he can get.