Pray for Me Too
by D.L. Walls
"Reverend Roland, you have your itinerary? It's in the bag with your laptop, even though you should not be doing any extra work right now."
That was Mary Adams, the assistant to Reverend Roland. Most people call her Sister Mary or Ms. Mary. Ms. Mary is a seasoned lady in her early 70's and widowed. She handles the affairs of the esteemed pastor of the church, Reverend Roland Maye and serves as a mother figure to many.
Grabbing his coat Reverend Roland looks to Mary saying, "Thank you Ms. Mary for helping me get everything together so quickly. I wouldn't get anything done around here without you."
Looking at the tall, statuesque reverend before her with a concerned look on her face and her wrinkled hands clasped together in front of her face, she tells him, "I sure wish you would take one of the other ministers with you. How about Deacon Perry? He may be willing to travel with you."
"Ms. Mary, I need the ministers here for the members while I'm gone, and Deacon Perry doesn't want to travel with me, he wants to be me. Please remind me to handle that situation when I get back. Also, please reschedule my meeting with the city council members and extend my apologies."
Acknowledging that she has lost that battle, Mary acquiesce with a simple, "Yes sir." She pulls out her legal pad and writes down the note to remind the reverend accordingly.
In the seriousness of the moment, Reverend Roland begins to laugh watching Mary scribe notes on paper which he feels is very antiquated in these times. "Ms. Mary, I promise I'm going to get you an iPad for your birthday, Christmas, or something. I need my assistant to be up on the latest technology."
"And I'm just going to give it to one of my grandbabies, Reverend," states Mary, "I don't have time to figure all that technology out. Speaking of technology your Zuber, Huber, or whatever it is that you requested on that phone should be here soon to take you to the airport. You know that pretty Councilwoman Smith is going to be too excited when you reschedule the meeting with them. You know that baby likes you. A tall, pretty, young lady she is; real intelligent and educated too. When you get back, you should invite her to coffee or whatever it is you young folks do."
Offering Mary a hug, Reverend Roland puts on his coat, picks up his suitcase and computer bag and walks out of the door to meet his car. Waiting outside is a white Toyota Sienna. Placing the bags in the car, Roland catches the light scent of Stetson cologne sprayed to cover the light smell that was in the vehicle. As he gets in, the driver introduces himself.
"Hi, my name is Jim. I pass this church all the time. Do you attend it?" Politely engaging the driver despite his desire to be left alone, Roland tells the gentlemen, "I pastor the church."
"Oh, OK" says Jim who is a slightly overweight father of 3. He continues on, "I'm not too much of a church person myself. Me and my wife were both raised Southern Baptist but when we had kids and life just kind of took over and we didn't seem to have time. I've seen the A.M.E on churches before. Do you mind me asking what it stands for?"
Closing his bible to the scripture he was reading, Matthew 6:34, Roland engaged the man, "It stands for African Methodist Episcopal."
Jim pauses momentarily before asking, "So, does that like mean people who aren't black can't really go there? To be quite honest, pastor, I think a lot of this stuff is racist. I'm out here driving this car at 8:00 at night when I should be home with my family after working my regular job because I feel like I can't get nowhere in this world. I don't have nothing like the N-A-A, whatever it is that you have, and you have a church just for Afro-Americans?"
A weary Roland stops his driver before he proceeds forward. He begins to tell him of the history of the AME church and how Richard Allen and Absalom Jones pulled away from the church as a protest for how they were treated and not allowed to worship freely as well as the history of all the nation's civil rights organizations not to mention the antiquated term "Afro-Americans."
"Jim, I do hope you understand" Roland calmly stated, "nothing in this country has ever come against you based on your race. The ability for my people to rise is not rooted in the desire for others to fail. So, before you become critical of a lot of different things, how about you educate yourself on just a few things."
As the car arrives at the airport, Jim looks at the Roland and says, "Well Pastor, I'm sure there is a lot I don't know but all I can say is just pray for me."
As with his usual penchants for being early, Reverend Roland arrived at the airport with plenty of time before his flight. Breezing through the magazines in the shop, nothing catches his eye. He decides to get himself a coffee and opens his bible again. This time, he is meditating over Isaiah 43:2. From his peripheral, he can see a young lady and a young man having a debate. The debate he does not find curious, what he finds curious is how the participants seem to periodically look at him during it. As the exasperated young lady went to the restroom, the young man with her approaches Roland.
"Excuse me, bruh. No disrespect, I just want to know are you some type of lawyer or something?"
Looking up from his bible Roland addresses the young man, "No I am not. I am Reverend Roland Maye, and you are?" while extending his hand to the young man.
"I'm Michael Ward. Sorry, Reverend. I didn't know. Me and my girl are flying back to college. Well, she is. I work but she's been encouraging me to take some classes. She said I could be refined like you. You've been to college right, Rev?"
Smiling, Roland tells Michael, "Yeah, I studied philosophy and minored in psychology at FAMU. What makes you think I'm refined?"
"Well sir, your suit is real sharp. You have these nice bags, you just look like you're about your business."
Roland continued to speak to the young man discussing how he could reach his potential and stressing the importance of never being satisfied. When Michael saw his girlfriend come out of the rest room, he asked, "Rev, do you have a card? I would like to check out your church the next time we're in town. In the meantime, can you just pray for me."
Handing him the business card, Roland then touches Michael's shoulder and says, "It's already done."
Boarding his flight Roland gets situated on his normal aisle seat. He has a preference of windows, but to facilitate comfort for his 6'3" frame, he settles on the aisle. He notices the man seating next to the window. Wanting to mind his own business but hearing "the spirit" talk to him he addresses the gentleman.
"Hi, I'm Roland. How are you?"
The gentlemen, appearing to be in his late 50's momentarily takes his eyes off the picture he's looking at on his tablet. He appears to be fighting back tears but musters the strength to say, "I'm George."
Feeling like he's done what he was called to do now, Roland once again opens his bible. This time to Psalms 73:26. At this moment, George turns to Roland and ask the question, "Do you have any kids, sir?"
Cracking his knuckles and adjusting his tie as he knows he may have to dig in for this one, he responds, "No, why do you ask?"
Loosening the full Windsor knot of his red silk tie and unbuttoning the top button of his crispy pressed light blue shirt, George told Roland, "My oldest baby tried to commit suicide tonight. She is in stable condition at the hospital. Her roommate found her, and my wife already made it to Tallahassee to be with her. She sent me a copy of the, you know, note that Emily had written."
As is the case with muscle memory, Roland's instinct took over, touching George on his shoulder. "There are often signs that we miss. If you're not there with her and she doesn't tell you how she feels, you may never know."
Wiping away tears with a white handkerchief with the monogramed initials "G.R.P", George wearily said, "It's my fault. She's my only girl and I just wanted her to be more like my boys I guess. I wanted her to stay in Texas and attend UT and study business. She wanted to go to Florida and study film. I told her it was a borderline waste of my money sending her way off for that and she was broken. I was never really there for my kids. I was in the military for 20 years and after retiring, I took a job that required me to travel extensively. I'm on the road 40 weeks a year. My kids have everything they could want"
Interrupting, Roland says, "But you! Nevertheless, you can change that going forward. You are being blessed with another opportunity not only with Emily, but with all your kids. This is a wake up to all of you, don't let this opportunity get away."
After looking at everything from Roland's prospective, George ask, "Are you some type of psychologist or counselor?"
Clearing his throat, Roland says, "I'm a bit of the latter. I Pastor a church."
"Well, I'm sure glad I didn't curse as I tend to do often" a more jovial George shouts, "How the heck did a young man get into that? A family business sort of thing?"
Noting to himself that it is a long flight, Roland decided to share some insights about himself. "No, I'm the only preacher in my family that I know of. My dad was actually a military man himself. My mother was more of a free spirit. I really didn't know my dad that well. He was killed while serving in Beirut in the 80s, I was very young. His side of the family didn't too much care for my mom. They couldn't understand why a squared away military officer would be taken to a woman who was free spirited and would say or fight for anyone who needed it. I never heard or saw any of them again after my dad's funeral. Mom didn't have much family. She was raised in the foster care system with my uncle Ro. When my dad died, we moved in with him. When my mom would succumb to cancer when I was 12, uncle Ro raised me all by himself."
Amazed by the story, George looks at Roland and says, "Thank you for sharing that with me. I know how I must do right by my family. I see we only have a limited time on earth and like you said, I have another opportunity. I thank God for setting me next to you on this flight. As often as I fly, the part that I hate the most is this, the descent."
Always the one to encourage, a laughing Roland says, "Have no fear, God did not bring your daughter through, and put us on this flight side by side for it to end."
In agreement, George said, "You're right. Do me one last favor if you will, just pray for me Reverend Roland."
Roland stands up to get his laptop from the overhead compartment and looks at George who is still seated and tells him, "Don't worry, it's already done."
Rushing up the corridor, the normally smooth and collected reverend nearly sprains his ankle trying to get to the rental car booth. Normally phased by the notion of scuffing his shoe, he is not phased as he sees the finish line to his sprint. He arrives at the rental counter to his surprise to be second in line. Due to being understaffed, the representative currently tending to the needs of a couple who despite being elderly, were able to more expeditiously arrive at the counter before Roland. Chairs being scarce, Roland proceeds to one of the three grey plastic chairs, with faded blue cushions that appears to be able to hold the frame of a man 220 pounds. Not wanting to disturb the items packed away in his belongings hoping that his wait will be short, instead of removing his bible he simply refers to the app on his cell phone. As he opens the app to 1 Peter 5:7 he feels the presence of someone coming his way.
"Hello, sir. May I take this seat?"
Looking up from his phone, Roland smiles at the petite lady standing before him and welcomes her accordingly, "By all means, have a seat."
Sitting down and placing her brown leather purse on the floor, the lady drapes her weathered coat across her lap. The coat shows signs of limited use as a lady of an advanced age does not leave her home that often but relishes occasions such as this that she is able to. "Sir, I hope it doesn't take too long for them to finish up with me and my husband," observing the cordially but obviously anxious body language of the young pastor as he alternates between his phone app and elegant timepiece. "My husband and I haven't rented a car in Lord knows how long. As a matter of fact, flying here is the first time we've been on an airplane in about 15 years. I'm not much of a fan of flying, but I will do anything to see my new grandbaby. Do you and your wife have any kids?"
As intrusive as the questioning may be at the moment, Roland actually has feelings to the contrary responding to the lady who reminds him of Ms. Mary from his church, "No ma'am, I am not married."
Looking back at him in shock, she says, "A good looking young man such as yourself and you're not married? You must be one of those selective young men. There's nothing wrong with that. I told my son that as he was growing up and he found a beautiful young lady." As if she couldn't be anymore intrusive, she continues to pry further. "Are you perhaps in town to visit that special young lady or just a friend or family member?"
With his new-found friend beginning to sound a lot more like Ms. Mary and now growing tired of the questions, he tells her, "It's more of the latter. I'm here for my uncle."
"Oh, that's so wonderful," she exclaims, "I'm sure he is so excited to have you spend some time with him."
Finishing his business at the counter, the husband of Roland's guest walks to where they are seated. Using his cane, he points to his wife saying, "Myra, I'm sure you have talked this young man to death. You've probably talked about everything including -recipes, grandbabies, and prescription drugs." Extending a hand to Roland he says, "Hello sir, I'm Pastor Franklin Williams."
"Outstanding to meet you. I'm Reverend Roland Maye."
With a face of shock, Myra raises from her seat looking up at the now standing Roland to say, "Reverend? Oh, my! You should have all the young ladies coming after you."
"Myra," says a frustrated Pastor Williams, "leave this young man alone. I'm sure he's doing great things with his ministry and doesn't need any one meddling in his affairs. Let's be on our way, Honey. Sir, bless you."
Echoing her husband's sentiments, Myra says, "Yes, bless you young man. I hope you have a wonderful visit with your uncle. Please keep us in your prayers."
Acknowledging the wife's request, with a simple head nod and an "Amen," Roland briskly walks to the counter to fulfill the reservation for his vehicle. As he finalizes the last of the paperwork before leaving, the rental car representatives says, "I overheard you tell the last customer you're here visiting your uncle. Enjoy your visit." Pausing briefly after the representative's comments, Roland turns to her with a smile and says, "have a blessed evening."
Arriving to his red Maxima, Roland tosses his bags in the backseat. This is an oddity for someone who is meticulous and a stickler for order. No doubt, this is the affects of a long day that has not reached it's peak. Going through the array of features on the vehicle to familiarize himself with those relevant to him, he immediately turns to the satellite radio for a station that is speaking to his mood. "Can a brother get some old school R&B?" he exclaimed before coming upon the Manhattan's Kiss and Say Goodbye. "That will do for the moment, lets get where we need to go."
Noting that it has been 8 months since he was last in town, he realizes a lot has changed but is confident he can find his way to his destination. Drowning his thoughts in the music that is encompassing him, he is brought back to reality as he pulls into the parking garage of his destination. "Visitor parking, here we go. ‘Clergy parking' perfect, that may save me a few steps.
Departing from the vehicle and making sure he has the items needed, Roland adjust the knot on his tie that allowed him to be comfortable on his flight. He buttons the top button of the two represented on his suit. At this moment, he walks in the doors of the largest hospital in the city. At the front desk, he is greeted by the security guard, "Good evening, sir. I just need your ID and to take your picture before you proceed forward."
Once again making sure his tie is consistent with the appearance he is accustomed to keeping, the tired reverend reverts behind the white line signified on the floor and displays a sullen, but warm look on his face for the picture about to be taken.
"Alright Mr. Maye," states the security guard as he hands the ID back to Roland, "what floor are you going to?"
Returning to a text that was forwarded to him this morning, Roland tells him, "Um, it appears that I need to go to the 5th floor."
"Ok sir, then you need to go to the elevator to your left. That will take you up to the cardiology wing. May I direct you to anything else Mr. Maye?"
"No, I think that will be it." After clearing his throat, Roland finishes his conversation with the lone body in the lobby by stating, "I appreciate your help."
Arriving to the 5th floor, the tall athletic figure who once played shooting guard for one of the city's state championship high school teams commands a lot of attention; particularly the women on staff. As heads turn, Roland walks up to the nurses' station where he addresses a young lady that is more than willing to address him back.
"Good evening, Nurse Spears" says Roland after securing her name from the badge clipped to the top of her medical scrubs."
Answering in an excited tone, Nurse Spears says, "Good evening sir, how may I help you?
"Hi, my name is Reverend Roland Maye…"
In a change of disposition, Nurse Spears recognizing the name says, "You're here for Mr. Roland Frazer?" After receiving a nod of confirmation from the young man she proceeds to tell him, "Room 532, it's the room across from the men's room."
Walking toward room 532, Roland reflects on despite how often he is faced with the smell of ammonia in the halls of hospitals based on his called vocation, he can never adjust to them. Walking into room 532 he stands there momentarily until another figure walks in.
"Roland, baby, how are you?"
Rolando turns around to see Nurse Claudette Mitchell or Ms. Claudette, a lady Roland has known since he was 13 years old. He had previously dated her daughter, Lilian before the two of them ended their relationship after their freshmen year of college due to the distance.
Meeting Ms. Claudette in the middle of the room he extends to her an embrace while saying, "Hi, Ms. Claudette."
"Hey son" says Ms. Claudette while reaching up and taking his face in both of her hands, "You just got back in town? I knew you would be coming in tonight, so I wanted to wait."
"Thank you for sticking around" Roland says while looking around for a seat to sit in, "I don't know where to start Ms. Claudette."
Realizing shock setting in, Ms. Claudette interjects, "He was in the grocery store and he just grabbed his arm before falling out. The paramedics arrived within 4 minutes and was able to resuscitate him and stabilize him before bringing him in. Your uncle Ro fought hard, he tried to hang on, but his heart just gave out. I really tried to keep him in the room, so you could see him, but housekeeping couldn't wait anymore. Who is going to handle the arrangements?"
Trying to reconcile everything that is happening, Roland looks up and says, "Wells and Sons. My assistant has been in contact with them and we will coordinate the arrangements."
Remembering that Roland essentially has no family, Claudette inquires about what he will do, "Are you staying at a hotel, did you have anyone from your church come with you?"
"No, they must handle the business of the church while I'm here. I'll be staying at uncle Ro's house; I still have my key."
"Well, what are you going to do about eating? I'm pretty sure you haven't had dinner. Since I stayed late tonight Martin cooked. I know there is something left over. I can have little Marty bring you a plate. He just got his driver's license so you know he's trying to go everywhere."
Appreciating the sentiment, Rolando declines and gives Claudette a hug before leaving, "I'm tired. I think I'm just going to the house to get some rest and deal with everything in the morning."
"Ok, baby. I'm going to check on you soon."
His journey in the rental car is virtually automatic. He pulls into the driveway that is usually reserved for his uncle's black F-150. Inside the house, it is easy to tell that it is the home of a bachelor as the sparsely decorated house has a little more than a big screen television and a leather couch and matching recliner with a coffee table that laid host to the local newspaper, an array of remotes to the infinite gadgets he possessed and a bible with large print. Walking through the house, Roland is flooded with all the memories of the shorten time with his parents and the all the efforts of his uncle to make him the man he is.
Before his departure for the grocery store this morning, his uncle Ro had the same idea. Evidence of the stroll down memory lane is the kitchen nook, built by uncle Ro, that has an open photo album documenting the numerous accomplishment of his nephew who was more like his son. Looking at a photo taken of him and his uncle Ro immediately after his high school team won the state championship, Roland remembers the conversation that his uncle gave to him before the game. Roland, ever the perfectionist, made a less than flattering grade on a physics exam but his uncle reminded him that despite how he feels, he still has a responsibility to perform and not let down those around him. That is a principle he holds dear today as the list of those he ministered to today despite his own hurt.
Before drifting off to sleep on the couch and despite the late hour, the doorbell rings. Thinking Ms. Claudette was acting in defiance of his wish and sending her son to the house with a plate of food, a ruffled Roland goes to the door. Upon opening the door, he is greeted by a face he has not seen in 10 years.
"Lilian?" a surprised yet now alert Roland ask, "Wow, it's you."
"Yeah, it's me. Um, give me a hug. Mom told me what happened and that you just left her at the hospital, so I just wanted to come over and tell you how sorry I am."
Trying to recover from the beautiful sight that he has not seen in 10 years and conscious of his appearance as he came in the house and made himself comfortable he tells her, "Thank you. I didn't expect to see you. Especially at this hour."
"Oh, Roland, I'm sorry I didn't mean to intrude..."
"No, you're not intruding Lilian at all. I just know you have a husband, and a son correct?"
"Yes, Andre and Andre Jr. or AJ as we call him. Don't worry, he knows I'm here and I told him I wouldn't stay long but there is just one thing that I needed to do."
As the two are standing on the porch, Lilian moves in close to Roland. She grabs his hands and stands on the tips of her toes so that she can reach his ear and begins to pray. As the words going into his hearing, the tears roll down his face. The 49-degree temperature does not prevent the tall pillar of strength for everyone who is now dressed in a wife beater and gym shorts from the word put into his ear. Before long he hears the word, "Amen."
Letting go of the hands of the young man before her, Lilian looks at Roland and says, "I thought you probably needed someone to finally pray for you too." Lilian then wipes a single tear from her eye before returning to her vehicle and driving away.