Thursday, February 18, 2016

Irma Pickens, RIP

Irma Pickens, wife of Willie Pickens a renowned Chicago jazz musician, passed in October. This story was written about her in July 2009.

The Way to Pray

Last Saturday we were at the Wagner Farm in Glenview attending the surprise 70th birthday party for our friend George. There were about one hundred guests congregated inside the barn for drinks and appetizers; the latter being popcorn boxes filled with popcorn, peanuts, or pretzels served from a farm cart pushed by two of George’s grandsons. Outside on the lawn ten or so, round, red clothed, flower pot decorated, white chaired tables were set, ready for dinner.

Until now the sky had been clear, the wind mild, the temperature comfortable, the weather perfect. Gregory and I were at the field end of the farm visiting the cows, and sheep, and goats. I was taking close up pictures of one beautifully groomed cow, when she suddenly “nosed” my camera.” It was an intimate, wet moment after which the cow let me pet her. Gregory and I laughed. Slowly thunder clouds gathered and things turned dark. The sky didn’t look like an ‘it'll blow over’ situation. “What a shame for this to happen,” I thought. As the first few drops of rain began to fall, we headed back for the barn.

Under a porch roof, just outside the barn sat a row of white rocking chairs. Sitting on one of the rockers was Irma, one of George’s friends, also celebrating her birthday on that very day. She was sitting next to her husband Willy, an educator, talented musician, and all around easy guy. Irma looked up at the dark clouds and said in a commanding voice while strongly pointing her finger at the ground , “Lord, we need a miracle here!” Shortly thereafter the sky cleared with no more than a few drops of rain having spotted the table cloths.

Now that is the way to pray. No begging, no pleading, no negotiating, no promises of behavior changes. Just a firm statement to your lord of what was needed. She didn’t point at the heavens in a demanding or accusing way. She pointed at the ground where we were gathered in celebration, to clarify the location of the needed miracle. She spoke her mind. And the clouds blew over, and only a few drops of rain fell, and the evening was a great success.

Now whether you believe in miracles or not, this might have been one!


  1. Reminds me of the family reunion we went to on what turned out to be a rare 'cold day in July' at a picnic site overlooking a large waterfall in a state park.

    Rain was drizzling. Children were running around getting wet and muddy. Adults were huddled under a picnic shelter. The outlet for the coffee maker didn't work. I was cold and miserable. Suddenly Cousin Herman's wife, one of the family matriarchs, gazed out over the water fall across the way from her folding chair and said firmly, "It's a beautiful view."

    Hearing those words my attitude changed abruptly. It was a beautiful view. We were with family. There was plenty of good food. I don't remember whether the rain stopped but I know we had a good time.


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