A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

A vicar needs to pray for his dying wife.



The Reverend Jeremiah Pyke stood by his wife Angela’s bed and he could have wept because she was clearly dead and he didn’t know why. It wasn’t that she was in any way old, though she had complained recently of feeling, as she had put it, not at her best.

Don’t fret, darling,” he had said sympathetically, “I’m remembering you in my prayers, so you’ll be alright.”

And right there and then he had done just that. He was good when it came to praying and he knew that it worked. Why, only a month ago when he’d srtubbed his toe on a broken curb stone he’d prayed for the pain to go away, and it had. Almost instantly. He had that kind of relationship with his deity. So he turned to praying for the instant recovery of she who was supposedly the love of his life.

Dear God,” he whispered, “my Angela has lived a saintly life and she’s too young for your Kingdom in Heaven. I know she is: she has yet to be forty years of age! Yet during her thirty-odd years she has lived a life of holy perfection and never veered from a righteous path, not even in her dreams, unless your count that little thing with the awful Reggie Downes, who deceived her.”

After that particularly honest prayer he fixed his eyes on her pale and fading face, looking for his deity’s intervention to the laws of medical science and the way disease and especially cancer can eat into human flesh at what he saw as break-neck speed.

Angela remained the same, almost motionless and gasping for breath.

So he decided that his prayer must have drifted off the point and gone unnoticed in the Heavenly realms above. Maybe he should never have mentioned those days, or maybe it was weeks, when Reggie Downes had beguiled her and tempted her off the path of righteousness. After all, he was no good to anyone, was Reggie Downes. And hadn’t he been married twice himself? Hadn’t his first wife left him because his semen refused to give her what she wanted most in the world, a child of her own, preferably a daughter, but she wasn’t really all that bothered about gender. As long as it was a child. She had made it obvious in his mother’s group: tests had shown that there was absolutely nothing wrong with her own plumbing but the fault must lie with Reggie Downes and his less than useful undersized bits and pieces, as she she called them rather offensively.

Then, as a sharp contrast, hadn’t the repulsove Reggie’s second wife produced a veritable football team of sons, so many that in the end she had run away with the window cleaner, leaving Reggie to train his team as best he could on his own, and Reggie not even liking football.

So in his odd spare moments when he wasn’t being a referee at home Reggie had turned his winsome ways to beguiling Angela. He had splattered all manner of words at her, calling her things that were patently not true, like she was the most beautiful creature on this planet and why on Earth did she have to ruin herself by marrying a boring old vicar like Jeremiah Pyke. Angela was lucky because she did get to be pregnant as a consequence of that liaison, and Jeremiah didn’t suspect a thing, not even when her stomach swelled, though he did mention it.

Is there something wrong with you, woman?” he had asked in the tone of voice that suggested that he wasn’t going to be sympathetic whatever she said.

It’s just a stomach upset. I’ll be all right in a day or two,” she had replied.

Because anyone who didn’t know you better might think you were pregnant,” he told her, “and we did agree, in prayer to he who sees everything that we wouldn’t do anything with each other that might cause that sort of accident until you had passed forty years of age.”

He was so proud of that arrangement that he’d actually incorporated it into their wedding vows. Being a vicar and in charge of proceedings he had quickly adjusted the wedding vows to include a bit about carnal behaviour not being permitted until she reached her fortieth birthday, by which time he was reasonably assured by Dr. Brimstone that there was a fair chance that she’d be past it when it came to childbirth. But he had stuck to the vow and obliged her to, and she was well short of forty when she had to seek the cooperation of the local wise woman who helped her to clear her womb of anything unnecessary and without mentioning it to the vicar.

Anyway, seeing that the first entreaty to his lord and saviour hasn’t worked as he’d hoped he decided to give prayer a second outing.

The Reverend Jeremiah Pyke assured the very poorly Angela that he would say more prayers on her behalf and went to the church where he had a choir practise to supervise. He was proud of the church choir because it had formed part of a religious programme on the BBC several years ago, and although he was not particularly musical himself, was grateful that his curate was. But he did like to put in an appearance because his presence did, he was sure, encourage them to give better than their best.

The truth was he was fond of the curate, and he couldn’t for the life of him wonder why the younger man’s crotch was so fascinating when he was conducting, especially the high notes, but it was and he delighted in watching that region of his person. But this time he tore his mind off what might be causing the choir master’s trousers to behave in such a loose way and started a new prayer, deliberately leaving out any reference to Reggie Downes.

Dear Lord,” he whispered, “you are the most worthy of guides and deities and it befalls me to entreat you that you look with love and patience on my dear Angela in her hour of need. As your Greatness will know, she has lived an exemplary life, if you put to one side that little problem she had when she was accused of stealing something that she accidentally slipped into her shopping bag in an absent-minded moment, because being married to a clergyman she obviously had no need for such items, not even the flavoured ones… And, Lord, you must accept that accidents can happen, even to the most careful souls.”

He wondered if he might have gained more sympathy from his deity if he referred to the accidental way when He came to Earth as his wonderful son had accidentally bathed Mary Magdalene’s feet when she was persona not gratis, but decided against it because it was a long time ago and errors might have slipped into the account over the years since the event.

When the choir practice was over he slipped back into the vicarage and up to the lovely Angela’s bedroom where she lay, stone dead.

It shocked him, and he ran downstairs and threw himself onto the settee where me spent a good hour crying and trying to put everything into perspective because, doubtlessly, his prayers must surely have been noted by his deity, who had quite obviously ignored them in a most unchristian way. Why, then, was Angela dead? He hadn’t felt her pulse because the whole idea of actually touching a dead person went against his personal grain, but he could see quite plainly that she had died whilst he had been praying with his eyes on the curate’s trousers..

The hour being up and no communication from the Heavens being evident, he telephoned Dr. Brimstone who came straight round because the vicar was a respected member of society and he had to keep well in with popular opinion.

He took one look at Angela and shook his head sadly.

It was going to happen,” he said sympathetically, “the disease was all through her, I’m afraid. Were you present when she passed over?”

It was the choir practice,” the Reverend Pyke replied hoarsely, “but I did say very weighty prayers entreating our Lord that she recover her full health and vitality.”

But they didn’t work?” sympathised the doctor, “they don’t, you know. Prayers never work in my experience, and I’ve had quite a lot. I’ll sign her death certificate, though if you weren’t actually observing her and she being so young, there may have to be a post mortem, though I’ll do my best to make that unnecessary. I know the coroner’s wife, you know…”

You’re so kind, doctor,” he mumbled.

Pity she didn’t give you any offspring, though…” Doctor Brimstone, unnoticed by Jeremiah, was digging for tittle tattle that might entertain his friends.

She wasn’t yet forty…” groaned Jeremiah, “not forty,” he added, meaningfully.

Well, in the absence of a son or daughter your faith will be some sort of comfort to you, vicar,” murmured Doctor Brimstone with the faintest of smiles.

It crossed the Reverend Jeremiah Pyke’s mind that hopefully it would.

© Peter Rogerson 18.09.23

© 2023 Peter Rogerson

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Added on September 18, 2023
Last Updated on September 22, 2023
Tags: vicar, prayer, dying


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 79 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..


A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

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A Chapter by Peter Rogerson