An interfaith prayer gathering for a departed Arlington neighbor

“God got a gift for Christmas and it was my Daddy…”

These were the words my 7 year old neighbor told his family and there was not a dry eye at the gathering to mourn the departure of his father.  This and many other stories of that family’s unshakable faith were shared with me when several ladies — grandmother, sisters, aunts — stop by to thank me for taking care of their little boy the night when his daddy’s soul winged its flight from this mortal world.

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
~ Christianity, Holy Bible, John 14:1-3

Back to the Father

Psalm 56:13

As the ladies embraced me I started singing the song “Back to the Father” which Van Gilmer taught me:

“I’m going back to the father, thank Him for my journey, live in a mansion, Feast on milk and honey, shout troubles over, join the heavenly choir, rest from my labor, give God the glory, I’m going back to the father.”

William — or Bobby, as he was known to his family — was a kind man who always greeted me from the porch of his house. He was the one from whom I borrowed basic kitchen utensils the day when I moved to my new house in order to have my first lunch with my girls at my new home.

Nephew of the founder of the first African-American taxi cab company in Arlington, Bobby was proud of the success of his limousine company and the trust his clients — white and black alike — had in his services. He had reliably given ride to many an important person in the area until that fateful Wednesday night — the one before Christmas Eve…

I had just come back from work, ready to start cooking dinner when I heard a knock on the door. I opened it and saw little Jayden worried telling me his daddy needed water. I rushed with him to the house and saw his father unconscious on the driver’s seat of his car, apparently getting ready to go pick his wife from the metro.  I called 911 immediately.

The response was impressively quick and when the the firetruck and EMS arrived to take William to the hospital, hopeful for his recovery I took his son to my home and the first thing we did was we prayed from our hearts — he with his little words; I chanting a healing prayer from the Bahá’í Writings: “Thy Name is my healing, O my God”.

The police were very efficient and in no time got in touch with family and friends until his older brother arrived to pick his resourceful younger sibling.  “May God protect them all and help the whole family be together for Christmas!” I posted on Facebook, asking for prayers to an overwhelmingly wide support. Alas, God had a different plan.

Later that night my neighbor’s wife stopped by to thank me for taking care of her son and told me her husband had passed… I kept thinking how we all need to treasure life’s precious moments for we know not how many are left yet each one of them is unique… 

“O SON OF BEING! Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds.”
~ Bahá’í Faith, The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh, #31

That is when I decided that this Sunday’s Interfaith Prayer Station will be dedicated to the progress of my neighbor’s soul, his family and our neighborhood… Yesterday I went around the neighborhood to invite all and my hope is it will be an opportunity for this very diverse neighborhood to be together and pray together.

Interfaith Prayer Station “Back to the Father”

That Sunday, December 28, I invited my neighbors for an interfaith gathering to pray for the progress of the soul of our departed neighbor Bobby / William and his family. Even though only one neighbor came, we started with light refreshments followed by reading of Holy Writings and Prayers on the theme of life after death and neighborly unity.

“By the passage of time, all of the humankind are in a state of great loss, except for those who come to the correct belief and do the deeds of righteousness; and encourage and exhort one another to Truth and encourage and exhort one another to steadfast patience.”
~ Islam, Holy Quran, Al Asr

We had many books of prayers from different faith traditions.

“O SON OF THE SUPREME! I have made death a messenger of joy to thee. Wherefore dost thou grieve? I made the light to shed on thee its splendor. Why dost thou veil thyself therefrom?”
~Bahá’í Faith, The Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh, #32

We uplifted and refreshed our souls with inspiring musical selections and we concluded with tea and sweets.


This is an edited version of a blog post which appeared originally on