The husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) delivered a moving tribute to the power of faith Thursday during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, remarking on his wife's steady improvement and urging the nation to keep her in its prayers because "it's helping."
Mark E. Kelly, an astronaut and Navy captain, was invited to deliver the closing prayer for the annual event, which also featured President Obama. Kelly said the injured congresswoman continues to improve, but he did not offer specifics.
"Every day she gets a little bit better," he said. "The neurosurgeons and neurologists tell me that that's a great sign. The slope of that curve is very important."
Giffords was shot in the head Jan. 8 when a gunman opened fire during a constituent event in Tucson. Six people were killed and 12 others were wounded.
Giffords faces a long and uncertain path to recovery as she undergoes rehabilitation at a hospital in Houston, where Kelly lives. There have been no updates since Jan. 26, when Kelly announced that the hospital would be cutting back on reports to the public.
Kelly has been a consistent presence at Giffords's bedside and offered a glimpse of that experience on Thursday.
"I was telling Gabby just the other night, two nights ago, that, you know, maybe this event, this terrible event, maybe it was fate," he told the assembled dignitaries. "I hadn't been a big believer in fate until recently. I thought the world just spins and the clock just ticks and things happen for no particular reason."
He has come to believe "that maybe something good can come from all of this."
He did not say whether Giffords responded to his musings. A tracheal tube that has made it difficult to determine her ability to speak is scheduled to be removed soon.
Kelly mentioned a realization that struck him one day as he gazed on what he described as a "pilgrimage" site for the community, a collection of cards, flowers and candles that had sprung up in front of the Tucson trauma center where Giffords initially underwent treatment.
"That reminded me that you don't need a church, a temple or a mosque to pray," he said. "And prayer isn't just asking. It's also listening for answers, and expressing gratitude, which I've done a lot lately."
On Thursday, officials at University Medical Center in Tucson announced that volunteers will begin packing and archiving the Giffords tributes on Friday.