A friend is having a double mastectomy tomorrow, and last Sunday she was anointed in a brief but powerful ritual. That afternoon, changing clothes before heading to the church, with intention I reached for a certain spiritually significant necklace. It’s descended from my maternal grandmother’s charm bracelet, a thick gold chain that was hung with individual pendants for each grandchild. About ten years ago, the bracelet was disassembled and we each received “our” charm. Surprisingly weighty, (a bracelet with 12 of them must have been heavy!) on the front is a little girl cut-out silhouette set in a rounded disk, with “Peggy, Aug. 20, 1963” engraved on the back. Wearing it evokes my grandma’s love every time, and I feel “called by name” in a special way.
Fastening the necklace’s clasp on Sunday, it struck me how in times of worry, especially about mothers or children, I look to my maternal ancestors for spiritual support. My mother and grandmother were both women of tremendous faith who attended mass and prayed the rosary daily. I remember each had a small, black book that she used with the rosary, though I’m not sure what it was for. My mother died of breast cancer when I was a child, and during the summer before her death, she made us pray the rosary out loud together, which we had never done before, and I didn’t like it. It’s probably that memory which keeps me from ever saying the actual rosary prayers, but at times I find myself drawn to pray with my mom’s rosary beads. I turn to this rosary when the intention concerns a mother or child who is ill or suffering in some way, the weight of it in my palm itself a comfort. I don’t expect a cure or quick fix, but it’s a way to be not alone, to feel less afraid. You can be sure I will be praying with it tomorrow.