When I told my mother in the spring of 1974 that I wanted to marry a Catholic, her reaction was about the same as if a good Catholic girl had announced that she wanted to marry a pagan priest. I was the first in my family to date a Yankee. Seriously. The fact that he was Catholic was a problem everyone decided not to discuss...until I told my mother that I wanted to convert to Catholicism and marry the Irish Catholic Yankee. It wasn't so much anti-Catholic sentiment as simply "they're not like us."
Raised Unitarian, I had never been baptized. My parents felt baptism was a matter that an individual should undertake willingly, with full conscious awareness. At 20, I was madly in love. Everyone could see that. So, although Mother had a hard time with a Catholic coming into the family, as a constant proponent of free will she had to acquiesce to the marriage.
That's why it came as a shock 17 years later that Mother went to Italy and brought back a rosary for me, blessed by the Pope.
I had forgotten all about the rosary until Corey's passing. From the minute I learned of her accident, I found myself praying Hail Marys all throughout the day and night: in my sleep, on airplanes, in restaurants, in California sleeping in Corey's bed, and continuing throughout all of the summer.
I don't subscribe to any religion or theology. I left Catholicism after 20 years, the year before my divorce, and never looked back. But a good prayer is a good prayer, no matter which saint or holy deity it invokes, and the Hail Mary was always a prayer that calmed me, spoke to me, enlivened me as I prayed it for others.
This morning at three AM I awoke and knew I had to get up and pray the rosary, or at least some version of the rosary. I lift the lid of the carved wooden box that I rarely open because the contents are so sacred to me, pull out the rosary--but there are two rosaries.
Then, I remember: Mother had brought back two rosaries. One is made of plain blue plastic. "This one is for you," she had said.
The other one is sparkly gold with gorgeous clear aqua beads. Mother had handed me the second rosary and said, "This one is for Corey."
Corey and her brother and sister went to Catholic school, but Corey attended only for the first six years because we put all of the kids into public school at the same time. Corey had no connection with the Catholic church that she ever mentioned to me: when she graduated from high school, she went to California and became a California goddess-girl. I told Corey about the rosary, and she appreciated the gesture but she never asked about it again.
There was absolutely no reason for my mother to bring back a rosary for Corey from the Vatican. But here it is, Corey's rosary. I take it in my hands, pad into the living room in the dark of night, light a beeswax candle, sit on my zafu cushion and begin, praying exactly as I learned it from my husband's mother, with one substitution. Instead of "sinners," I say "humans": Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us humans now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
I leave out the other prayers, which affirm Roman Catholic theology, and just say the Hail Mary. As I go through the rounds--ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty Hail Marys, I concentrate on images of Corey so that I can annunciate the prayer directly into her being. If she has the capacity to receive any part of the blessedness the prayers invoke, I know she will.
Other people's faces arise from time to time during my prayers, and I pray the Hail Mary for them, too: my other children, their father, my grandchildren, my mother, the beloveds Corey left behind here. I pray for them and then I return to holding images of Corey in my mind's eye as I Hail Mary. When my fingers return to the crucifix again, I let it rest in my palm as I continue praying Hail Mary to Corey. I hope she hears me. I hope she feels all of this love...made possible by my Mother's intuitive gift more than fifteen years ago.