Saturday, December 23, 2006

Mary in a bottle

Amid the clutter in Eleanor's house, a small artifact became special to me over the years. It was a little religious decoration that Jerry had made in about the 3rd grade. A tiny figure of the Virgin Mary stood in a little blue bleach-bottle shrine, decorated with stones, bark and plastic ferns and flowers. For over forty years, it remained on the kitchen windowsill, silently keeping watch over the family. Time passed, other things on the windowsill would come and go, but Jerry's little shrine always remained.

During Eleanor's final weeks, she started to give informal verbal permission for various family members to take this item or that. I told her the one thing I really wanted was that shrine, and she said I was welcome to it.

After she passed away, we took pictures of everything in the house before we started packing everything up. I wanted to remember how it was.

At last she was mine. She had become covered with a sticky film of dust from neglect, and her plastic plants were brittle and rotten. I didn't even know where I would keep her. Of course, my first thought was my own kitchen windowsill, but it's too narrow. So I ended up putting her on my wall unit, and next to her we put Eleanor's rosary beads that she had been holding during her last days. I carefully washed Mary and all the little stones, and I found new plastic ferns that looked like the old ones, only new.

I am not Catholic, of course. Not Christian. Not even Jewish, really, except by birth. But I am touched nonetheless by the peace that this woman radiates. I am grateful to have had the chance to witness how important she was to Eleanor and her church ladies who came and prayed the rosary with her. I am touched somehow by Mary's grace, and comforted to know that she continues to watch over her family.

Peace be with you.

1 comment:

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