Today my world is a little smaller, a little lonelier, a little bereft of solace.
I have many cousins of whom I am fond but M. rather stands alone. When I was three years old, she showed me the Man in the Moon. I remember this lesson very distinctly. We were hanging around the swing set in her family's sloping backyard. She is seven years older than I and she knew about the Man in the Moon.
We fell out of touch, more or less, over the years, but one of the amazing thing about being in my 50s and having said goodbye to all of my aunts and uncles, is that some of the cousins are croneying. Their kids are older or have left home. We are the ones who know the family stories and are, therefore, the family we have left from the Before. We don't have the energy to insist on identical politics or old envies or intellectual parities. I've even found myself becoming friendly(ish) with people from high school.
And I hated high school.
M. wrote me out of the blue one day when I'd whined on about one or another of my depressions in this blog. She told me she understood, that it was real, that one of her kids suffers from it too. We began to discuss the family we are both adopted into. She has kept a benevolent eye on me through my blog and Facebook. She continually wishes me well. Every day I know she wishes me well and would listen to me or attend to what I throw out there on the Web.
Except today. Today she is in surgery, recovery, sleeping deeply. I'm glad that the sisters went in together. For a long time, that family of siblings was all each other had. Nobody is alone today.
I went to Mass this morning as I promised M. I would. At nine o'clock, I could picture M. and her sister, P., as they were prepped for the surgery that would transfer P's kidney to M. Two cousins are in mortal danger and both of them are of faiths that are antithetical to the Catholic Church, and yet M. said my attendance that morning would mean more to her than she could say. I joked that it should -- it's an eight a.m. Mass -- but I made a promise that needed keeping.
The list of places and things he is a patron of is so long that we could all find ourselves in there.
The Franciscans recently sent me this prayer to St. Anthony and I like it so much that it sits in front of my keyboard:
"Holy St. Anthony, reach down from heaven and take hold of my hand.
"Assure me that I am not alone. You are known to possess miraculous powers and to be ready to speak for those in trouble.
"Loving and Gentle St. Anthony, reach down from heaven I implore you and assist me in my hour of need. Obtain for me [your request].
"Dearest St. Anthony, reach down from heaven and guide me with thy strength. Plead for me in my needs. And teach me to be humbly thankful as you were for all the bountiful blessings I am to receive.
I like that prayer a lot. I like the idea that St. Anthony is reaching down to take my hand, M's hand, P's hand. I like the idea that he walked across heaven this morning to talk to God or Jesus about my cousins' welfare. I like that it ends on a note of promise. M's religion is as vastly different from mine as two Christian faiths can be, but I think that there is enormous power in turning to one's roots for intercession.
And so I did, only to find myself lighting two candles at the shrine to St. Anthony, touching his feet, and crossing my lips.
Now it's up to him.
Some couples throw that phrase around like breadcrumbs to the pigeons...