Today I prayed for someone I’ve never met.
I’m almost certain she’s no longer living, but I don’t know whether she died young or old. I picture her old, maybe older than my grandmother would be, which means she was born in the 1800s.
And while I picture her, I finger the beads of the rosary she once prayed on, and I wonder what her life was like.
I say “her,” because the rosary is white pearl, definitely a woman’s choice. I found it back in the late ‘60s when I was browsing through an antique store that also sold ordinary used items. Old jewelry was pinned to one wall, and hanging among the necklaces and bracelets was this sad-looking rosary, its circle broken at the third decade.
It seemed disrespectful, somehow. I know it had been blessed once, probably used often, and should have been passed along lovingly to another generation when its owner died. Instead, it had been tossed aside, unwanted, unappreciated, unused. I knew I had to rescue it.
I took it home and carefully fitted the broken sections together–not perfectly,
because I didn’t have the little connecting ring. But it worked. I always look for that little flaw as I pray, and it always reminds me of my mystery lady. I wondered how it was broken in the first place. Only a hard yank could have severed the link of this sturdy circlet of beads. Who would be playing tug-of-war with a rosary? What could have entangled it that fiercely? Was it treated carelessly as handsful of “junk” were cleaned out after the funeral?
Once broken, a rosary should be reblessed, I was always taught by the sisters at my Catholic school. And what could it hurt? So, newly blessed, it was tucked into my purse and taken out regularly for prayer. As I prayed for my own intentions, I wondered about hers. Was she concerned about her health as she aged? Did she pray for children and grandchildren, for their spiritual and physical needs? Did she pray alone, or with a husband? Did it bring her peace and comfort?
Maybe she prayed for those she had lost, for the repose of their souls. I do. And I include her, maybe the only person left in the world who does. I feel a kinship, knowing she knows, and that she’s even grateful. As I run the beads through my fingers, I picture her hands doing the same, holding those same beads, whispering those same prayers. I kiss the crucifix at the end, an ancient and pious gesture, pressing my lips where hers undoubtedly brushed against the silver. Is there some little part of her that lingers, not totally erased by my fingers, even after these many years?
I wonder how she came to have the rosary in the first place.
Was it something she carried at her wedding? Perhaps a gift from her husband, or later from one of her children? Or did she buy it for herself, to have something beautiful on which to string her prayers?
Most of all, I wonder if she held it as she lay dying, finding comfort in its physical presence even as, perhaps, the words became harder to say, her thoughts harder to hold together. Did it accompany her to the threshold of that door to eternity? Was it wound around her hands in death and then removed as the cover was closed and the Requiem Mass began?
She couldn’t take it with her, but it’s been passed on to me as a sort of legacy, and I continue on those beads what she began. I pray for the world, our country, my kids and those who have died–and I pray for a nameless, faceless woman whom I know I’ll recognize someday when we meet on the other side.