A stranger’s gift

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,


The flaw

The third decade flaw. The links look rusty in this photo, but it’s just the reflection of the counter on their very shiny surface.

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.


My rescued rosary. I added the medal on the right, attached to the crucifix.

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.



About Monica Sawyn

I'm a retired newspaper reporter/columnist, and although I still freelance, I miss the weekly column I used to write. I still "see columns" in everyday life and need a place to put them after they're written--thus, this blog. I'm Catholic, have been a Benedictine oblate since 1977, and live with my husband and our beagle in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. When I'm not writing, I'm probably reading, sewing, taking photos or walking the dog.
This entry was posted in Catholic, Catholic life, contemplation, Faith-filled living, Praying, Reflection and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A stranger’s gift

  1. Eric Hollas says:

    Hi Monica, This is a lovely reflection and beautifully written. It was a nice day to begin my morning! Eric

  2. blb1 says:

    What a wonderful post. I sent it to my Catholic friend and hope she can connect on the link.

    I wonder why you said “she couldn’t take it with her” ?

    • Monica Sawyn says:

      She couldn’t take the rosary to heaven with her. I suppose they could have left it in the casket, but I believe they usually remove those kinds of things to give to the family.

  3. Monica, This article was absolutely lovely! We look for religious articles at garage sales so we can rescue them. Unfortunately, I would never have thought to do this 50 years ago. You are, and have always been, such a genuine and loving person! Thank you for this beautiful article! Mj.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s