A weekly task in this household involves a trip to the dry cleaner. Because this chore falls to me and has for over a decade, I\’ve come to know the people who work at the store if not on a first time basis, enough to be able to joke around. One woman however, began sharing with me the story of her life. She asked me to pray when her brother died. Later, again as her father passed on and she wasn\’t able to attend, given that there was a whole ocean and islands between her and her family, she begged me to pray.
We know each has a lively faith though we\’ve never talked specifics. She always gives me a big smile. I\’m always a bit sad when my friend isn\’t there. It is a touch of lightness in the midst of doing the dutiful and mundane. She knows my name. I regret, I\’ve yet to really wrap my brain around hers, though I\’ve asked and sought to remember.
Recently, she stopped me to ask if a tracheostomy hurts. Long forgotten scars on my neck from early childhood sometimes bring up these sorts of conversations. It turned out her mother had fallen down stairs and had one. Given the woman\’s age and the extent of her injuries, the doctors urged my friend to \”let her mother go.\” Her eyes grew fiery recalling the words. \”But I cannot let my mother go. I believe in God and I am praying for a miracle.\” I asked for her mom\’s name and said I would too. Leaving, I went about my day, folding her mom and her family into the daily rosary but not overly focusing any more than usual. I have long known the reality, if you cannot be unreasonable with God, who can you be unreasonable with? She asked for the unreasonable.
Yesterday, I went to pick up suits for my husband. She called me over. \”Do you want to see?\” she asked. \”Do you want to see my mom?\” and she told me, she\’s sitting up some, she tries to talk even though we can\’t quite understand it. She is coming home from the hospital soon, and my friend will quit her job to care for her. \”But we get together every week to eat and to pray.\” She put out her white i-phone. \”My mom loves to sing prayers. This was taken two days before her fall.\” She presses the button on the phone and a video of her mother plays. Her mother has perfect makeup, she is in a white clean kitchen and she is singing. Her face reveals a smile that parallels her daughter\’s, it is wide and bright, the word luminous floats through my head. This is a heaven\’s choir member here on earth practicing, warming up. \”She wouldn\’t stop singing,\” my friend explained. \”We\’d all stopped but she just wanted to keep on singing.\”
A prayer in another language, recorded before it would not be heard anymore here on this Earth, so that her daughter could show what she said next. \”God is real. God is good. God loves us. I know that. I know that,\” she pointed at the phone of her mother still singing. Five minutes of video of pure praise, pure song.
Reduced to tears and in absolute awe, I looked at my friend, she\’d lost her brother and father this year and now, her mother lay in a hospital bed requiring she surrender her job and here she was, rejoicing, Job-like. I left the dry cleaner\’s trying to comprehend the enormity of mercy and the miraculous, of faith and faithfulness revealed all while merely going about the ordinary. This was a faith the size of a mountain, alive and active.
We often ask why when our lives are struck by tragedy or problems, even just inconvenience, and it is always an opportunity to fold ourselves into the cross, to reveal to the world the luminous nature of our faith, the miraculous somehow beyond this Earth joy of knowing and loving a God who suffers with us, a God who loves us despite our white hot messes, despite our foolishness, despite knowing every single sin. To fold into the cross is to let God love us, to stop trying to hold onto everything ourselves, to stop thinking that it depends upon us, to let go and let God pour into all the broken cracked empty spaces. All required of us, is to ask to be folded in, to participate. My friend had done this, with her brother, with her father, and now her mom. Filled, she could not help smiling, just as her mother, could not stop singing.
P.S. Today I\’m going to drop off stuff at the cleaners, and memorize her name.
Photography: See our Photographers page.