Responsible person

simple rosary of navy beads on white cord, wooden cross, with the name Dennis in marker

Yesterday turned into another sabbath as I decompressed from Glen. You likely figured that out, though!

Which means today you get to meet Dennis.

So yes, this is a rosary, and no, as a Presbyterian I don’t use one in my religious observances. On our off-day last week, my workshop instructor and her husband went to visit el Santuario de Chimayo. It’s a holy site, a healing-place of pilgrimage—kind of like Lourdes in France. I haven’t visited, but several of my Glen-friends have. They all mention the objects left throughout the four chapels: shoes, milagros, crutches, notes, rosaries… .

Gina and Christopher passed one of the volunteer caretakers during their visit. I don’t recall the story precisely as she told it, but the caretaker approached them and, essentially, asked them to carry away with them some of the gifts/intentions that others had left behind. Because if these gifts aren’t routinely removed there will be no space for people, or more gifts. Gina noticed that one tangle of simple rosaries had thirteen in it—precisely the number of participants in our workshop! So she brought them, and we passed them around, each taking one. This is the one that recommended itself to me.

As the tangle was making its circuit, Gina offhandedly commented, “One of them—a few?—had some writing on it… someone’s name… Dennis?”

So I looked. And it was mine.

Opposite “Dennis,” also in Sharpie, is “♥ U / MOM.” It’s harder to decipher.

Gina laughingly told us that, having taken a rosary, we were now responsible for praying for the person and intention behind the rosary. She was also serious, or I was serious as I listened. But then, this rosary is named. It makes the responsibility clearer.

Or does it?

The first time I included Dennis and Mom in my prayers, I started praying through a particular story. About Mom aching on behalf of her Dennis. Because of choices he’d made that took him away, maybe hurt him… maybe addictive drug use…. It’s a usual story, and one that belongs to a high-school friend of mine. I’ve prayed the prayers for his story before, so it’s even familiar. Plus I have a sharp edge of loss inside for my friend, which I started to enfold Dennis into…. As a poet, I appreciate having sharp edges instead of mushy platitudes.

As a poet, I brought myself up hard and short.
Pray for my friend, sure. But Dennis is not the same person, and as an honorable woman I do not want to pray something that is not true. So I backed up, looked again in the way we looked at each others’ poems. Looked for what I could know from what I had in front of me.

As a mother, I believe the ache. Given Chimayo’s history, given my life as a parent, there aren’t many scenarios I can imagine that would involve an ex-voto and not include the ache. Even prayers of thanksgiving in a place of healing contain the ache of release from the suffering that went before. I can fold Mom’s love into my love and be true.

But Dennis? That’s trickier.

I pray for good things in general. I pray for harbors from temptations and darkness. I pray for light, and pray he receives the strength that functional families—and God—can give.

I pray for him as if he were one of my children. And pray for him as if he were me.
Because what if he’s 50, and has yet to have feet set upon the rock and steps established, the way I feel I have?

Dennis, Mom loves you. God loves you, too. May you be healed—hale—whole—holy. May this be so (amen).


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