You know that I could not go 40 days without a post about my mother which did not also include Mother Mary. Please indulge me.
Let me remind readers that I am not big C “Catholic”, just little “c”. So perhaps I am a bit misinformed, not having been indoctrinated in the Marian way. This makes it all the more fun for me! Vis a vis Mary, I have no preconceived notions. So please bear with me as I flesh out a recent triptych that unfolded in my grief journey.
As an aside on triptychs: One of my all time favorite museums is the Museu do Oratorio in Ouro Preto, Brazil. Back in the day, baby triptychs were crafted for praying while traveling. Portable, the panel doors swung open to display a central painting, sculpture or other ornate religious objet d’art.
Photo credit: Marie Solange O. via Tripadvisor.
Another famous example of a triptych is Hieronymus Bosch‘s The Garden of Earthly Delights, hanging in The Prado.
The Marian triptych you are going to open, however, is composed of words, photos, and music.
Left Hand Panel:
Throughout my life I have cultivated friendships with seemingly random people, people far flung from the normal parameters of my life. Many times I have encountered these people during shopping experiences. The Virgin Mary got an angel named Gabriel and I get a cortege of Nordstrom salespeople. Sanctified shopping!
Last year I wrote of dear Saba, my Jo Malone saleswoman. We have prayed for each other for several years and give each other little gifts. My gluttonous stash of “pashminas” from Shanghai made its way to Saba in February. Saba always wears black, with a beautiful scarf wrapped around both shoulders. I cannot express what joy it gave me to Kon Mari those gorgeous $5 scarves – they were just waiting to be given to Saba.
Then there was Viking Queen, my betattooed makeup counter girl. I have lost touch with her (she is moving up the Nordstrom corporate ladder) but I still think of her on her birthday.
Finally there is Bruce, who helped Thing 2 and Mr. Understanding in the Men’s Wear department. Neither of my men enjoy shopping for clothing. Long ago, I figured out that enlisting the professional help of others when shopping for clothes is the most cost and time effective. Bruce is in his early to mid seventies and married to a wonderful woman named Judy.
Several years ago, before I even really knew them, Bruce told me that his mother-in-law had passed away and his wife was grief stricken. He mentioned that her parents lived in Florida. It turns out, it is the same town where my parents and in law Understandings live. Bruce and Judy were traveling from the Buckeye state to visit her father for his 90th birthday. I offered up my little cottage in Florida for accommodations. They accepted and enjoyed the birthday party, leaving my house cleaner than it had ever been before. They have used it a few times since, each time leaving a little gift.
One of those gifts is a little sign made of wood, an optical illusion puzzle, that says JESUS, made by Judy’s father. During one of their visits, my parents invited Bruce and Judy over to their house for cocktails and Bruce and Judy brought them one too. It sits on my mother’s roll top desk.
My father and I saw one of those little signs at the dermatologist’s on Valentine’s Day, the one month anniversary of my mother’s passing. It was what my grandmother would call a “love pat” from the Universe, a Godwink, a cosmic kiss. It had to have come from Judy’s father but no one could really tell me. (I did recall making a referral for him a few years ago.) When MCVWasHere was in Florida for my mother’s funeral, she commented on how she would like to have one. Voila! Bruce delivered one for each sister to my house in Ohio. Ask and you shall receive.
On Friday night I made Burmese Easy Grilled Chicken. As I was leafing through the Burma cookbook for a rice recipe, I came across a blurb about Sister Mary living in an obscure region of Myanmar as part of a Maryknoll Sisters mission, treating HIV/AIDs. (The Maryknoll Sisters were started by Sr. Mary Joseph (a.k.a. Mollie) Rogers from Boston.) Naomi Duguid’s books are as much history as they are travelogues and recipes. A Marian apparition under the tutelage of Sally.
This week my father Big Mike received a card from Bruce and Judy. My Nordstrom salesman and his wife were sending my father condolences. Mary-nate on this for yourself. Is anyone in your universe this thoughtful? Bruce no longer works at Nordstrom so there is nothing to gain for him – no commission, nada – just angel wings. Here is the card:
Bruce and Judy had honored my parents with a donation to The Servants of Mary who will say mass for them daily at the Vatican. The Servants of Mary, I discovered, have a national ministry called GriefWork. Bruce and Judy were greatly saddened to hear of Sally’s passing. Oh, and they are coming to visit in May – could they take my father out for a meal?
This is how we are meant to engage with the world. Inviting others out, setting aside ourselves, devoting attention. Mihaly (“Mike”) Csikszenthihalyi writes in his epic book Flow:
“Whether we are in the company of other people or not makes a great difference to the quality of experience. We are biologically programmed to find other human beings the most important objects in the world. Because they can make life either very interesting and fulfilling or utterly miserable, how we manage relations with them makes an enormous difference to our happiness. If we learn to make our relations with others more like flow experiences, our quality of life as a whole is going to be much improved.”
You do not have to be a yogi to go with the flow, my friends.
Right Hand Panel:
This brings me to my final Marian experience of the last two weeks:
Last week I was with Big Mike, Mr. Understanding, and Thing 3 in Gainesville, Florida to visit the Natural History Museum’s Butterfly Rainforest. Afterwards, we went on a hunt for an easily accessible restaurant. Hangry, we finally stopped by Leonardo’s Pizza by the Slice. Although the interior can only be described as grungy (hence off-putting) the food was good. My father declined to eat, sneering at the pizza on display (they warm it up).
At each table was a newsletter called “The Coffee News”. Mainly advertisements for bail bonds, quickie divorces, lawn care, and funeral arrangements, it had a trivia section. In it was the following fun fact: the Mother Mary in Paul McCartney’s song Let It Be was written about his deceased mother, Mary.
According to Thoughtco.com “[I]nspired by a dream the singer had of his deceased mother, Mary, assuring him, amongst the turmoil of the Beatles’ slow breakup, that everything would be all right. ”
I cannot tell you how many times in the past ten days I have heard Let It Be playing in a public place or on the radio. I am still waiting for Mother Sally to appear in my dreams and whisper words of wisdom but perhaps this is not her preferred method of contact.
With this in mind, I will close the triptych up and pack it away for future use.
So please, Nordies, continue to put the Really Beautiful People in a sturdy paper shopping bag and walk around the cash register to hand them to me. Leave your politics on the counter with the triple points; let it be. These kind souls are my take away, no returns necessary. I can see the shape of their hearts – overflowing.