Every little action helps (or, where is my rosary and how do I say one anyway?)

A former student traveled to Rome and bought a rosary for me at the Vatican. Not only was I incredibly touched that this eight-year-old girl would think of me during her vacation, she also selected a beautiful set of wooden rosary beads that feels lovely to hold.

For awhile, I carried them with me to every chemo session, keeping them in their little white paper bag from the Vatican shop. I didn’t actually use them, but I felt better just having them with me.

Then about 8 weeks ago, I couldn’t find them. I have several different rosaries that I love, but I hate losing objects that are meaningful to me and I went into a panic. I dug through everything I own and worried that I may have lost them at Dana Farber while I was in a chemo haze.

I vowed that if I found them, I would pray the rosary every day. They didn’t show up.

Then I did what worked for my ring – I prayed to St. Anthony, but this time laughingly. I had looked everywhere and this was a silly last resort.

But yes, less than 24 hours later, there they were, next to my bed. Crazy.

Wooden Rosary from the Vatican

I happily said one rosary, even though I don’t really know how to say the rosary. Yes, I looked online for instructions, but it seemed like you are supposed to meditate on different mysteries depending on the day of the week (with some exceptions, of course – why can’t this be straightforward!) and THEN, for each set of prayers within the rosary, meditate on a different mystery within the major category. It all felt so complicated.

I know that for each little bead, you say one Hail Mary. I seem to recall that on the larger beads between the sets of 10 little beads (decades), you say one Glory Be and an Our Father. But I don’t know what prayers to say at the Cross or at the funny little symbol that connects them.

So I did what I knew and called it a really good try.

They next day, I didn’t seem to find time to say the rosary until late at night. The day after that, I started to say one after I went to bed (counting on my fingers instead of the beads) and fell asleep shortly after starting.

The subsequent days, I only thought about doing it.

On Thursday night, walking down the hall to say goodnight to our sons, I passed by the rosary beads. As I continued walking, I said something like, “Mary, I’m going to need some help with this.”

On Friday morning, I went to a Mom’s Spirituality Group, where the group leader provides a topic and structure for our weekly discussion and we work within that structure. This week, the topic was stress, worries and anxieties. We were to write down our individual stress, worries and anxieties, then pick a buddy and discuss.

I don’t like to focus on these things, but I pretty much do what I am told so made my best effort. Janet and I finished first, so we paired up. After discussing our assigned topics, we started talking about life in general. At one point, seemingly out of the blue, Janet shared that a friend of hers told her to pray the rosary. Janet wasn’t sure where she would find the time, but realized that she spends so much time in the car that she could easily do it while she was driving.

She also told me that she doesn’t pray the “official” version of the rosary, just her own version. She believes that is okay because even doing that shifted something inside her, and events began to change for the better in her life. She assured me that Mary works to answer our prayers.

Though I appreciate all the details she shared, my favorite is simply that the topic came up at all.

I received direct help on how to get going on the rosary and the assurance that it can be meaningful without being a big event. Of course, that makes me stop in amazement and gratitude.

I want to thank my young friend for the beautiful rosary and the wave of miracles that unfolded because of her lovely act of kindness.

I thank YOU for every little action and thought from your heart. Regardless of how big or small it feels, each one is meaningful and has a beautiful ripple effect as well.


Living on a prayer

These days, I am living on a prayer. More accurately, living on YOUR prayers. Thank you. This is way more fun than living on chemo. I am incredibly aware of each lovely chemo-free day and insanely grateful for the prayers, positive thoughts, presence and other gifts of your heart that enable me to have this life.

These provide an uplifting strength, enabling me to attend the boys’ May Day celebration at school, participate in my yoga class, attend a reunion, meet a friend for coffee, and throw (and enjoy) an early birthday party for one of the boys and his friends.  I even got to go rowing – woo hoo! – and rowed further than I ever have. (For those of you who are familiar, I rowed from the Cambridge Boat Club to the basin.)

I also decided that I had enough strength as well as enough distance from medical appointments to stomach a mammogram. In the face of actual cancer treatments, my regular mammograms fell out of the picture. Lately, I’ve had this panicky feeling that I need one, but every day this week, postponed making the call.

Finally, on Friday, after dropping the boys at school, I looked at the phone and thought, I’ll call in a bit. Just then, the phone rang and it was….The American Cancer Society. Seriously? Okay, message received and mammogram quickly scheduled.

On Saturday morning, I started bleeding and feeling ill, sending me into a bit of a tailspin.  To reign in my anxiety, I attempted to reframe the situation.

I tried telling myself that it wasn’t really happening. I tried telling myself that it would stop. I tried telling myself that it wasn’t a big deal.  I tried telling myself that it doesn’t mean anything.

As each approach failed, I kept thinking of that Bible verse, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” So I gave thanks for the good-feeling stuff in my life. Still didn’t help. Then I gave thanks for this. At first, that was a stretch, but I surprisingly did get there. Talk about practicing gratitude.

I could give thanks and be grateful but still wasn’t entirely thrilled about the bleeding. On Sunday, while listening to the song, “Let It Be” by the Beatles, I studied the logo on my iPhone, trying to figure out which face was which Beatle. Awhile later, while speaking with a friend, I noticed that same logo on his t-shirt, along with the words Let It Be.

I LOVE serendipities. They feel like personal messages from my guardian angels. I could sink into the Beatles. I could trust Mother Mary. And I could just let it be.

I hope you are finding lovely serendipities in your life. I know there are lots of us who need help and support in so many ways. Thank you for your continued prayers and your help in my life. Know that it makes a tangible, positive difference.

I thank God always for you.

Ephesians 1:15-19

Love and prayers,

Answered prayers

I love it when prayers are answered!

I have a little morning ritual that involves water from Lourdes and the Hail Mary. (Lourdes is where the Virgin Mary appeared multiple times to St. Bernadette.) Yesterday morning, I was definitely feeling despair. At the end of the Hail Mary, I found myself saying something like, “I really need to feel you near me. It would be nice to know that you are here.”

Fast forward past lots of emotions over the next two hours, when I found myself on a path I never take, standing in front of a physical bulletin board. I stopped and read one of the posts three times before it sunk in: One of the folks in Medjugorje, who sees the Virgin Mary on a regular basis, is in the U.S. and will be speaking only a few miles from my house on Saturday night.

Wow. Okay. She is here. Got it.

Then, today, Hurricane Sandy was passing through Boston so the kids did not have school, though I still had an appointment with my amazing dental hygienist, Annmarie.

I had to bring the boys with me and thought of calling her to ask if she could bring her high school daughter into work to babysit my boys while she worked on my teeth. But I didn’t actually call Annmarie.

When I entered the office, there sat her teenage daughter, who had decided to come into work with her mother today. And, she entertained the boys for an hour.

This gives me the confidence to bring up some bigger requests….

I’m hoping that you can feel your prayers answered, big and small. Thank you for your prayers on my behalf.

Lots of love to you.