I need to be somewhere that I can exist for free while my kids visit with their father. Everyone else has gone to lunch because they can, and I want to go too but it costs money not to be lonely. I was invited to lunch today. They don’t always invite me, but today they did, and I couldn’t go. The price of food and gas has gone up. It’s too expensive to hang out with friends, I better get used to being lonely, it’s not like it’s a new thing.
So I sit in a rocking chair outside of the church, in the shade. The weather is lovely and just right. I figure I can exist for free in this space and time. I think Jesus will be okay with that. I pray my rosary, the glorious mysteries since it’s Sunday. I have trouble really meditating on the mysteries, but it’s still better to pray it than not. When I am done, I pull out my prayer rope, and begin to pray.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on Jason.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on Justin.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on Jon.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on Laureli.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on Kristi.
Brad. Dorothy. Joan. Mary. Doug. Kitty…
I keep praying, ten knots of each of my people, the people I go to church with, and my people elsewhere. I keep praying, ten knots each. I go around the rope several times. The prayer rope I keep in my purse is purple, it was made in Greece with the correct knots. It slides easily between my left thumb and index finger, my hand is used to it and it cramps painfully the same way every time. I consider the cramping a part of the prayers. I do it for my people. There’s a special prayer in the Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book that I pray for my priest, and one for the parish, and one for the bishop. I think I’ve fucked up enough that the bishop probably doesn’t want to have to speak to me ever again, but I pray daily for him anyway, I care about my people, and my church.
Praying for each of my people while sitting in that chair with my rope feels good. This is where we worship when we are together, so praying for them while I’m sitting at the church seems like a good thing to do. I get through with the list of people I pray for. I have OCD and everyone has ten knots each, in the same order every day, so that I don’t forget anyone. I’d hate to miss one because I prayed for them out of the right order.
When I get done, I kiss the cross at the bottom of the rope and then…
I fiddle with the rope in my hand and burst into tears. I twist it, I run my fingers over it, I tie it in a big knot. I begin to cry big ugly tears, mixed with sweat, salty tears that burn my eyes and my face, and they won’t stop. I’m praying for myself now. I don’t have words, just the salt water running down my face. I dab at the tears with my head covering but it doesn’t help with the burning. I double over, letting the grief burst forth like an erupting volcano. It flows, and flows, and flows. The tears wash over me, like a river in flood. They flow, and flow, and flow.
The grief is decades old. The tears keep coming. It’s the only prayer I have in me. It is enough.
I look at the grass, taking in its beauty but ordinariness. I look at the sky, and I smell the fresh air, taking the time to focus on inhaling, and exhaling. It grounds me just a little.
And before I get up to leave this still, quiet place of prayer, I hold back the tears enough to say “Jesus, stuff is fucked up and shit.”
While it’s not the most eloquent prayer I’ve ever prayed, Jesus hears, and Jesus cares.