Friday, July 06, 2007

The Rosary Turtle

I looked in at the Cricket a few minutes ago and noticed that he had with him in the swing a particular turtle that my parents brought back with them from South Carolina when I was still in labor. That turtle stayed with him in the NICU and sat next to the monitor, looking down at him as things beeped and whirred away. The turtle itself was a reminder to me think about the beach in SC where my parents have a home. I thought about this beach during the requisite "be still" time after the transfer of Cricket. I told the little embryos inside me if they stayed (preferably one, please) I would take them down the ocean and let them swim away. Play on the beach. This place is my own personal happy place. Looking at this little turtle while we were in the NICU helped me try to remember that place. It didn't always work, but it was enough.

After about a week in the NICU I was down in the chapel of the hospital, trying to get it together. A woman came in who was probably some sort of Eucharistic minister to those in the hospital and asked me if I wanted to take the sacrament. I did. I could barely keep it together as she prayed with me, and when she said the "Angel of God" prayer*, a prayer we said every night of my childhood and at the start of any car trip longer than 20 minutes, I out and out cried. She then slipped a small cheap pink plastic rosary into my hand. I went back upstairs to the NICU and wrapped the rosary around the middle of the turtle, tucking it under the sweatshirt the turtle was wearing.

Soon after, Cricket went on the mend.

I haven't taken the rosary off the turtle, so when I saw the turtle in Cricket's pudgy little hand, I thought about whether I should go remove the turtle or let it be. I let it be. I mentioned to Partner that next time he got the turtle, we should take off the rosary.

"I already did," she said. "I give him that turtle every day during his nap and never knew it was there until one day I saw this little cross sticking out. I ripped it off then."

"Okay. Good. That rosary is what made him get better."

She stopped and looked at me very seriously. "Do you really believe that? I mean, Katie, do you really believe it was that rosary? Maybe it was the turtle?"

"No, he had the turtle from the time he was born."

"Maybe it was the little hat he wore?" She was incredulous.

"No, it wasn't his hat. He also had the hat right away too." I was serious. She was almost laughing.

"I can't believe you think it was that rosary that made him better."

I pouted a little, but had to think about it. Did I really think it was a pink, plastic rosary that made Cricket get better and get out of the NICU?

My grandmother was firm believer in holy water. Sprinkle the holy water and things would heal. She told a story about her mother on the farm in Canada. There was tornado headed straight for their house and her mother went out into the yard and sprinkled holy water in all for corners of the yard and the tornado veered right off. Never hit their house. Now, we all know that tornadoes have erratic patterns, but to my grandmother it was the holy water that spared them. She would have been insulted if you had suggested otherwise. I always chuckled a little (inside) when she told this story, but how is that so different from me telling Partner that the rosary was responsible for making Cricket better?

Partner ended up comparing this to picking up a penny. "Does the penny really bring you luck?" Hm. I pointed out that prayer was different from this. "Sure, prayer. But waving a rosary above someone's head is not prayer." She's right. That's not prayer. Which is not to say that I wasn't living one big long extended prayer the whole time he was in the NICU. Life was a prayer then: please make me strong enough to deal with this, please let him eat, please let him breathe, please get him of CPAP, please let that monitor stop going off, please don't let him pull out the NG tube again, please let him be okay, please, please, please.

So what about that penny? It won't give me good luck, but I'm not about to pass it up. I'll pick up that penny as a hedged bet. But that's got to be different from faith. Faith as superstition? I don't think of myself as this type of person, but hey, I've buried St. Joseph not only in my yard, but several places on the blog as well. When I lived in Ireland, I crossed myself as we passed a church, just like all the oul wans. I know the patron saints for many different situations. Does this make me superstitious or just culturally very Catholic? But realistically faith has to be different than "step on crack, break your mother's back." It's not a cause and direct effect relationship. And to think about faith that way or imbue objects with magical powers, well, that could end up being downright dangerous.

I don't know. I guess I don't think it was the rosary that made Cricket better. It was time, good nurses and doctors, himself, our real prayers. All of that.

But I also think it didn't hurt.

(*Angel of God prayer the way we said it: Angel of God, our guardian dear, to whom God's love commits us here, ever this day and ever this night, be at my side to light, to guard, and to keep us near.)



Blogger AmyinMotown said...

Wow, this is a beautiful post. Where is the line between faith and superstition, between asking and believing it shall be given you and getting into magical thinking? I know for me, what I try to keep in mind is that sometimes the answer is no, sometimes God does things that seem callous to our pain. A calming prayer I use a lot is from St. Francis deSales: Either God will shield you from suffering or he shall give you unyielding strength to bear it."

I also think prayer never hurts, and often helps. If nothing else, I don't want something bad to happen because I decided not to pray.

(what part of MI are you from?)

3:16 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

I love the post. I am not one who is very religious, but the power of prayer is something that is something that we can't know the boundaries of.

I guess all that matters is what you believe, right?

5:21 PM  
Blogger agoodlistener said...

I am a big believer in faith. I understand that there is a possibility of imbueing (sp?) an artifact with superstitious power, but for me. it's prayer that does it. Whenever I run into some new problem during a hospital stay, I really do turn it over to God and darned if things don't improve. Lots of little miracles. I believe, in fact, that you were in a constant state of prayer during the NICU days and that that is what pulled you all through.

9:58 PM  

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