The Prayer Card

I’ve saved prayer cards of those who have completed their journeys upon this earth.  And while I was cleaning out some boxes in my apartment – essentially “spring cleaning” – I came across my mother’s prayer card.

Paula Lillian Bragg, eventually Miller, and finally Bailey, would have turned 73 today.

What can I say about her… she loved her grandchildren, she loved my brothers and sisters, she read Barbara Cartland paperbacks and Harlequin Romance novels like they were candy bars on their last days of expiration.  She loved the Albany River Rats and went to many games, she even baked cookies for the players.

And I’m still holding on to the prayer card.

What else could I tell you about my mother?  She worked for the state of New York for many years, I think she had a nice cushy office in the Corning Tower; she also worked out of an office in Wolf Road.  She watched my daughter Cassaundra when I couldn’t get a babysitter – such is the case when you’re a single parent.

And I’m still holding on to the prayer card.

My feelings about my mother, as much as my feelings toward most of my family, are complicated.  In our lives, we remember those who have passed.  Those who have started the journey for us, those who guide us along our walk from birth to earth.  Sometimes those guides offer kindness and wisdom and support.  Other times, we learn the proper actions from the mistakes they have made to us.

I know I can’t change the past any more than I can stop a sunrise.  I know there were times when my childhood was painful and upsetting, and there were times when I was able to find peace and solace.

And maybe that’s why I still hold on to the prayer card.  I save it to remind me of how things started, and how I’ve been able to survive and thrive in this world.  The moments of looking out for #1 so that you’re not treated like #2.

And I turn the card over.  There’s a small homily on the reverse of the prayer card.

I’d like the memory of me to be a happy one.  I’d like to leave an afterglow of smiles when life is done.  I’d like to leave an echo whispering softly down the ways, of happy times and laughing times and bright and sunny days.  I’d like the tears of those who grieve, to dry before the sun, of happy memories that I leave when life is done.

That’s a poem called “Afterglow,” it has been attributed to Helen Lowrie Marshall.  it appears on many prayer cards, including the one for my mother.

And I figure out that this card came out of whatever box or drawer or cabinet storage for a reason.  The reason was to simply remember those in the past, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant those memories may be.  Not to mourn or to grieve, not to celebrate or to exalt.  But to simply remember.

And remembering keeps those people alive.

Because not remembering is their final death.

And with that, I put the prayer card in a storage box.  Someday, maybe in 2015 or 2016 or 20-whenever-teen, I’ll find that box and start clearing out more of my life.  And there it will be, the little prayer card.

A reminder of a memory.  And all that the memory entails.