When I was a child I was mesmerized by my mother’s hands. They floated and fluttered around her face as she spoke like angels wings floating gracefully through the air around her head.
Mesmerized by the beauty she created as she spoke, I practiced fluttering and flitting my hands with every word I spoke just so I too could have angels flying around me. And also, so that I could speak just like my mother.
I never did master the softness of her voice but to this day, my hands are as much a part of my speaking as my voice.
Five months ago when I brought my mother’s prayer cards home to my studio, I had no idea what stories they would inspire.
Creating an altered book art journal with her prayer cards is a journey beyond the surface layers of grief and memory deep into soul-restoration.
Every day, when I sit down at my work table and open the journal, I am reminded of the power of creativity to restore and heal. And the power of prayer to create miracles.
My mother and I walked a delicate truce. She wanted peace. I wanted answers. For me to have answers, we had to talk about the things that upset her. I didn’t want to upset her and so I let go of searching for answers in the past and settled instead for peace in the present.
It worked. I no longer felt like ‘the bad daughter’ every time I spoke to her and prodded her with my endless questions and insistence we walk together with ‘the truth’. Instead, I could be the ‘good enough’ daughter she could tell her friends about because, as she liked to say, “I was doing good things in the world”.
In our delicate truce my mother felt like her prayers had been answered. She could let go of praying to God to help me be a better person and simply pray for good things to come to me in my life.
There is truth in everything. Not every thing is true.
My mother’s prayers were a powerful force in our lives. The truth is, my mother prayed for everyone she knew, every night of her life. When I was younger, I used to scoff at her constant reminders that she would pray for me. Sometimes, before I remembered the value of kindness in the world, I’d tell her I didn’t want her prayers. She should keep them for herself.
She’d pray harder for me in those times, beseeching God to soften my heart.
As age began to take a toll on her mobility and strength, she spent more time in bed or sitting quietly in her wheelchair. Her prayers became a constant song in her life, filling the space around her head with whispered incantations for blessings from God to rain down on those she loved.
As the end neared, we prayed with our mother whenever we were with her. And when she fell into the deep sleep that would eventually lead her to her eternal light, we prayed together for her safe journey to the other side.
Sometimes, during the nights of her final week when I sat alone at her bedside, I’d say the Hail Mary over her sleeping body, just as I imagine she whispered it over my sleeping body long ago when I was a child.
One night, as I sat beside her bed reading while she slept, she opened her eyes, lifted one of her hands slowly off the covers and beckoned me to come in close. Crippled with arthritis, her hands no longer fluttered like angels’ wings dancing around her head. They moved slowly like a leaf drifting towards the ground on the final breath of an autumn breeze.
Leaning over the side of her bed, trying not to jostle her frail body, I dipped my head towards her mouth. Her hand fell to the blanket covering her body as she whispered softly into my ear, “I’ll pray for you.”
I smiled and looked into her eyes. I didn’t know if she could see me or simply feel my presence. Gently, I stroked her forehead and whispered back, “Thank you. I’ll pray for you too.”
This book is my prayer for peace for my mother and me. Each page is filled with my handwork and, even though mostly invisible beneath layers of paint, each page contains one of my mother’s prayer cards.
It is created by my hands that float and flutter about my head when I speak, just like my mother’s hands once did.