Friday, October 17, 2014

The Queen of Everything




Religion has always been important to me, even though I'm an agnostic.  I'm fascinated by belief and how it influences our thoughts and actions in spite of my inability to believe. 

The following is an excerpt from my novel Summerland.  Although it is narrated by Torie, who like me is a collector of tales, this is a story that was told to me first hand by the 'Catholic sister'.  Make of it what you will. 

This comes from another friend of mine and you are going to have to trust me. (I can’t mention the name of the nursing home or even the town. These sweet Sisters, and the old crinklies in their charge, don’t need to have twenty-thousand people out on the lawn looking for Mary.)

     My friend’s sister converted to Catholicism a few years ago and like most converts, she is very devout. The two sisters had to make a decision about their mother’s care when the old lady started a rapid decline, both physically and mentally. As the Catholic sister lived in the same town as the mother, she chose a Catholic nursing home for their mother. My friend is more or less a Protestant-Buddhist hybrid with an interest in Hinduism, so she just wanted to make sure that her mother was well cared for and her sister assured her that the home had a fine reputation.

     The mother is a bit dotty and the sisters freely admit this about the woman. She spends a lot of time with her husband who has been dead a dozen years and she frequently goes out to lunch with her mother who was planted in soil during the Eisenhower era.

      She also isn’t very good on her feet anymore and one night, a Friday night to be exact, she fell down while moving furniture. (It seems unlikely that she was moving furniture, but I’m trying to present all the information at my disposal. The old girl said she was moving furniture so I have to go with that.) The old dear cut her head, made her way to her bed, and cried for help because she’d forgotten that she had a button to press to summon help. (She says she was calling for help for an hour, but her sense of time has also gone south. Her bosoms have too and my friend has a great story about that, but this is the Mary story.)

      Help finally came and this is where my specialty as a Marion chronicler comes in, if you were beginning to wonder where I was going with this.    According to the old dear, ‘the lady with veil’ came in and got her some help.    Right after the lady left, a member of staff came in, helped her up and cleaned up the wound she had suffered on her head. So, big deal you are rightly thinking. The place is Catholic so some nun wearing a wimple came in and helped a patient. That was my first reaction as well, but this order of nuns does not wear veils or wimples. They wear a headpiece that is akin to an old-fashioned nurse’s hat and all of the other staff wears the ubiquitous scrubs.

       My friend's sister asked the nuns (there are only three of them at the facility) if any of them had been in her mother’s room that evening or early morning. Of course none of them had been there, hadn’t even been in the building, but they wanted to know why she asked. They smiled when told of the appearance and said that the occurrence wasn’t an unusual one at all. In the past, the sisters had queried other members of staff and found that many of them had seen the lady with the veil and all felt it was the BVM. (The Blessed Virgin Mary/Mother, for those of you who don’t have the benefit of a RC childhood.) My friend suggested that it was the ghost of a nun, but apparently the apparition causes no fear and is felt to be a wonderful and comforting presence.

       The Catholic sister of my friend gently asked her Protestant mother who she thought the lady was. The old lady said that people around there were cagey when she asked about her, but she said that the lady ran the whole place, she said ‘she’s the queen of everything’. I was especially struck her use of the word ‘queen’. My friend assures me that it is not a term that she could recall her mother using, but she finds the whole thing comforting. She feels that she doesn’t have to worry about her mother too much if the queen of everything is keeping an eye on her. (Once again for the RC deprived; Mary is also known as the Queen of Heaven, the Queen of the Sea and the Queen of several other unlikely kingdoms.)

       Needless to say, it’s taking every bit of self-control I’ve got not to publish this story with names and details. I’m coming to realize that I have more integrity that I ever imagined.