Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Familial Legends

Like many Eastern European families, mine was full of legends - stories of "other worldly events" that happened to various relatives.

My great aunt would often dream of a person telling her they were going to die a few days before they did.

My cousin Stella was awakened one morning and told to go out and help everyone else on the farm pick strawberries by a man she had never seen before, and whom no one on the farm knew. He woke her up several other times, the last time of which she watched him fade into the ether as he left her side.

My mother kept hearing pacing outside her door as she went through her pregnancy for me, after having lost her first child. In the middle of the night she would awaken to the sound of a rocking chair going back and forth in the bedroom. But she didn't own a rocking chair.

This past weekend when I was back in my home town talking with my very distant cousin, a woman who is about to turn 84, she told me about the weeks prior to her sister's death. Her sister was Janina (ya-NYEE-Nah. Janina was very ill with cancer and near death. She asked my cousin to go to a particular church, which is part of a community of priests, and to pray for her. My cousin went, taking Janina's sweater with her as a sort of talisman for her prayer.

No one was in the big sanctuary when my cousin knelt at a side altar to pray. After a while, a monk approached her and asked if he could help, and told her that she seemed deeply burdened. He was a tall man, in hooded monk's robes -- a man who seemd to radiate a sense of peace.

She told him why she was there. He asked for the sweater and told my cousin that he would pray for her sister, and that she should go home and not worry. My cousin says that just the peace in his eyes calmed her. She left and told Janina the story when she got home. Janina, weak as she was, near death as she was, was deeply comforted by the story, and within a matter of days quietly slipped out of this life and into the next, with no further suffering.

A few weeks after the funeral my cousin decided to go see that monk again, and to thank him by making a donation to the church. She found a priest there and asked if she could see the monk. He looked at her blankly. There was no monk at that church or in the community of priests who ran the church. "The saint who founded our order was a monk, though." He pointed to a stained glass window on the other side of the church that my cousin had not seen.

There in the glass was a monk who looked just like the one that my cousin had seen.

What do we make of such tales? I am simply thankful for them -- they are stories told at a window looking out into the great mysterious beyond. They circumscribe shapes of promise and wonder. And, truth be told, I believe they are real.


Blogger Jayne said...

Well, of course they are real. ;c) Oh, the mystery of the spirit!

6:20 AM  

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