wish or hope strongly for an outcome or situation; from late Latin precare, alteration of Latin precari ‘entreat.’
ask earnestly or anxiously (for something)
showing sincere and intense conviction
I am learning how to pray. Not to God, specifically. Rather, not to a specific religion’s God. Just to pray. This whole experience has reminded me of my faith, my absolute faith…I could not tell anyone for sure what I have faith in, life maybe. I don’t know yet, but I know I feel it.
I have prayed before, in meditation. I have sat in still places, on grass or balanced on the thick, mossy branches of a tree, and thought of all the places I have been and all that I have gone through to get to that moment and I have thought, Thank you. I should have known that it was prayer, though I did not call it that.
My first renewed prayers were nothing more than one word repeated until the word itself had no meaning. Please, please, please, please, and I did not know what I was praying for. I could not have told whoever was listening what I wanted or needed at that moment. I think I was begging to not lose myself, weeks ago, on my knees in my empty bed at three a.m.. Begging, palms pressed together and held above my heart, Please, please, please. I had never been there before. I did not feel desperation, but I did feel lost, approaching the edge of something deep and unpassable. So I begged and begged until an inescapable blankness came over me and wiped me out. That night I slept exhausted and I woke feeling like the clean slate of a chalkboard before anything is written.
Sandra and Lisandra are mother and daughter. They make me miss my mom, the way their voices interlock. Their strong, overlaying personalities that gel together seamlessly. Lisandra looks young, too young to have a child and a complicated co-parent relationship. She is beautiful, a fresh and real kind of pretty, with smooth skin and an easy, genuine smile. Her glasses remind me of mine, thick reddish frames. Sandra has dark hair and light brown eyes with darker flecks in them that I notice when she steps close and gives me the intense eye-contact I soon realize is natural for her. She is easy to talk to and easily moved. Her smile reminds me of her daughter’s; not that they look so much alike but that their smiles come from a soulful place and say that they have not given up.
She has God in her heart, they both do, and either His or their natural grace shines out…recognizable even to a non-believer.
I ask if she has any thoughts about it.
“About heartbreak, about how long it takes, how to get over it. Do you ever get over it.”
“God, I just turned to God, I—what I went through was so bad. I just, I had to turn to God. And it was bad for a long time. And I went through a depression for a while. You know? There was just,” she clutches her hand above her chest, near the scroll-edged silver cross hanging from a slender chain around her neck. She is groping for words, something to put the pain into words. “How do you say?” she asks, turning to her daughter. Lisandra is quiet, looking down. I am too aware of what it is to turn over your pain to a stranger. I know too well what it means to lay it bare and hope that you don’t break down. I don’t ask for details, instead I read the elegy written on Sandra’s face and I hold her hand when she reaches out.
I wonder if she lost the grandson we had spoken about earlier. She mentioned that she has been wanting to get a picture of him tattooed on her side. “My one grandson, I see him, you know but my other one he isn’t with me so I want to get the tattoo so that—”
“He’ll always be close, wherever you go,” I say.
When she said those words it was as if they should have been in Capital Letters. As in: Her one grandson is no longer With Her. Regardless of what it is, a grandson or someone else close, her loss looms large when she begins to talk about heartbreak.
I wonder if I am beginning to scent the loss in people, or if it is simply that so many people carry so many empty spaces inside of them.
I am still holding her hand when she gulps quietly, recovering her words and says, “Give it to God, you know. That’s what I did. It never quite…”
“Heals,” her daughter chimes in, “it might never heal.”
“Yeah, it doesn’t, there’s always, how do you say…There’s always something…”
“Missing, a piece missing,” I say. “Something you can’t replace.”
“Yes. Yes, it is always missing, and it’s so big…”
“So deep a piece.” I say and I can feel that this is going to be a rough one. I feel myself digging in, trying to stay removed, as I tell them both about Susy, that Mark and I were trying to make a family for all of us. That we were a family. How I felt it when he would come home to me, to a place I felt was my home too, as long as he was there. How I could feel those little ties pulling tighter, stronger every day. How I can still smell his skin, hear her laugh my name or feel the weight of her in my arms, if I think about them.
“It was the bond,” Sandra holds her hands together, tight fists with her knuckles touching over her chest. She nods and touches my arm. Her hand is hot with smooth skin and I focus on it instead of looking up, trying not to let the warmth in my eyes spill over.
“I didn’t want anything other than them. It wasn’t just a breakup with some guy, it was—”
“The family you had with him,” they both break in to finish my sentence, nodding.
“Yeah. It was so much more and it went deep,” I say, mimicking Sandra’s gestures. Hands open, pressed to my chest, trying to find the empty space, trying to soothe it. “Really deep. I know that, what you were talking about, that feeling of there being so much missing. Some things you can’t replace and it feels like it will be empty forever and it feels like you can never fill that place in your heart again.”
Sandra has her hand on my arm and she says, “It’s just, there’s—” she breaks off and steps back, “oh, this is tough,” she flutters her hand over her eyes, waving away tears.
“I know,” I say, “I was having a time there for a second myself.”
This is hard. It’s still hard. I always wonder, Today? Will it be easier today? But there are still mornings I wake thinking only of them, though luckily, some of those days are days I find exactly the right people to talk to. Lisandra looks at me, shaking her head in empathy, “It’s different when you have kids, you know. I know. It’s harder. It’s a lot harder.”
Sandra’s eyes are gentle when she looks at me again, taking my hand, offering me hope. She says, “If he is meant to be the man in your life then he will come back to you.” I think, no, no, no because I still struggle with that desire, every day it seems. “Give it all to God and if this man is the man you are meant to be with then he will come back and tell you why he did this, maybe—”
“Give you his reasons,” says Lisandra, rolling her eyes a little.
“And, yes, and then you will find a way to be together. Unless you don’t want to wait for him.” I don’t, I tell myself, I don’t want that. She is holding my hand and I am looking up into the ceiling, trying not to want what she is telling me. No, no, no, I think, trying not to strand myself out on that slender, invisible thread of hope. “And if you don’t want to wait for him then you pray and God will hear that too.” I feel her conviction in God. I think, You can’t tell me it’s that easy, but I know that prayer is only the beginning. They both have been telling me that just because you pray, it doesn’t mean it’s easy. It just means you are not alone.
Lisandra has told me about The Father of her Child…she always refers to him that way, establishing the distance she has prayed for. “I did that, I prayed and prayed to God, I said, ‘God, I don’t want this person in my life, I don’t want this person to bother me no more.’ And he stopped calling me and bothering me.” She smiles quickly, “But sometimes then, you miss them!” and she laughs and shakes her head. I know that laugh, a little self-deprecating. “He answered my prayers….it doesn’t mean you don’t miss them.”
“I do!” I say, “Ugh, I do still miss him! I know I still want him too! I keep thinking I am over that part and then I see a car that looks like his…”
“And your heart starts to race!” she flutters her hand over her chest. We laugh about it, silly, girlish.
I tell her that it is really hard for me to get past that, harder than it would be for most people. We didn’t split because there were no feelings between us. I tell her about Mark’s anger and how he treated me when I saw him last, that I had only seen him act that way with his ex-wife. How he felt like a stranger to me.
“And that’s when I thought, You’re doing this because you still have feelings for me.”
“Yeah!” says Lisandra, “that’s what they do! They can’t tell you their feelings, they can’t tell you how they feel or why they do some things,” she rolls her eyes again at this. “They don’t know how to deal with it.”
“Well, anger seems to be how Mark dealt with it. He got angry to make it easier, he took all the feelings we had for each other and he just turned it all against me.”
“They get mean! So mean, because they don’t know what else to do.”
“Well, that’s exactly what Mark did to us, in the end. He didn’t have to but…”
She looks a little sad when she says, “Yeah, that’s what I did, too. I just got so angry at first. And then I asked God to take it away.”
I ask, “So how long have you been…”
“Oh, a while. And I still…I am always like that with him.”
“Yeah, I just…that’s what I did. That’s how I got through it. I pray about that a lot.”
As they are leaving, Sandra hugs me, telling me she hopes I feel better. Her hug is tight and reassuring. I hug her back, offering her my understanding and the contact lasts longer than usual but it is comforting and we both sink into it for a moment.
Lisandra’s hug is sweet and quick, like hugging a sister I have never had. She smells like an inviting kitchen—herbs and the clean, warm air that tumbles out of a heated oven. She tells me, “Meditate and focus on yourself and try to find out what you have to do to live your life the way you wanted to live it. Find a way to be happy, you know? Be happy. … One thing that happened for me, I found that I grew up. You know? I was more mature after this whole thing. I was more of a grown up. It changes you.”
She says, “You will become a better person and maybe you take this and you learn from this and you find a way to help other people. A friend or people you don’t even know yet…It will make you stronger.”
I prayed that night, because Sandra told me to. And I meditated, because Lisandra told me to. And I don’t know if I was talking to their God and I don’t know if I heard any answers but once again I slept and I did not dream.