As I continue to write this week’s prayer practice, I’ve been wondering about other Mary-Elizabeth relationships that have existed through time.
My wondering grew personal during a retreat one year, when I was invited to reflect on a Mary from my own life. I had no lack of Marys and I sense that if we take time to think on it, we might each find that we’ve had at least one Mary in our own lives who dropped everything to be by our side in our Elizabethan time of need.
Our Mary may have left loose ends swinging in the wind as she swished out her door so that she could rush into ours to help us pick up the loose ends and pieces of our lives. She’s the person that made sure our physical needs were met without forgetting we needed emotional support as well. She’s the one that gave us hope that all would be well as soon as we received word that she was on her way. And though we tried not to let our mind go there, we knew she’d be the one we could count on until the dreary end, if life didn’t match up to our best hopes. Through her mere presence, our Mary carried the Divine into our lives, just as the Virgin Mary did for Elizabeth all those years ago.
I’ve been thinking of the times I’ve tried to play the part of Mary. And I’ve been thinking of the times when I was forced to play the role of Elizabeth, waiting for help and hope to arrive. Mom mostly played the part of my Mary; and when the time came in her own life, Mom had no shortage of Marys. I was one of them. My sister and her sisters were others.
But two of these were not just Mary’s, they were my mother’s people. Christi and Jane were anointed this title by my niece Annie, back when Annie was not much beyond the first or second grade.
It happened when Annie walked into Mom’s house one day to find Mom working alone in the kitchen. Normally, Annie would arrive to find Aunt Jane and my sister Christi working by Mom’s side. But on that particular day, for whatever reason, Jane and Christi hadn’t yet arrived.
Looking around, Annie asked Mom, “Where are your people?
“My people?” “Oh, do you mean your Aunt Jane and Aunt Christi?” Yes, that was exactly who Annie meant.
“Yes. Where are your people?”
“Oh, they’re not here yet. But they’ll be here soon.”
I think it was then and there that Annie learned the names of Mom’s people. And though she calls them by their proper names now, I think Mary might do in a pinch.