I returned to St. Francis Church to light another candle. I had hoped that I was finished with lighting candles for the dead in 2009 but no, there was another to light this late October.
My sister and I parted ways in 1994 and with that I lost contact with my nephews and my brother-in-law as well. I thought of them often but lately, especially this past summer, I felt that my sister was trying to reach me.
I had a burning in my legs that my doctor attributed it to stress. I wasn't buying that it was stress. One morning I woke with the answer to my leg condition. I just knew that the burning in my legs was connected to my sister. I was sure of it. I couldn't go to work that day and I was resolute that a message was coming to me soon. The next night as I was sitting in Penn Station waiting for a train, I checked my blackberry and there was a message from one of my nephews that he was following me on twitter. Finally a break in the silence.
It had been fifteen years since there was any contact between us. I thought this was the first connection back to my sister who I was afraid may be sick. I was stunned to find out that she died twelve years ago. My reality was that she was here all through the things that have happened. She was here when we toasted the new Millennium; she was here when we were attacked on September 11th; she was here when I sobbed for Mitch our retriever, when he went to doggie heaven; she was here for my completion of my Masters Degree and she was here when I lit a simple fire in our fireplace at home in Pennsylvania once we moved from our New York apartment.
I often thought of her as I did things grand and small and I wondered what she was doing. Was she enjoying her grandchildren? The ones I imagined she must have had by now. But to find out that she did not see these things, that she was not here on earth for any of it, not even to have her own cell phone, oh, and how we could have emailed each other and had fun on facebook. Then I stopped thinking this way. I realized that I had kept her alive all these years and that was not reality at all. How many other false realities have I created in my mind? I can't think of that now. Now I need to find a new way to think of her.
Why now? Why in 2009 did the truth rise up and grab me from the other side?
My nephews could have found me for years. I've had a website for a long time. But I think it was when I posted the picture of my mother that opened up a channel. I submitted her potato salad recipe on my friend Peter's blog "evenings with peter." I sent in a picture of her outside our house back in the 50's. I remember staring at that photo once it was uploaded and seeing her standing prominently on the internet. It was like she was alive again in a new dimension and not since 1969 had she been able to be seen. This was indeed the way my nephew found me. He was looking for his family ancestry since he had just become a Dad himself and the picture of my mother came through loud and clear. Immediately, a bridge was formed.
I sat in the pew at St. Francis and thought this is what my mother wanted. She wanted me to know the truth about my sister and she wanted my nephew to find me. The gate was open and now my sister was able to get through. I would light a candle for Elaine now that the Mass had ended. I remembered that she loved the Blessed Virgin and often prayed to her. I went to the back of the church to light a candle in the little alcove that housed the Virgin with Christ in her arms. There was a woman there who was standing very still and looking up to the ceiling. I stopped in my tracks out of respect for her privacy but then I a voice in my head said, "go in now, and kneel before the statue." I entered the space even though I did not want to intrude on the woman's solitude but she moved aside and let me kneel under the Pieta.
I prayed that I would find a new way to think of Elaine. I thought of The Spirits Book written in 1857. The book purports that the dead are on a spiritual continuum and that often they need to stay in a space to reconcile unresolved issues before they can move to another level. Maybe my sister entered another level and she or possibly her emissary was able to reach me now, not anytime before. It could be that she was in a room somewhere and it only seemed like a few days to her even though it was twelve years on earth. Then I thought "this is crap." This is something that would be nice to think so I could feel better.
How do I know what is true?
I asked God for a sign to let me know if I should accept what I've learned from The Spirits Book, that the spiritual continuum exists and my sister has moved on. At that moment the woman in the alcove came very close to me. She leaned over my shoulder and placed her hand on the wooden bar in front of me. She stayed very still. After what felt to be an eternity, she left the alcove. I kept my eyes fixed upon the statue and when I looked down, there on the bar was a holy card of the Virgin. The Virgen de Itati. The woman had left this card for me. I accepted it as the sign to accept that my sister indeed moved on and she had reached me through the symbol of the Virgin. This is the time. This is the space. Now I can think of Elaine in a whole new way.
The holy card was in Spanish. Here is a rough translation of the prayer.
Most tender mother of God and men, under the patronage of the pure and clean Conception of Our Lady of Itati looked at with eyes of mercy for over three centuries to all who have prayed for you. Do not reject the prayers of this now your son, who humbly turns to thee. It serves my needs that your better than I know. And above all, Mother, grant me a great love of your divine son Jesus, and a pure heart, humble and wise in life, patience, fortitude in praise, temptations, and consolation in death.
So be it.