Pray to Mary, she told me.
Your grandma did, when she had her miscarriages. She didn’t understand Mary, but she still turned to her.
It was the last phrase that stuck with me. Not the admonition to pray, not the reminder of solidarity, not even the memory of a relative I loved.
But the honest truth of another Catholic woman who didn’t automatically feel connected to Mary, who didn’t adore her with the thrill of May crownings and the comfort of rosary beads, who admitted that she didn’t always understand her but who still turned to her.
So I tried to make room in my heart. For her.
Whose motherhood likely looked nothing like she imagined, either.
Who learned, from the moment she found out, that love and loss go hand in hand.
Who stood in a long line of women who wrestled with their wombs – Sarah and Rebekah and Rachel and Elizabeth.
Who fled to the comfort of kindred spirits when the world proved too much.
Whose words were Fiat and Magnificat, the humility of hope and the awe of wonder.
Whose prayers spoke truth of a God who lifts up what is bent low.
Who heard awful words that a sword would pierce her own soul.
Who treasured all these things in her heart, even as it grew heavy.
Who might have wanted to carry again, too.
Who had to let her child go.
When I think of what this awful August has been, of all the people who have rallied round us, I see how half the women who held me close have known the pain of miscarriage themselves, who remember and reach out to say that it was a life, that it was a loss, that it will take time to grieve.
But the other half of the women who are helping to carry me never knew this heartache themselves. Yet they love me through it just the same.
Maybe I have to stop holding up similarity as the way to sympathy.
I’ll never be like Mary; she’ll never be like me. But if I stop at the contours of the immaculate conception and the boundaries of the virgin birth and the defenses of the dogmas we construct to keep holy the God-bearer, then I might count myself out of a kindred spirit before she ever has the chance to surprise me.
Maybe we do not need to mirror each other’s experiences to share the same story.
These days I don’t know where I stand, on the shifting sands of a loss so small the world cannot see it, a grief so heavy it drags down each step I take. But the one thing I know as the days keep arriving and leaving, as I ache to turn the page on this month with too much living and dying, is that I do not stand alone.
And all the women – who sent flowers and dropped off dinners, who wrote cards and keep writing emails, who pray me through and listen me through and cry me through and love me through – maybe they are Mary to me.
Even if I do not understand, I keep turning.