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The Rosary

By: J. Paulette Forshey

I'm a Wiccan who collects rosaries. Odd hobby, I'll admit but then the Goddess is wise in her choices for us.

Morgan, my husband, is a long haul truck driver and once a year I'm able to travel with him. It is a nice chance for us to be alone without interruption with the added bonus for me of dinning out and travel. We had left our home and two young sons with Morgan's parents on Sunday and this was Tuesday evening.

The building had emptied out as buildings do at the end of the day. Occasionally a telephone rang somewhere off in the distance its pleading ring going unanswered in this late hour of the day. The commotion and noise slowed from a downpour to a trickle, then a slow drip, drip, drip of sound. Now only the quiet hum of the dimmed lights could be heard. The outside world wrapped itself in the soft muted gray of first evening and rain mist.

The waiting room was cavernous and I sat huddled in an over stuffed chair my medicine bag discreetly in hand. Even in today's enlightened society we who worship differently than the main stream find it best to keep to ourselves. I prayed to the Goddess for my husband's well being and my self-reassurance. Alone I silently and patiently waited for her to hear my prayers.

The Goddess with all of her wisdom and compassion is not without a wry sense of humor. Or irony. I still feel even today that as she sent me my answer at that moment a smile played across her face.

Because, I was a Wiccan in a Catholic hospital.

A swish of long skirts layered upon layer caught my attention, and then I caught hers. Not being Catholic and not accustomed to their clergy I've never been sure how to act around nuns. This was a nun spelled with capital letters, N-U-N. She was in full gear, floor length black dress with long-sleeves the full black and white wimple and beads at the waist. Her face was round, so full of wrinkles like the face of a dried apple doll. A face made soft by age much like my grandmothers had been.

"Hello, have you been waiting long, are you long?"

"Seems like forever, but really only since noon. My husband is having an emergency appendectomy."

"You're not from around here are you?"

"No, Ohio, my husband's a truck driver we were heading to his next destination when he took ill. I thought it was from the omelet he ate."

"Was there something wrong with it?"

"No not really it was just comprised of everything but the kitchen sink. Then he topped it off with hot sauce."

She chuckled and patted my hand. "Well he sounds like a man with a healthy appetite and a cast iron stomach much like my older bother's once was."

I smiled weakly.

"Now you mustn't worry he's in very good hands here at St. Bridget's the doctors are excellent. When did you first notice he wasn't well, right after breakfast?"

"Actually several hours later, we ate at three this morning and around ten he began to sweat and chill. When he pulled the truck over, climbed into the bunk and asked for a doctor it scared me."

"Not one to give in to illness is he?"

"No, he'll work until the cold or whatever gives up and leaves."

We were interrupted my stomach, it protesting its lack of food, weakly it growled, but nevertheless it made itself known.

"Excuse me."

"You have nothing to excuse, when was the last time you ate anything, dear?" Please tell me it wasn't your breakfast."

"Yes, breakfast. I asked an aid earlier about the cafeteria or a snack area, she said they were both closed for the day. Guess it won't hurt to lose a pound or two."

"Nonsense, you need to keep your strength up if not for yourself for your husband. You just sit right here and I'll be right back." Briskly she rose and in a few strides disappeared around a corner. A minute then three ticked by and next she came around the corner again with a large Styrofoam cup in her hand.

"Now be careful it's very hot." She handed me the cup.

Cautiously I took the cup and gingerly took my first sip. My eyes flew open when the liquid hit my system. Sweet, sugary sweet, keyword sugary liquid jolted my system.

"It's only hot water and good ol'Lipton tea bag. Oh, and several packets of pure cane sugar."

I coughed and sputtered at the sweetness of the drink. "Only several? I thought the entire cane field was in here."

She chuckled. "I guess I do have a tendency to put too much in, it's one of my more serious faults."

"I don't think that qualifies as a fault. Perhaps an over indulgence but not a fault."

"Well you just drink up, it will do you good."

Two more cups later I began to feel human again and the sludge that had formed in my veins began to flow once more. We talked of the hospital and the changes to it over the years; the sister was familiar with every one in the past several decades. We talked about my husband's work and his travels. The as we paused and listened to the rain hitting the windows she reached into a hidden pocket in her habit. She took my hand into hers. Wood, hazel colored carved into tiny beads, holes drilled through their centers and connected with tiny bits of wire.

Wood a substance dear to me for two reasons. First the memories of my father which now flooded back to me. He had been a carpenter, a real carpenter, not like the electric nail gunners we have today. Dad made beautiful things. A double bed with headboard and footboard, a wonderful carved masculine chair, and the houses he built where many families started their new lives. A chest for my favorite toy horses. He built memories with the wood he handled. Second were my Wiccan beliefs. The respect I hold for all things living and the gifts they grant us by their use. I stared at the object she'd placed in my hand. Tiny beads connected with bits of wire all leading to a point, a point linking them to a wooden cross. Several awkward moments ticked by as I studied the object and the situation. I had no wish to offend or upset this woman and thought about the words I was about to speak.

"Madam, I appreciate your kindness and thoughtfulness this evening. And I really appreciate the intent with this." I held out the hand with the rosary. "But in respect for your religion and mine I don't think I can accept this." I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I'm a Wiccan."

She seemed to ponder my words but only for a heartbeat then she smiled. Taking her hands she folded them over mine, enclosing the rosary in my palm.

"Believing…is all that matters."

Believing in what or whom she didn't say and that made accepting the rosary agreeable. She patted my hand, assured me my husband would be fine rose and with the swish of her habit skirts left.

A moment later Dr. Doogie Howser appeared.

"Mrs. St. Clair?"


"I'm Dr. Michaels; I just completed the surgery on your husband. Everything went fine I expect him to make a full recovery." He went on to tell me the detail of the operation while I took in his appearance. Soft boyish looks, not a wrinkle or crease marred his face. A face in my opinion that still hinted at a flush of baby fat. He wore pale green scrubs spattered here and there with blood his cologne was the aroma of hospital's antiseptic. I let my gaze wander down to his shoes, white-fringed golf shoes now with a spattering of blood across them. My husband's blood perhaps?

"Mrs. St. Clair?"

"Yes, I'm sorry, you were saying?"

"Do you have any questions?"

"Yes, no offense doctor, but how old are you? You look like you need to be put back on the shelf to age a little bit."

Dr. Michaels had a good laugh, and was still chuckling when he took me up to the recovery room. I sat with Morgan and later one nurse's son who happened to stop by brought me some fast food. The hospital then found me a bed near Morgan's room and I slept soundly.

The next morning after a quick shower and a hot meal from the cafeteria I hurried to Morgan's room. He was groggy from the pain medicine and for a while slipped off to sleep several times. One such time while he slept I strolled out to the nurse's station.

"Hi, ladies."

"Good morning Mrs. St. Clair. Your husband, from his chart, seems to be doing well."

"Yes, he is, all of you have been great to him and to me, speaking of which I'd like to contact the sister who sat with me last night and tell her how he's doing. I'd like to thank her again for just being there."

"Did you catch her name?"

"No, but I can describe her she was dressed so differently from the others I've seen here this morning."

"Great, what did she look like?"

"Well…" And I went on to tell about the previous evening and describe in detail the nun who kept me company. But as I recounted my night and the sister, the nurses gave each other worried side-glances.

"Are you sure about her clothing?"

"Yes, she was hard to miss since she looked like she just came off an old movie set."

The nurses at the desk along with others who wandered over and now a few aids gave each other nervous glances as I spoke.

"Ok ladies, who did I talk to?"

"Mrs. St. Clair we haven't, the hospital and the near by area hasn't had an order that has worn that type of habit for half a century. As a matter of fact the last nun who did died fifty years ago. And the woman you've described sounds just like Sister Ann; she always drank her tea entirely too sweet."

I looked at all their faces, they were telling the truth, and this wasn't an elaborate joke. Smiling I thanked the group for their time and strolled back to my husband's room. Morgan was now awake and alert, I kissed him on the cheek.

"Hi sweetie, how do you feel?"

"Sore but better, the pain from yesterday is gone. Are you ok? I never meant for you to be stranded in a strange town. Have you eaten? Where did you sleep?"

"Slow down tiger, I'm doing just fine. You look like you're doing better, feel like a story?"

"One of yours, sweetie, sure."

And I started at the beginning, when I finished Morgan was laughing so hard I was afraid he'd split his stitches.

"Leave it to you, my beautiful pagan to have a visitation from a Catholic nun. On our wedding day you promised to love, honor, cherish, and to make my life interesting. Sweetheart you haven't let me down yet." And Morgan kept chuckling all day.

A few days later since his doctor hadn't cleared Morgan to drive we took a bus home, and the bus ride…is a story for another place and time.

Over the years, for one reason or another, other rosaries came to me. They have been added to my collection. Each one is special for its own reason, but I will always cherish the wooden rosary. Now dark with age it remains the dearest for the chasm it bridged one dark rainy night at St. Bridget's.

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