The Truth is True, Even When It's Not
I have been cleaning up my laptop lately and finding really old files of all kinds of things. Today, I am posting one of the things I found. I have absolutely zero recollection of writing this piece, but apparently, I wrote it in 2018, during Lent. 2018 was a shit show: not only did it follow the single worst year of my life (2017), but our entire country was dripping with Trump droppings. Maybe that's why I don't remember writing it – I may have tried to erase that year entirely from my brain.
Anyway, this is what I wrote back then. It is imperfect and sloppy and not entirely sensical. And it was good to find it today.
The truth is true, even when it’s not.
I have been praying the rosary every weekday morning during this Lent. The first time I did it, I was flooded with relief. Spending time so differently—without noise and clamor and news and the distress that comes through my radio and my smartphone—felt like a gift to myself.
The quiet, the repetition, the reverence for things eternal: all of those seemed to bring me back to myself in a way that actually made me cry. It felt right and just to be spending my time in that way.
I know why I thought of doing this in the first place: because of Ann. She loved the rosary, loved Mary. She had what is called a “devotion” to Mary – a special connection to the Blessed Mother that buoyed her and sustained her. When she was sick, she and her family visited Lourdes, looking I’m sure partly for a cure and also for peace. She didn’t find the cure.
I started doing the Rosary to feel closer to Ann. Or maybe to be Ann. When I am feeling the weakest and the least confident, I try to channel the people I love who have qualities or characteristics that I aspire to, like my dad’s ability to charm people and make them feel special. When I’m feeling socially awkward or overly self-conscious, I think: “Channel Larry.” And sometimes, I find a way to turn it around and focus my attention on other people. It’s not a nice thing to do for others: it’s a survival mechanism for myself, a self-care strategy that has the added benefit of making other people feel good.
When I’m feeling disconnected and lonely, I think: “Channel Ann.” And sometimes, I find a way to imitate the way she radiated love and goodness and made other people feel just plain blessed in her presence.
So I started doing the Rosary, so that I could maybe start to understand why Ann loved it so much. To find in the repetition something of the deep peace she radiated.
As the days have gone by, I have struggled a bit with the practice. It feels odd to be repeating words like “save us from the fires of hell” and “pray for us sinners,” even though I have no problem with the idea of sin. It feels both out of touch and relevant at the same time—a dissonance that is sometimes OK with me and sometimes, for lack of a better word, really weird.
It makes me wonder what Ann would say if I could ask her: “Why do you love the Rosary so much?” But of course, I cannot ask her that, and realizing that I can’t ask her that, or any other question, ever again, brings on waves and waves of regret and sorrow. That I didn’t ask her more questions when she was here, that I took for granted our friendship, that I behaved as if she would always be there for me.
She isn’t here anymore.
Yesterday, as I was saying the Rosary, I kept thinking about something the priest said at Ann’s Rosary, the night before her funeral Mass. He was describing her, and he talked about how our gathering to pray the Rosary was so fitting, because of Ann’s special devotion to Mary and her own love of the Rosary prayer. An unwelcome thought crossed my mind: “Was Ann perfect? No one is perfect, but the way this guy is talking, it sure sounds like she was perfect.” I’m don't know why I had that thought. I think it all felt unreal to me: Ann dying. Us being gathered there, participating in a death ritual. And it felt like we were celebrating a saint, a mystic...a unicorn. But the truth is, Ann was better than anyone I've ever met at actively, purposefully loving the people in her life.
And then I thought about eulogies in general, and how when we talk about the people we lose, we talk about their perfections. It is true that Ann was perfect. She was perfectly Ann.
Did she have annoying qualities? Was she ever impatient with her kids, or too tired to do one more thing for them? Did she and Eric fight, or did she ever feel like a failure, or did she ever give in to weakness? I’m sure some or all of those things are true. And still, she was perfect. The truth is true, even when it’s not.
Not sure if I'll keep the rosary thing in my life, but I'm grateful for all the things doing it each day has made me think about, and especially grateful for the ways it is keeping Ann present and close.