Sharon knocked on the door, and Michelle answered.
“Oh, Hi!” She grabbed Sharon, and hugged her. Sharon hugged her, and then stepped back to let Michelle hug John. As the teenage girl hugged him, John couldn’t help but think about her being molested. He had studied all the psychology courses on the subject, and hoped that the girl didn’t carry any scars from the ordeal.
Upon stepping into the apartment, John was surprised to find that it was very clean! It even smelled good. The “bricks” had a bad odor to them, but that smell had not gotten into the little home. On the walls were pictures of Jesus and Mary exposing their hearts to the room. A little cross with Jesus on it was situated on the opposite wall. Above the front door he noticed some letters written in chalk. He made a mental note to ask Sharon about that one.
“Mom’s up there with Joley. She’s not doing so hot. We called the doctor, but it’ll be a while until he gets here. Would you like something to drink?”
“No,” Sharon replied, “I’d like to see Joley if I could.”
Michelle led them up the steps to Joley’s room. The little girl was lying on her bed, slightly propped by two pillows. Her mother was seated beside the bed holding her hand. John was struck by the “sick room” odor that was now in the air. This little lady was very ill, and she was sinking fast. His years in the ministry told him that this was a very serious situation.
The room was decorated with pictures of clowns and horses. A “baby doll” was seated in a chair near a window, never to be played with. There was a little black and white TV set, but no cable. In the little girl’s free hand was her Rosary. She was manipulating the beads, but she was not saying the prayers. Her illness had brought her to a point where speech was very difficult for her.
When Michelle’s mother saw them enter she gently set Joley’s hand down, and rose to greet them.
“Mom, this is the lady I told you about. Sharon, this is my mom.”
Sharon took the woman’s hand and then hugged her. The poor lady lost all control for a moment, and sobbed as they held each other.
“I’m sorry,” she said, wiping her eyes. “I just don’t know what to do. Sometimes. . . ”
Sharon put her finger on the woman’s lips, “Shhhhhhh. Don’t worry about it. Let me see Joley.”
They all stood back, and Sharon knelt beside Joley’s bed. “Joley. Joley. Can you hear me, Joley? I’ve come to pray with you.”
The little girl’s eyes opened slowly. The whites were no longer white, but yellow. John knew what that meant. She focused on Sharon.
“Are you the lady Michelle told me about?”
“I don’t know what she’s told you, but I am the lady who has prayed with her. Would you like to pray, Joley?”
“Oh, yes. . . yes. . . very much. . . but, I’m sick. I don’t think I’ll do a good job.”
Tears welled up in Sharon’s eyes. “Yes you will . You know, when we say the Rosary we are weaving a garland of roses for Mary. Did you know that?”
“Yes, but my garland will be messy today.”
“Well, let’s see. Maybe we need some help with our weaving. Sometimes many tailors are needed to make a beautiful coat.” She looked around, “John, take her hand.”
This was no time for religious debate. John knelt on the opposite side of the bed, and took hold of the little girl’s hand. It was very hot.
“This is my friend, John. He’s a preacher, just like ‘Holy Joe.’ He’s going to be one of our tailors today, OK?”
Joley nodded, and John felt her squeeze his hand slightly.
“Michelle, Mrs. Ortiz, would you both please kneel, and get out your Rosaries?”
Michelle and her mother went to their knees, Michelle knelt beside Sharon, and her mother by John. John felt compelled to pull out the little plastic Rosary that Sharon had given him.
“OK, now, Joley, since you’re under the weather, I want to do the Rosary like this. I’ll introduce the mystery, and John, can you say the ‘Our Father’ for us?”
“Good, and Michelle, you and your mother, could you say the ‘Hail Marys’ for us, and then we’ll all say the ‘Glory Bes’, and the Fatima prayer.”
John looked at Sharon’s eyes with an “I don’t know those, ” look. He could hear her voice in his head saying , “Don’t worry about it.”
“Now, Joley, what I need you to do is this. Every time you see that we’re coming to the names of ‘Jesus,’ or ‘Mary,’ I want you to just whisper along, ‘Jesus,’ ‘Mary.’ OK?”
“I think I can do that.”
“Good. Shall we begin? In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. . . ”
Sharon said the Apostle’s creed, and introduced the first mystery. John held fast to the little girl’s hand with one hand, and to the beads with the other. He said his “Our Father” flawlessly. His preacher’s voice was perfect for the occasion. The little girl was not required to speak during his prayer, but during Michelle and her mother’s section the little voice would softly say, “Mary, Jesus, Mary,” in perfect concert with the prayer. During the Fatima portion she’d utter “Jesus,” under her breath.
As the Rosary went on Michelle’s voice cracked more than once, and they all faded a little until by the forth decade almost all you could hear was the little girl’s, “Mary, Jesus,” over, and over again. The Rosary took about a half hour to say. When it was over they all remained on their knees a little while, Michelle and her mother bowing their heads and still praying softly.
John looked over at Sharon, who was staring into Joley’s eyes. Tears were flowing freely down Sharon’s face, but she did not sob. His eyes looked at Joley’s face. Joley was looking back at Sharon. They were locked in a spiritual embrace. Joley’s grip on John’s hand relaxed slightly.
Long moments passed, and finally John asked Sharon, “Do you think I should go and call the doctor again for them?”
“She’s already gone, John.”
Stunned he looked quickly back at Joley’s face. She was smiling, but only now did he notice that her eyes were no longer blinking. Michelle’s mother, upon hearing the statement from Sharon burst into loud sobs, and began to talk in Spanish with Michelle hugging her saying, “It’ll be all right, ma ma, it’ll be all right.”
Sharon reached gently up, and closed Joley’s eyes. Michelle got up and walked around the bed. She looked down at her little sister. “Joley, when you see the Blessed Mother, tell her the new way we are saying the Rosary. And, please, say it with her for me.” She fell to her knees, and began to sob long sobs over her sister.
Sharon took a necklace from around Joley’s neck with a little medal on it, and gave it to Michelle. As Michelle, and her mother knelt beside the body, John and Sharon left the room. They walked to a nearby park that was part of the projects. John sat on a bench with Sharon, and tried to take it all in.
“God! That was terrible!”
The Butcher Shop