Our drive southwest was supposed to happen last year.
We reserved weekends twice, and hotels twice over the course of a few months. Each time, we were derailed by my father-in-law’s illness, which started out stressful but manageable, but steadily declined until he passed in July 2017. That seemed to kick off eight months of chaos, and when we finally planned our third attempt for travel, we did so holding our breath, afraid that this trip was just cursed, forever derailed by something confusing and awful that we could not control.
On the morning we left, our anxiety lessened as we drove further away from Dallas. By the time we arrived in Santa Fe, we had fully relaxed.
For the most part.
Not only did we lose my father-in-law last year, we also lost my husband’s bestie – the Pinky to his Brain, the mastermind to his sidekick or vice-versa depending on the day and the task at hand. Combine those devastating losses with the fact that I left my last full-time job in 2016 and just recently made the decision to start my own business after a year spent on airplanes going to stress-filled interviews for jobs I only kind of wanted, and you can see how vacation mode was still a bit out of our reach.
But we were happy. Our hotel room was amazing, quiet and private. We could walk to most places. We were in the tea house and chocolate shop district (apparently). Everyone was nice. I mean, REALLY nice. It was good.
Friday afternoon, we walked down to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, an 1800s-era cathedral on the Santa Fe plaza.
It was just after Easter when we visited the basilica, and the sanctuary was filled with flowers and beautiful colors: symbols of rebirth common across many religious calendars at this time of year.
As I made my way through the sanctuary, I noticed in a statue in the corner that was festooned with purple ribbon. This was something I hadn’t seen before, so I stepped in for a closer look.
It was Mary Untier of Knots (aka Mary, Undoer of Knots), and each of her ribbons was attached to a prayer. There were so many! The words on the cards were private, so I didn’t look at them in any detail. But on one, the words “please don’t let him die” were visible in plain sight.
“Please don’t let him die.”
It was impossible to tell if the writer was male, female, young, old, or where they were from. It was just their prayer, their “knot.” This time last year, it could have been written by me. This time next year, or next month, or next week, it could be written by any of us. In researching Mary, Untier of Knots, I learned that she is invoked when we can’t solve things for ourselves, when the knots are too tight. When we ourselves do not see any solution.
Regardless of our spiritual beliefs, we can agree that there is something powerful about letting go of an impossible burden. That was the beauty – and the clarity – of my personal experience in the basilica.
We hope someone will get better, but can’t guarantee they will. We hope our professional lives will stabilize, but who knows really. We hope our family and friends will be happy, but there’s no magic wand for that. That’s reality. But there’s a solace in the act of tying those hopes to a statue and walking away from it, even for a moment. Thank you, Mary.