Visiting Mom yesterday, I studied my face in the mirror of the downstairs bathroom, which was almost exclusively used by Dad.
Earlier in the week, I had posted a memorial here about my father on what would have been his 89th birthday.
As I studied my face, I wondered when I had gotten so much older. If I die the same age as Dad, I have less than 10 years to live. Then I wondered how it was that the older I have gotten, the less things make sense.
In a flash of inspiration, I opened the medicine cabinet.
They were still there: the items Dad had taped to the back of his mirror.
The oldest item, yellowed... something I remembered from childhood... was a copy of The Prayer of St. Francis.
"Lord, make me an instrument of Your Peace," it begins.
I've learned, over the years, that there's no evidence St. Francis of Assisi ever wrote or said a word of this. However, it's become engrained in popular culture, and President Biden even quoted from it in his first words after the Electoral College confirmed election results last month.
Also, you have to love how Dad fixed the typo in the word "console."
The direct quote from the item taped to the top was hard to find.
But Friend Internet can perform magic. I found those exact words in an excerpted Feb. 4, 2003, article in The Sun tabloid about a visitation Pope John Paul II purportedly received from the Virgin Mary. It's hard to disentangle the wild story, but the apparition likely related to the pope's release of the text of the mysterious Third Secret of Fatima in 2000.
According to the article, the last time the mother of god visited the pope here on earth, she said that "by accepting this prayer into your heart, you will be assured of a place in Heaven."
I'll reserve judgement on that one. But if reciting those words indeed got Dad a ticket to heaven, I'm all for it.
The simple prayer card taped to the bottom is the most haunting.
I can't find those exact words anywhere, although I see hundreds of variations all over the Internet. It's just a typical morning prayer.
It haunts me, though, because I know why Dad saved it and attached it to the back of his mirror so he could think about it every day before shaving.
It's all about the last two sentences of the prayer; the ones that weren't about him:
"Watch over my children and grandchildren. Touch their hearts and fill them with Your love and peace, today and always."
I'm an ordinary person, living an ordinary life. Still, my heart has been touched by love and peace, today and always. Now I know why.
Dad said a prayer for me and my sister every day. And for our children.