After dinner, if he’s not reading the local and international headlines on the internet, my husband would be hard at work on his commissioned sketches on the kitchen table. And if he’s not watching TV in our bedroom, it’s easy to surmise that he’s in the garage having a smoke. So I open the door from the mudroom to the garage to find him on his favourite stoop on the stairs smoking his umpteenth cigarette. We’ve both been pretty quiet this past week, a combination of work fatigue and a series of disappointing events.
One thing we can agree on tonight is the condition of his partner and friend, who was diagnosed with cancer over a month ago. “He’s cancer free,” he says, putting out his cigarette as I sit beside him on the stairs.
“That’s great,” I say, relieved. We had visited his friend at the hospital some two weeks ago, and his wife had said they would know the results of the surgery in seven days. The only thing I could offer under the circumstances was to have masses and prayers said. I am not a religious person, but I believe strongly in the power of prayer.
From the window in the garage, I could see that the rain has not abated, a mix of late spring wet snow and weepy rain carried by the tires of cars passing along the boulevard. We talked about how they found out that his friend was cancer-free. “I got an email from his wife earlier,” my husband says.
Back in our room, I was thinking about how many people I know who’s had cancer, who died from it, and who survived it. And all through it, all I could offer were prayers and special masses. When a friend suffered an aneurysm in 2000, our group at work had masses and rosaries offered for her quick recovery. It did not happen. She died a few days later. I remember her husband telling me that if they had stayed on in Toronto (they migrated in 1996 but my friend chose to go back to Manila for career-reasons), she would still be alive.
My mother offers prayers and masses for deceased family members. Every time she goes back to visit her hometown in the Philippines, she doesn’t forget to have masses said at Sta. Rita Church. The last time we were there, she had special intention masses said for her parents and deceased siblings. As for me, I even had a special mass said for my own family. Masses are not just for the sick and the dying. I believe when you offer a prayer, an angel actually watches over that person because you believe it to be.
There is a small stipend for these masses, and you fill up a form at the church office with the names of those you want the masses said for.
It’s not surprising that my prayer and mass list grow with the years. Sometimes I forget to include someone who should have been on the list. And then I offer an apology for having missed a certain name.