By Claire Crawford
The small ridges on the pads of her thumb and forefinger
slowly rotated the tiny wooden bead between them
as she felt the wood’s subtle grain change.
Dios de salve María
If she placed her thumb and finger in the center of all the beads and pushed out,
they would pull away from one another on the elastic string
before she allowed them to snap together, end to end, once again.
Llena eres de gracia
What would happen if she pulled a little too hard?
el Señor es contigo
What would happen if everything sacred and holy frayed
and, linked by a single tenuous thread,
broke in two?
What if the contents of her life shattered into an infinity of pieces, never to be found again?
bendita eres entre todas las mujeres
“Say something,” the mother says to the small box on the phone screen
that holds him in the far left corner while her baby’s writhing body reflects in the background.
“Say something to your daughter.”
y bendito el fruto de tu vientre Jesus
She hears her husband’s voice, her baby’s father’s voice;
He sounds close, but he is so very far away.
Emotionally; how can he know what it feels like for her skin to touch their baby’s skin to touch
the hospital’s rough bed sheets?
Spatially; how many thousands of miles is Chihuahua from the place she chose to sustain her
Across land, roads, water, mountains, days, and yet...a few hours, one flight away.
Legally; how could he be here when he is all that is illegal in this country?
No identity but for the one that doesn’t count on paper: the father of a dying child.
Santa Maria, madre de Dios
But his voice is not a voice.
His voice is pain.
It is guttural.
It is agony.
It is nothing.
It is everything.
She fingers the four ends of the cross.
ruega por nosotros los pecadores ahora
“If you’re going to say something, say it now. Or it will be too late.”
y en la hora de nuestra muerte
Will her eyes flutter again?
The rasp of her throat, will there be more?
That rise of her chest; was that her last breath?
That wisp of air she gulped, is that it?
She reaches the last bead, she wraps the rosary around her baby’s finger and her own, and she
prays for mercy as the life in her arms stills.
About the Author
Claire Crawford, LMSW, APHSW-C, PhD is a pediatric palliative care social worker at Texas Children’s Hospital and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Crawford advocates for and provides emotional support to medically fragile children and their families. She leads regular narrative medicine workshops for the palliative care team and enjoys training interdisciplinary learners in the art of medical communication.