I’ve mentioned in previous columns that I am always searching to improve my spiritual self. I have been on that journey for most of my life, beginning at age 11 when my parents got divorced. I had the most wonderful neighbors growing up. One, who I called “My Virginia Lady,” was a devout Catholic and she saw in me a young girl searching for “someone to lean on” and to help get me through the hardship of a being in a broken home.
There’s a backstory to this and I’ll try to make it simple. My mom was born Lutheran, and my dad is Jewish. Although my mom’s father was Jewish, there was no real definitive religious practicing as I recall. My mom was an atheist or so she proclaimed. My dad, a believer of his faith, and while I knew of how they were raised, we were not a religious family. I remember asking one of my relatives about being Jewish, or in my case three-quarters Jewish, and I was told regardless of that, if Hitler came back, we all were going to the concentration camps.
Imagine hearing that at 11. Oh, the thinks I did think.
My Virginia Lady was a mother of 10 kids. One of her daughter’s was my best friend and they would go to guitar mass at Lady of Lourdes church in the San Fernando Valley. One day they invited me, and I asked my mom if I could go. She hesitated at first, but she then said yes. When I walked into the church, it was so beautiful. We sat down in the pew and the priest began his service. I listened to the songs and tried my best to sing along looking at the lyrics in the little song book. It was a very nice way to end the weekend and I was comforted by the experience.
When I got home my mom asked me what we did. I told her we sang hymns and songs. That passed her atheist litmus test and I continued to go with them every other Sunday when I wasn’t at my dad’s house.
My Virginia Lady, whose real name was Marion, was beautiful, nice and very proper. The true meaning of a “lady.” She was from Virginia, and she had an affinity for being well-dressed and would often wear fancy hats. She spoke with such kindness and, always when she addressed me, she said, “Jennifer Darling.”
She knew I was having a hard time with the divorce, and she gave me the tools I needed at the time to cope, feel better and to have faith. In essence, she taught me how to pray. When I think back and recollect my nightly prayers, you can tell I was in the protector guardian mode. I literally each night said this: “Dearest Lord in Heaven, please bless my Mother, Father, Cheryl, Bill, Jennifer, Cindy, Scott, Tink, Marion, Tina, Annie, Ron, Sue, Marc and Nina.”
Regardless that Bill, my mom’s first boyfriend post the divorce and who was no longer dating her, and Ron was my mom’s friend who was a little out there — he thought he was part frog — remember this was the 1970s, all the rest were family members and friends. Sue, well she was our babysitter, I left no one out. I would then say, “Dearest Lord, please forgive my mom for saying she’s an atheist, she’s just misinformed.”
The next set of my evening prayers went like this, and this is verbatim: “Please Dearest Lord keep us safe from harm, and protect us from evil, crime, fire, robbery, murder, death and the earthquake that is predicted.”
Again, no stone unturned. I added a few more items to that protection prayer, a tad darker, partly because of me being a scaredy cat. I’ll leave it at that, lest you think it’s time for the men in the white coats to come and take me to the funny farm.
My journey continued and I was always eager to continue to develop my spirituality and faith. When my stepmother converted to Judaism, we started having Passover at their house, and we’d go to Temple for the high holidays together.
As you enter my house, you are in the foyer. It contains so many different items that are from various religions. It has a small mantel shelf and two indented niche shelves that have space for little items to be displayed. In the center area, I have a Hamsa with a prayer written in Hebrew. Above it is a plaque that says, “Be Still and Know, Psalm 46:10.” I have a beautiful Jewish Star of David from Israel that was a gift from my friend who is Mormon, who happened to visit the Holy Land and thought of me while she was there.
There are also other items, in the niche shelves: I have a Mother Mary angel statue, and a prayer card with St. Francis of Assisi, which was from my Virginia Lady’s memorial service. And I have the booklet, too. Her beautiful smiling face adorns the cover. I have an angel candle, which holds an angel keychain, and there’s an angel hidden in the glass area of that chain, and when the afternoon light hits it the angel glows with a golden hue.
The foyer is my place for comfort. It brings me peace.
There are incredible stories of prayer, faith and persistence available for all to read, something I didn’t experience while growing up, until the age of 11 when I went to guitar mass and learned about the power of prayer. My husband and I raised our children as Jewish. I wanted the foundation of faith to be something they could rely on. The word “foundation” is very important, because it is the solid base for the archways to grow. It epitomizes what is the underlying base or principle.
About 10 years ago I started to delve into the writings of Emmet Fox and his new thought religion and reading his books. While my kids were growing up, I would say, we can’t agree on ice cream, that is why we have Baskin-Robbins 31 flavors. We can’t agree on coffee, that’s why you can get a mocha, a latte, or a cappuccino. I would continue my motherly speech; How would we ever be able to agree on religion? Ah, but the man above, the good Lord knew that and that is why we have so many wonderful and amazing faiths for all. He knew in his Divine mind that “All paths lead to Him!”
And my mom, the atheist, well after she died and we were going through her things, I was looking in her jewelry box and something very special caught my eye. It was a pendant of Jesus. I took it out and smiled and said, “Why mother, I never knew thee?”
I have that pendant in a little box that contains other special things. I would like to think that she had kept her faith close to her heart, inside where it mattered most.
Jennifer Danny is a Santa Clarita resident.