"I am going to be in Portland on Wednesday -- at the Grotto. I know you aren't interested in going there, but I would like to see you."
It was my friend, Patti. You met her earlier in coaxing the blues out of the horn. She is currently undergoing a series of chemotherapy treatments for liver cancer.
I knew why she wanted to go to the Grotto (the popular name for The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother). "A welcoming presence and beautiful environment conducive to peace, quiet, and spiritual inspiration" -- according to its web site.
It is also a place of pilgrimage for Roman Cathlolics seeking the intercession of Saint Peregrine for illnesses. Especially cancer.
But, for Patti, it was not only a place for intercession. It was a legacy trip. Her mother took her there as a child, just as her grandmother had taken her mother there. Patti was sharing the place with her daughter.
They thought I would not care to go there because I am not Catholic. I am catholic in the sense I believe in the universality of the Christian faith. I am simply not a Roman Catholic.
But, Patti was wrong. I did enjoy the spiritual nature of the place. The grotto -- the carved cave topped with a rather pedestrian copy of Michelangelo's Pieta -- is not noteworthy in any artistic sense. But there is a sense of peace there.
One of the lessons Mexico has taught me is a greater respect for other people's religious practices. Some people find symbols helpful in reaching out to the divine. I have stopped looking at those practices, as I once did, through prejudiced eyes.
Symbols do not work for me. But they are certainly efficacious to others.
That is the same feeling I had while walking with Patti and her daughter. They lit a candle and placed it with the choir of other flames sending petitions to God. And, even though, I did not light a candle, I added my own prayer.
More than that, I enjoyed spending the afternoon with a very special friend who has been a big part of my life for the past thirty-seven years. And will always be.
We are indeed pulling for you, Patti.