Megan, or: holding pool towels at the First Luminous Mystery, and satellites, and light

April 27, 2015 – 3:02 pm

It’s hard for me to be fully present sometimes, so I am seeing what it’s like to start my mornings by writing from somewhere that I actually am. (This morning’s post completion was delayed by dropping Morgan off at the airport, and that’s okay.)

I want to write about my friend Megan. One of my memories of Megan is from last year, sitting in our kitchen, talking about satellite trajectories — which is the work she does now as a rocket engineer. We were on the couch, using a chair back as a frame of reference, stacking and tangling all of the fingers of both our hands in an attempt to build axes atop of axes atop of axes, pointed into outer space (our living room). Megan’s hand swooped in, becoming the satellite, launching from origin. Her steady explanations built and built and built, and my mind followed — I’m a quick study at math, and a strong visualizer — and she and the satellite and the calculations climbed into the thinning atmosphere until my lungs burst and I could no longer follow, and my fragile understanding tumbled like a deck of cards, and I could see Megan’s mind sailing on, out and up into space, out into things I could not grasp or understand…

She’s brilliant, and I don’t say this lightly. It’s a beautiful sort of brilliance, being able to admire a friend whose mind can far outstrip your own on certain matters.

Last year, during the epic Indiana power outage, she brought me light — quite literally so. It was my prayer hour, and I was sitting in the chapel, doggedly trying not to be too scared of the dark. Even as an adult, I struggle with a fear of the dark — I’m so dependent on my visual input that the darkness feels like being thrust into a great unknown. But I had promised, so I was sitting there, trying very, very hard to not leave the Tabernacle. Very hard.

Finally, feeling like a foolish preschooler, I whispered: “Look, God — I… I want to stay here, I do — but I need some light, I’m scared, I can’t stay here without being able to see, I need…”

A short while later, I heard footsteps — and then a familiar voice broke in. “You know where the candles are, right?”

“What are you doing here?” was my stunned response. Apparently she’d felt like it was just a good idea to swing by. Randomly. Because. We lit big fistfuls of candles from the sacristy until the chapel glowed enough by candlelight for me to lipread, and she waved and left me sitting there, laughing at God’s sense of humor, and in gratitude for friends who carry out the joke for Him.

Megan’s a swimmer. She was a competitive swimmer all the way through her time at MIT. I want to write about the first Luminous Mystery (of the Rosary), because that’s something that reminds me of Megan. (Explanatory websites for the Rosary are generally hideously designed and dull as dishwater, by the way). It’s the Baptism of Christ at the Jordan, and I was praying a Rosary for Megan one day when this image hit me.

Two young guys — Jesus and John, not that much older than us as grad students — standing in the river. Soaking, grinning, breathless. Speechless, because — well, what else do you say after the heavens have opened, and the Holy Spirit has descended like a dove, and the voice of God has just declared “Hey folks, that’s my boy! This one! So proud of him!” His voice still rings inside the cousins’ ears. They’ve been preparing all their lives to hear that voice, and now — they’re still processing it, clambering half-overwhelmed onto the river banks, where people watch.

And there’s a girl there, in an MIT swimsuit. And she’s holding fluffy towels for them — pool towels — with a shy smile. Waiting for them to climb out; waiting to serve, proud to be there.

When I first saw this, I laughed out loud. That is exactly where Megan would be. Of course. And now, each time I hit the Baptism in prayer, I only have to look — and there she is, bashful and beaming, radioactively happy just to be near this man whom she adores.

I do miss Megan now that she has graduated, and I will miss her even more next year. I miss living with her, I miss driving with her, I miss working late nights inside the house with her. I miss pulling each other into prayer, I miss conversations that ended with us making dinner — and then watching an Avengers movie — and then driving to the Adoration chapel in the middle of the night, because we needed to (1) eat and (2) pray and (3) really really really wanted to go see Winter Soldier. 

I miss buying grilled cheese sandwiches and chocolate milk with her and sitting down to lunch with Jesus & the Apostles in the life-sized tableau of the Last Supper that’s about an hour from campus. We were discovered by an amused tour group and a less-amused tour guide. “He looked lonely!” I explained, as Megan turned several shades of red. Later that day, we howled with laughter at the Resurrection statue, because — well, I’ll leave these two reminders for my future self: laundry detergent and shampoo. Oh, and abs. Definitely abs.

I miss so many things, and have so many memories that won’t get written down, because that isn’t what they’re for.

It’s Megan who first helped me start to understand why women would have bridesmaids, and why women would be bridesmaids. I always thought it was about some social obligation — a place to stick your sister(s), if you had them — or some excuse to dress up pretty, which… seemed silly to me. I didn’t understand the need.

But there is a place for sisters — biological or otherwise — in that part of your life. There is a space that seems to fit that sort of person, standing there to be with you — just be with you, support you, beam at you in pride as you transition to something beyond them — soaring off, beyond your tangled hands; soaring off, beyond what even your bright minds can understand — sailing off into the stars, beyond where you can see.

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  1. One Response to “Megan, or: holding pool towels at the First Luminous Mystery, and satellites, and light”

  2. The Newman center at my undergrad had some issues, but the best folks were those who prayed Rosary. That was the one activity to which I stuck the whole four years. I’m still in touch with one friend, whom I can only describe as Sybil Coningsby from Charles Williams’ “The Greater Trumps.”

    By Mark Hoemmen on Apr 30, 2015

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