March 12, 2021
by Jennifer Lendvai-Lintner
Nana and I had a special bond. Without question, she was the first bestie I ever had. Many of my deep-seated loves — shopping, potato chips, milk-glass lamps, scratch-off lottery tickets, fashion shows — can be directly traced to her influence. My nana, Clare Eleanora, was best of the best.
My eldest, Eleanóra, is named after Nana. I recall sitting on a couch next to my husband in a snug pub in England’s Lake District. It was the October before I would become pregnant, and it was that evening I first thought to swap the order of the names and call a future daughter Eleanóra Clare. No other name, I thought, could be more perfect.
A few months later, while living and teaching in London I had a nuisance of an issue with my visa that required me to travel all the way back to the United States to get sorted. In uncanny timing, I arrived home just as my nana’s health made a sudden and swift decline. Without my visa issue, I would have been across an ocean, instead of sitting at her bedside as her final, silent moments on this earth ticked away.
A year after, I cradled my six-pound-eight-ounce Eleanóra Clare, but I had lost my Clare Eleanora.
Ten years later, during my concerning pregnancy with Hilde, I chose to attend daily Mass during the Lenten season. It’s traditional for Catholics to fast or offer up some sacrificial act as preparation for Easter. Following a practice my parents held for years, I committed to daily Mass that year. It was a tumultuous time, and I figured grounding myself in the solemn, stripped-down ceremony that is weekday Mass would be good for me. So each day after school drop off, I joined a scattering of worshippers at Holy Trinity for the 8:30 am service.
Breaking with our family custom of sitting on the congregational right in the company of Sts. Peter and Paul depicted there in gleaming Byzantine style, that first morning I sat on the congregational left. It didn’t really make sense. But, for some inexplicable reason, when I went to Mass on my own those weekday mornings, the opposite side felt like home. It wasn’t until about halfway through Lent that I discovered why.
One morning, as I maneuvered my butt back on the pew after kneeling for a few introductory prayers, the pair of icons painted in my new neighborhood caught my eye. St. Francis of Assisi…
and St. Clare.
Wow, I exhaled. No offense to St. Clare, but she’s not one I would consider a celebrity saint like the aforementioned Sts. Peter, Paul, or Francis. I’d venture to say that St. Clare is much lesser-known. Yet, out of the entire body of saints, she was one of only four rendered in our church.
Each morning Clare had been right next to me. As I purposefully chose focus and prayer, leaning hard on faith rather than spiraling into the fear of a troubled pregnancy, she was there. All those mornings —standing just over my shoulder.
God has never failed to put me where I need to be, when I need to be there. Seldom do I understand why until hindsight reveals it. But it always does. Spectacularly.
There’s not a shred of possibility that I am ever in this alone.
Photo courtesy Stephen Lavinio
[Image description: Author Jennifer is pictured standing just behind and leaning down to her nana. The photo was taken on Jennifer's wedding day, so she is dressed in an ivory silk gown with thin straps, a beaded headband and a veil. Her nana is wearing a light green dress and jacket with pearl necklace and earrings. Both are smiling wide at the camera.]