My dear friend Kay wanted to take me to a special place before I left Paris. I agreed because leaving someone you love is the hardest part of going somewhere else, even if that somewhere else is where you belong.

She took me to the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal – a place that I had always wanted to go to, but for one reason or another had never done so. In this hallowed place, the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Catherine Labouré – a young nun dedicated to relieving the misery of the poor children and unemployed families of nineteenth century Paris.

I was in awe of the place. Plaques lining the walls of the chapel expressed thanks to the Mother for various blessings She had bestowed upon the faithful.

This one stood out because E.G.C. gave thanks to “Our Mother” as opposed to “My Mother.” I believe Mary is Mother to us all, no matter who we are and how our beliefs differ.

Kay and I entered the chapel as Mass began. Although Kay is of a different faith, she said that she feels at peace when attending a Catholic Mass in a chapel dedicated to the Mother of Christ. I know how she feels. The Holiest of all mothers has always been my patron saint, and I chose Her as my confirmation saint when I was twelve years old. When I think of Her, the world is lifted from my injured humanity and I am able to move forward when otherwise I would stagnate in despair.

My dear friend and I sat on the pew in silence or in song – the two of us, mothers; the two of us, women; the two of us, friends – similar in so many ways, united in the comfort provided by Mary. In the safety of this cocoon, my thoughts meandered: Mary, who gave the one thing that She loved more than her own life: Her Child. Mary, the paragon of womanhood. Kay, my friend, whom I will miss.

Then another plaque caught my attention. This person gave thanks for the birth of a son: Benoit. His name means “blessed.” A child – the ultimate blessing.

I came upon the realization that I have to go to where I belong, and that is with my own child. I am not Mary. I cannot go on without my daughter. So I leave one woman to be near another. Life is full of such contradictions and paradoxes and bittersweet choices. I wish it did not have to be so. I wish I could be everywhere at once.

So as I sat in the chapel, listening to Mass, I cherished the special moment with my dear friend, knowing that it would be the last moment we shared for a long time, maybe forever. But forever is a long time, so I arrested those thoughts. I thought instead of that precise moment in time, in that place, with a very special woman, my friend – in the presence of God, who has most certainly lit the candle of Kay’s life the way Kay has done to mine.

I will always keep the Miraculous Medal that Kay gave me close to my heart, where Kay herself will remain forever.