I like to think of people as books; some are opened, some are closed and, if you’re lucky, you get to read others’ stories while allowing them into your own.
The human brain is mysterious, and I’m not sure we’ll ever know everything about it. What is extremely profound, though, it that one is unable to dream up new faces. Scientists have found that the people who are in your dreams have crossed your path at least once in your life. Whether you noticed the person or not, your brain has imprinted their depiction in your memory, and they have become part of your story.
There are certain experiences in each of our lives that have left a great impact, and sometimes we don’t exactly understand why. In 2012, I went on a trip to Romewith my senior class. During our eight-day adventure I was struck by a powerful moment of sincere confusion and intense emotion.
In Rome, The Holy Stairs lie within the Scala Santa, a chapel built around the great relic of the steps to Pontius Pilate’s palace. It is believed that Jesus once walked these stairs. The staircase is climbed by thousands of people every year; it is an extremely meditative process, for one must climb up on one’s knees.
With each step you take you are supposed to say a prayer, and although my faith is not exactly the greatest, I took the instructions to heart.
The beautiful part of the journey up the Holy Stairs is that each step leads to a new thought; so you have no idea where your mind and heart will be once you reach the top. With each step it is the goal to delve deeper into the soul in order to come out with even a hint of clarity–at least that’s what I was hoping for.
As I knelt on each step I felt the hard wood dig into my kneecaps. At first I didn’t get it; I wanted to say I climbed the steps successfully, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t think of standing up and walking down. Something beautiful happened along my journey, though, and it is a memory I will forever hold in my book.
I had been climbing the left of staircase close to the railing, and halfway through the procession I was interrupted by sniffles and heavy breathing directly to my right. I looked over and saw a woman sobbing, blowing her nose into a handkerchief. She was very deep in prayer, and I could feel the energy radiating off of her.
My mother always said it’s rude to stare, but I couldn’t help it. While everyone was deeply engrossed in their meditations, I climbed the stairs with this woman, watching her every movement, telling myself to focus on my own prayer rather than the weeping woman next to me.
Eventually I felt my eyes close and my knees bury into the crevices of the wood once more.
I thought of my little brother, and how I was going to school out of state while he had to take on high school without his big sister. I prayed for my mother, because she had a lot on her plate at the time and was still the rock of our family. I imagined Christmas when all my siblings were home from their big-city lives, and everything was whole again.
Eventually my journey ended, and I opened my eyes to the top of the staircase, wiping away the cliché and single tear that had fallen home to the tip of my nose.
As I began to stand up, I was surprised to feel a touch on my right shoulder. In fact, there are times when I still believe that I imagined the whole thing. It was the woman who cried next to me the entire way up.
I do not know why she placed her hand on me, but by some weird series of events, I am certain that she and I were meant to pray together that day. I believe we gave one another strength as we proceeded up the same steps as such a powerful figure. Although I never caught her name, nor did I know her struggles, I feel blessed to have her in my thoughts, dreams and prayers.