Thursday September 29th 2022

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The name Agnes means “pure, holy,” from the Greek hagne. Going further back, the Indo-European root may be hyag, meaning “to sacrifice.” Those two meanings are about to collide in our elder Agnes, as she makes a fateful, nay, a faithful, decision to defy Brian Fleming and his ilk.

Of course, no human is perfectly pure or holy, at least not in terms of the perfection we set as a standard. But here’s another linguistic lesson, sports fans, “to perfect” doesn’t just mean to do a job perfectly. It also means to complete a task or calling in the way it was meant to be.

Agnes loved her granddaughter Amethyst, the only family member she had left. She had stood by her when she fell into addiction and sex trafficking. She had practiced tough love with her, grandmother love, mother love. Ingrid, Agnes’ only daughter had been killed in a police shooting when Amethyst was 12, and Agnes took the sad and angry girl in. Ingrid had been a single mother, working as a waitress, first at the old Denny’s on Lake Street, and then at Maria’s on Franklin. Ingrid had not been wanted by the police; they had not been shooting at her, but at a young black man as a “person of interest.” The man survived; paralyzed. Ingrid, who was waiting for the #5 bus, did not. The settlement from the city had paid for Amethyst’s rehab stays. Over and over and over.

Agnes had grown up speaking Swedish on a farm outside of Lindstrom. She had picked up quite a bit of Spanish when she worked in one of the earliest pre-schools in the city. And her Somali neighbors at the senior building had taught her how to say “Salaam Alaykum” and “Eid Mubarak.” But most of all, her nearly 90 years living in Phillips had taught her the hard language of love and the even harder language of reality.

Agnes could not imagine sacrificing her granddaughter, her only family member left. She knew it would break her own heart. But she could not imagine little two and a half year old Guadalupe becoming a casualty of the war that continued to rage in her beloved neighborhood. A war where human beings were treated as objects, or worse, as trash. Treated that way by neighbors, by strangers, by the city, by a deep evil that lodged in the people and the powers of this place.

She did not want to sacrifice Amethyst, but she could not possibly allow little Lupita to be destroyed. That would break Agnes’ heart and her spirit. And the wind in her heart and the wind in the world she was in both told her that sacrificing Guadalupe could rip the community apart even deeper than whatever ghost or spirit had tried to do in the past.

She knew she had to act, and fast. But to whom could she go for advice? Not the police; she hadn’t trusted them since her daughter was killed. Not the city government; they saw Phillips as a containment zone for all the grief and sorrow other neighborhoods did not want to intrude on their happiness. She couldn’t even talk to her pastor or beloved church members; she had kept her pain and the pain of her family from them for so long, she wouldn’t know how to tell them.

The only one that can help is Mother Light, she thought. But where was she? Or rather, who was she? The Mother Light who had brought deep healing to Angel years ago (see “Searching” chapters 5-7) was no longer in town. There had been several hints of others carrying the fire, but no clear vision had appeared. Maybe it was because of all the darkness that had befallen Phillips these past years: the ICE raids, the opioid epidemic, the unsolved murders, the girls and boys sold right in front of the market, the gas station, even the church.

No, Agnes did not know who Mother Light was on that fateful day, but she knew that she had to search for her, despite the cold, the dark and the early morning hours. She bundled up Guadalupe in her snowsuit, boots, mittens and hat. She picked her up, and went toward the door. But as she was about to step out into the night, she remembered the Prayer of Good Courage that she had prayed so many times in her life. She looked at little Lupe in her arms and said to her:

“Pray with me, little one, even if you don’t know the words.”

Then they stepped out into a fearsome wind.

To be continued…

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