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The Rosary Snapping Mama

"Does Manang have a rosary?" asked Helen, a friend of the Mama's. (Manang is a term of endearment for a woman older than you. It means sister.) We were standing before the Mama's casket on her funeral day, waiting for it to be closed and taken to the church.

"I can give you one," said Helen.

"It's in her purse," I said, pointing to the blue cloth clutch embroidered with bright red and white flowers next to the Mama's body. It also held the Mama's favorite compact, which the Only and Older Brother gave her when he was 12 or 13, reddish-pink lipstick, two large scarves, and one or two other things that I no longer recall. I like to think the Mama's spirit might enjoy having them.

"Did you break the rosary?" asked Helen.

"Am I supposed to?" I asked, feeling a panic coming on. "Mama only told me not to put it in her hands."

When I had researched about what Ilocanos do with rosary beads for the dead, I found articles stating to place a broken strand of rosary beads in the coffin, but no instructions on how to break the necklace. I admit I was nervous about breaking the Mama's rosary, and I didn't really want to because the rose petal rosary that I bought in Florence for the Mama was so pretty. After two ties at trying to break the beads with pliers, I gave up. After all, the Mama only said that it was bad luck for a dead person to hold a rosary.

The Mama had no shame at rosary services when she saw that a dead person's rosary was wrapped around his or hand. Either before or after the prayer service, the Mama would get right alongside the casket and patiently tug and pull at the rosary until it was free from the dead person's hand, then she'd carefully fold it and place it next to the body. After which, she'd go up to the decease's relatives and tell them what she did, scolding them a bit for their faux pas. 

That's the Mama. Go ahead and chuckle. I get a good laugh thinking about it. The funeral guys who toke care of the Mama's remains definitely got a good laugh out of the story.

"Manang always took the rosary out of the dead person's hand and broke it," Helen said, looking at me with very sad eyes.

"I didn't know that."

"She said it was bad luck."

I took the rosary beads out of the Mama's purse. "How do I break it?"

"I don't know," said Helen.

Oh, gee.

At certain points of the rosary, the beads are separated by bits of chain. I looked for one of those parts. Holding the beads firmly in each hand, I pulled at each end of the chain.


Just like that.

It's as if the Mama made sure I didn't break the rosary until it was time to forever close the door on her coffin.

It's the letter R at the ABC Wednesday, a weekly meme started by Mrs. Denise Nesbitt and administered today by Roger Green and his ABCW team.  To join in and/or check out other R posts, please click here.



  1. oooh, this is brilliant . . . thank you.

    1. You're welcome, G. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

  2. I had no idea about this custom so this is a learning experience for me. I find it very funny what your Mama did with the rosary beads. I'm so glad you paid her the same respect as you knew that she wanted it this way..very beautiful gesture.

  3. This is new to me too.
    Well described.
    Happy ABCW!

  4. Respect and the Rosary...I love it.

    Di. xxx

  5. What a endearing post... and yes, you did well, like she did!!

    beeing religious but not Katholic, the rosary says less to me but my families knows that if my time has come, they have to put my rosary, broken, besides me. The rosary i have, i did get as a present from someone very dear, but has gone many years ago now.

    Have a nice ABC-Wednesday-day / – week
    ♫ M e l ☺ d y ♫ <abc-w-team)

  6. Your mama was truly special and brave.

    1. The Mama certainly was one of a kind in so many ways. I loved and love her for that.

  7. Based on what I learned about Manang through your writings in the year or so I've known you, I believe she was a strong and very faithful Catholic. Therefore, I feel you honored her beautifully, and the Lord ensured her beliefs about funeral arrangements were followed. May the peace of the Lord fill your heart and soul during your time of grief.

    1. Thank you, Arnoldo. The Mama wasn't a churchgoer and for years she was conflicted about that. When she realized that going to mass wasn't the measurement of her belief and faith in God, she found peace and joy.

  8. The Mama and Sofia Putrillo (from the Golden Girls TV show) were sisters! :D

  9. as a non-Catholic, I nevertheless find rosaries fascinating. I think they can be therapeutic.


    1. Remember the worry beads in the 1970s. I always thought they were like rosaries.


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