By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz/CHICAGO TRIBUNE
The day after her mother died, with the house surreally silent, Mary Lou Quinlan reached to the highest shelf of her mom’s Fort Myers, Fla., bedroom closet and discovered the “God boxes.”
There were seven junky boxes stuffed to the brim with scraps of paper, each holding requests in Mary Finlayson’s loopy shorthand for celestial help in matters great and small: that an insurance claim be decided in her favor, that her daughter’s business meetings go well, that “the Pergo floor be the right choice.” Many — scrawled on store receipts or business cards or coasters — asked to heal ailing family members, friends, strangers she had never met.
“She inhaled a worry. She exhaled a prayer,” is how Quinlan puts it in her book “The God Box: Sharing My Mother’s Gift of Faith, Love and Letting Go” (Greenleaf Book Group), a loving tribute to her mother, who died May 29, 2006.
Quinlan, who had always known her deeply Catholic mother put notes in God boxes but had never before seen the boxes themselves, launched thegodboxproject.com to inspire others to surrender their concerns to the cosmos.
“There’s something about the folding and the putting it in and closing the lid that is freeing,” said Quinlan, who keeps a God box herself. “It says, ‘I’m not in charge; I’m letting go.'”
In addition to her book, Quinlan performs a one-woman play about losing her mom and is launching a free iPhone app (check her website) that lets people keep a virtual God box and notify loved ones that a wish has been made in their honor.
Though calling it a “God” box, as opposed to a wish box or something without religious connotations, is purposeful because it suggests trusting a higher power, Quinlan says it’s a practice for everyone regardless of religious affiliation.
Quinlan, founder of a strategic consulting firm dedicated to marketing to women, said discovering the boxes also was succor for her, her brother and her father, as they could trace their family’s history through the prayers and see inside her mother’s boundless empathy.
“You lose the person you love best, then you get the gift of their voice,” she said.