It’s not easy writing a blog post when your heart is heavy. This morning I woke to find out that two of my dear IHM Sisters died. One sister I’ve known since I entered the community. She lived at the Motherhouse in Monroe and always made sure to keep an eye out for new members to make sure they were doing okay. She used to play cards with me and other nuns, and took great pride in letting others know that she was teaching the young sisters Spite and Malice! The other sister was the sibling of a nun that I lived with while I was in formation. I rarely saw her without her smiling or laughing or having a twinkle of mischief in her eye!
As I think about and pray for my sisters, I am reminded of my first experience ever of dealing with the death of a Catholic sister. When I lived in Toronto with the Loretto Sisters (IBVM), a sister from the house I lived at died. Sister Emma was a fireball, a woman in love with life and with God. She was a singer, and tried to get my friend Michelle and I to sing but there was little hope for either of us! Her death was a shock to all of us, and it broke all of our hearts. I learned so much from the sisters of that house of how to care for one another, how to celebrate and to mourn Emma’s death, and how to place one’s sorrow and one’s trust in God.
Sister Emma’s wake was held in our house — it was a big convent, but still felt a little weird to me because I’d never lived in a house where a wake was held. When the funeral home brought the body to the house, the sisters welcomed the body at the door and prayed as the casket was brought in. The sisters sat vigil with the body, sometimes praying and crying quietly, other times chatting about wonderful Emma stories! The lay women of the house (we were mostly grad students boarding with the sisters while we worked on our degrees) were welcomed into this holy mourning and celebrating. We too sat vigil, we served at the funeral Mass, we buried our sister, and we celebrated as Emma would have wanted us to.
The experience of knowing Sister Emma and of journeying with the Loretto Sisters through her death touched me deeply. It was probably one of the most formative experiences of my life. It taught me the meaning of sisterhood, and it illustrated for me — in full color — what it means to give one’s life, and one’s death, totally to God.
Please pray for my IHM Sisters Alice and Bea who are “dwelling now in light yet ever near”… and for my Sister Marie, Alice’s sibling, and all of those who loved these women and were touched by them.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May the souls of the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.