I’ve sat by the side of the bed of many Sisters over the years as they lay dying. Recently, however, it was a Sister whom I’ve known for almost all of my life in community and who became a fast friend over the years. With her death, I can’t help but ponder the richness of God’s grace and a seeming cruelty that can accompany it. She was only three years older than I. Recently she had begun to come out of her self-imposed shell and be involved in various community activities and committees. Her childhood had been difficult, at times traumatic, and the effects lingered over the years, appearing at the least expected moments, always trying to erode a growing self-confidence, although she always ministered with complete presence.
It seemed that finally she was winning the battle. And then minor symptoms began to coalesce into much larger ones and she began to pay attention to swelling ankles and the fact that she couldn’t walk any distance or climb stairs without being winded, and that she couldn’t sleep lying down anymore. She went through the tests, too often waiting passively for word from doctors who never called back and for tests that weren’t scheduled in a timely manner. Each step toward health was reversed by three steps into decline. At one point, when she was in the ICU and unable to respond to queries, she let us know that she didn’t want any extraordinary means, even a feeding tube designed for the short term by pulling the tube out herself. While too weak to be able to communicate what seemed coherently, she forced the word “good-bye” so that I knew she knew she was dying and wanted to say good-bye.
It took a couple of weeks before the final breath was breathed and she was released from a body too weak to support breath or heartbeat. I was grateful she was freed from the debilitating effects of her heart disease, but couldn’t shake the feelings of anger at her willingness to let go so easily, without a fight for life … or so it seemed. I’m still a bit ticked off at her and at God, but have come to enjoy the memories of the friendship.
– Blog entry by a Sister of the Precious Blood; photo by Pat Morrison