Our blog has been quiet of late. Most of you know that on March 20th, our Sr. Marie was born into eternal life. While we rejoice at her new life, we miss her dearly. It’s going to take time for us to adjust to community life without her strong-yet-gentle presence.
Since her death, we’ve each reflected on the many things that Sr. Marie taught us. In living and in dying, she remained ever the teacher, ever the wisdom figure. She modeled Poor Clare life so well because she kept her gaze on the Lord, “cleaving to the footprints” of Jesus (2LAg 7; cf. 1 Pt 2:21).
Here are just a few things that we learned from Sr. Marie.
Welcoming as rejoicing
Sr. Marie’s greetings made everyone feel good; her beautiful smile and enthusiastic welcome made us all feel loved and special. She had a way of affirming you as she welcomed you. “Oh, good!” she’d say if you popped your head into her room. She truly saw Christ in everyone she met, and I’ve no doubt that as she left this life, she greeted her Savior just as she’d greeted so many others: “Oh, good!”
A grateful heart
Gratitude was integral to Sr. Marie’s faith and also her instinctual response. Even in her last days, she continued to express gratitude to God and to all. She responded to even the simplest of things – such as moistening her lips and mouth when she was no longer able to swallow – with a “thank you.” She lived and died with a grateful heart.
Sr. Marie carried a daily planner with her everywhere. Unlike most people, though, she didn’t note things to do, people to call, or items to obtain. Instead, she jotted down verses from Scripture, phrases from books she was reading, or words spoken by others: anything that touched her heart and that she wanted to reflect upon later in the day. A careful listener, she knew that God often speaks to us through others. Her daily planner is evidence of how frequently others were instruments of God’s Word for her, every day of her life.
Seeking the Light
Sr. Marie loved the sun! When she was more mobile, she would spend time each day sitting outside, her face turned upwards to catch the rays. When she prayed quietly inside during the day, she would gravitate toward a sunny window. The light of the sun and God’s Light of Truth were, to her, very much the same thing; she loved the sun because she loved the Son. Even in her last days, when she was confined to bed and wasn’t able to go outside or sit next to a window, she sought light. She had a little desk lamp clamped to the rail of her bed and liked to doze with it on, shining in her face. In all things, she sought to live as a child of the Light (John 12:36).
Nothing tepid (hot, hot, hot!)
Sr. Marie didn’t just like warmer weather and temperatures, she also preferred her food and drinks hot and strongly flavored. Hot coffee, hot sauce, horseradish, turnips, chicken livers, black licorice and horehound candies were some of her favorites. She happily downed coffee that would have scalded the mouths of other sisters; she wanted to see the steam rising from her dinner. Even those of us who didn’t share her love of chicken livers recognized that her dietary preferences were just another example of her enthusiastic embrace of everyone and everything that entered her life.
Chocolate every day
Sr. Marie appreciated dark chocolate. She amused us when she’d cruise around the dessert table in her motorized wheelchair, carefully inspecting any goodies on offer. A chocolate a day, she believed, was a respectable indulgence for a nonagenarian.
Simplicity as communal gift
For Sr. Marie, simplicity was a cherished gift received from God, a gift meant to be shared with others. Yes, she lived a simple life, with few belongings, and enjoyed simple pleasures. More than that, though, she freely offered others what her God freely gave to her: love, joy, and peace, manifested in simplicity.
She chose the Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts” for her funeral, and as we sang it, we knew that she was finally dancing again, in the light and with the Son she loved so much!
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight
‘Till by turning, turning we come round right.