Those of you of a certain age may remember the live recording of Jackson Browne singing “The Load Out/Stay” (“Stay” begins at 6:09). An adaptation of Maurice Williams’s 1960 doo-wop song, Browne’s version of “Stay” describes his life on the road and includes the chorus

Oh, won’t you stay
Just a little bit longer
Please please please say you will
Say you will

Learning “stay”

If you’ve ever trained a puppy, or been trained by one, you know the importance of “stay.” It is a command that can so easily slide back and forth between a request and a plea. Nevertheless, our dogs learn “stay” better than we humans do. The pandemic is certainly teaching us that.

I recently heard the Jackson Brown song again, and I’ve been thinking of it and of the meaning of “stay” in general. What does it mean to “stay” and how am I being asked to “stay” now?

For most of my life, I was the person leaving: going off to school, college, graduate school (once, twice), and work, in a succession of new positions and places. Finally, I left everything to enter religious life and this monastery.

My life has changed quite dramatically. Now, I’m the one called to stay. I remain behind, here, in this place, within the cloister, with these sisters.

I stay.

I’ve discovered that farewells are a little different when you are the one staying behind.

Over the past year and a-half, the sisters and I have said a lot of goodbyes. Our dear Sr. Marie passed from this life to the next. We also lost a number of friends in our faith community. The Capuchin friars in Hendersonville left. Srs. Marguerite and Claudia had to say goodbye to all of their good friends in Memphis and close their monastery there. Fr. Ryan moved to New Jersey. And just a little over a week ago, the friars of Holy Name province left. The Franciscan friars welcomed the Poor Clares to Greenville 65 years ago. Now, after 82 years serving St. Anthony’s parish and school and the good people of the West End, they are gone.

We remain.

“Remain in my love,” Jesus said (John 15:9). Remain. Abide.

Those we love leave us. The pandemic separates us. It’s easy to feel isolated, cut off. But when you distinguish the feelings — loss, grief, loneliness, or even longing — from the situation — separation — you realize that Jesus is not asking us to abide in feelings or stay submerged in them, but to abide in Him. Abide in His love and the love of those you hold most dear, wherever they are, wherever you find yourself.

Let go. Find peace in remaining. Be still and know (Ps 46:10).