Thursday, May 07, 2009

A Visit

Just the other day, I slipped the car into park and took a deep breath. As I shut off the engine I reached across the seat for the flowers I had picked up on the way. My heels clacked on the concrete as I walked across the road and up the few steps, then across the soft grass still damp from the mornings rain. I knelt down, gently placing the flowers on the stone, my fingers lightly tracing the carved out 2007. I didn't try to hold back my tears, the dam of emotion that had built up inside of me was at once broken. I sat down, not caring if my pants ended up muddy. After a few minutes the tears subsided, I wiped the remaining few with the back of my sweater sleeve. Then I started telling her about my friends grandfather and about our friendship, about applying to graduate school and how I hope to take a few online courses, about a few other things going on in life that I knew she would appreciate. I apologized for not being there in so long and that I knew it was time for a visit. I told her how much I missed her and how I wished she were still here to help me make sense of things, as she had when she was living.

It may sound crazy, but after sitting there talking out loud, I felt better and more calmed than when I had first arrived.

Sister Mary first tried to help me make sense of the French language. A well-learned woman fluent in three languages, she painstakingly repeated phrases until I could pronounce them correctly and gently, but firmly corrected me when I used the wrong tense. After four semesters, in addition to learning to appreciate her dry wit and sarcastic sense of humor, I came to greatly admire her. After our french lessons (by the third semester I was the only student in the program), we would drink coffee and slowly walk the grounds of the convent she had called home for over 40 years. She would tell me stories of her early days as a girl in Tennessee, being arrested on Embassy Row in DC for protesting the arrest of Nelson Mandela, of her years teaching and the few students she considered to be almost like the grandchildren she never had. I would tell her about my life --both past and present, as well as what I hoped for the future. We developed an incredible bond, she became my mentor as well as my friend.

She helped me navigate life after college, gently steering me in the right direction when I was sure I was lost. Every few weeks my phone would ring, " Mandy, I need some really good coffee and a piece of pie. I'll see you tomorrow," she would say. She never asked if I was free or if I had other plans. I was always the one with the questions and she the one with the answers. Without fail I would show up with the requested items and we would spend the next few hours talking about books, current events, and life in general. When I wasn't able to make sense of my own life, she could. When I needed a new book to read, she always had one to recommend. When I needed a kick in the ass, she was always happy to provide it. She challenged me to think and question things I had never considered. She pushed me learn, explore and develop my own beliefs based on what was right for me. She encouraged me when very few others did and brought me back down to reality when I needed it. Over the course of six or seven years, she gave me the guidance and knowledge to become I person I am today, as cliche as it sounds.

During her last few days, I would go visit her in the hospital and take lunch to the other Sisters who kept a vigil over her so she was never alone. One evening they called me saying that I needed to come then to say my goodbyes, even though she was doing better. As so many times before I didn't question, I just went. As I told Sister Mary all that she had meant to me, I held her hand and cried. I told her I loved her and kissed her cheek. One of the other sisters hugged me and told me that she had loved me too, speaking on behalf of my mentor as she quickly slipped away from this world.

Looking back, Sister Mary was always the wise teacher and I the eager student. Even now that she's gone, I still go to visit on occasion without question and continue to learn.

18 comments:

Kyla Roma said...

Oh my goodness, Mandy. What a deep connection - I'm sorry for your loss but so happy for your friendship with this woman. It sounds like she'll be with you for a long time =)

SoMi's Nilsa said...

It's amazing how much we can learn from people like us, yet so different from us. Sounds like this was a very special relationship. And now, you get to carry on some of her legacy in the way you lead your life. What an amazing opportunity - then and now.

nory said...

Well this entire post just made me cry at my desk, which is a job well done in my eyes.

What an incredibly awesome connection to have had with someone. I can only imagine how special she must have been (and still is) to you.

Lovely, sweet and goose-bump causing post! =)

Kylie said...

It's great that you had the opportunity to have a friend that meant so much to you. We should all be that lucky. :)

Fritz said...

that reminds me of my nun from college...what a great post!

Little Fish said...

I'm crying too much to write anything. This is beautiful.

kellymarie said...

At first I was like uh oh...sad story alert, but this is such a beautiful story. Your connection in life and still today...wow...I am crying.

Amazing post.

Amandaaa said...

um. this is awesome.

sister mary sounds like quite a
woman. nuns crack me up. (well some of them) i've been around a lot of quirky amazing ladies that just blow my mind. how opened they are talking about such personal stuff you'd never expect a nun to discuss.

this type of connection is so special to have. and i am positive that sister mary doesn't mind if it's been awhile since you've last visited. to sister mary, what matters is that you were there.

xxx

Katie said...

Wow, you brought tears to my eyes.

chickbug said...

Inspiration for what friendship truly means. Aboslutely beautiful.

Bayjb said...

This is such a touching story. Thank you for sharing it. I'm so glad you carry her lessons with you.

Auburn Kat said...

She sounds like a wonderful person who had a very positive influence on your life. People like this is what the world is about.

Sometimes it's really good to cry, I definitely just had my cry after reading an old email from my ex. I did a word search trying to find a recent email and up popped an email from him and of course I read it.

looking4#3 said...

What an absolutely amazing post about an amazing woman and friendship. I remember you telling me about her!!! I am so sorry she is not physically here with you, but rest assured, she is watching you from above. And. Oh. So. Proud!!!

PS--I nominated you for a Sisterhood Award (this before I even read your post--little weird huh). Check it out!!!! :)

Andy said...

This made me cry quite a bit. The only person I'm that close to is probably my mom. And I feel incredibly lucky to sometimes be able to hug her and start crying and she knows the right thing to do, the right thing to say, the right thing to advise.

K said...

That was intense. An amazing story. How lucky you are to have had an amazing woman like that in your life!
Thank you for sharing that.

GirlonTour said...

I like your blog!

closetsareforclothes said...

what a sad and beautiful story. i know what it's like to feel a connection with a wise teacher. i'm sure you meant as much to her as she did to you.

Vanessa said...

What a beautiful tribute and a wonderful mentor.