Sister Carmel

16 Sep

It’s mysterious how certain people play a significant role in our lives, even when we barely know or spend time with them. Sister Carmel is one of those people in my life: an individual intersecting my journey at strategic spiritual moments. 

Sister Carmel is a nun at Our Lady of Grace church. She was the only person my mom shared with about her experiences while incarcerated. After my mom’s suicide, this struck me for two reasons: The fact that my mother didn’t burden me with talk about her time in jail revealed the depth of her shame about it – and the fact that she felt comfortable telling Sister Carmel about it indicated that Sister Carmel was special. 

I had never met Sister Carmel but on the night I received word of my mom’s death, she was one of the first people I called. My mom had given me her number years ago and I knew she needed to be informed. She was also the only one at the church with enough pull to secure me a definite time for the memorial service so that I could move forward in notifying family and friends of an action plan so critical after the passing of a loved one. 

Sister Carmel came to the service and she set up masses in my mom’s honor. She called me a few weeks after the memorial service and told me it was going to be hard for awhile. At Christmas time, she suggested we meet for a mass and breakfast in honor of my mom’s birthday – December 15th. She gave me a rosary as a Christmas gift which my pastor then blessed since I didn’t know any priests anymore. Months later she continued to check in with me and arranged for a mass in my mom’s honor on the anniversary of her death – July 18th. Sister Carmel met me at the church where I fell directly into her arms sobbing. After the service she took me to the “quiet room” – the place where parents take their babies during service because it is a sound proof area. “Just when you think you’re done crying, there are more tears,” she said. She was right. I cried for another twenty minutes after the service. 

Today I passed by the gift shop in the hospital where I work and saw a witch on display for Halloween. And my mom immediately came to mind. How she loved Halloween. I thought about how I’ve stopped thinking about her on a regular basis but that when I do I am starting to simply miss her. Sister Carmel and my pastor told me it could be a year before I actually started feeling love and sadness due to the shock of the suicide. They were right. 

So today when I checked the mail and saw a card in the box, my heart did a double beat. My mom was one of the few people who sent me cards and I felt a wave of sadness that the cards no longer come. There will be no Halloween Hallmark greeting ever again except for the ones I send. The chocolates I buy for others. 

There was no return address on the stationary. I didn’t have a clue who the note was from. When I opened the envelope, I saw beautiful angel stationary and then realized it was a note from Sister Carmel. Just asking how I was doing – how was work – how was my grief process. One year later. She welcomed me to stop by Our Lady of Grace instead of waiting for anniversary markers. I felt a gulp in my throat. The realization that God was sending one of His intercessors to periodically look after me.

2 Responses to “Sister Carmel”

  1. bub66ohm September 16, 2009 at 9:45 pm #

    So nice to have those people in our lives. Good to see you writing.

  2. Stephanie October 11, 2009 at 8:14 pm #

    So beautiful, Lise. I am so moved by your post. I pray to be given and accept opportunities to love and serve like Sister Carmel. What a beautiful soul!

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