Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sister Suzanne

Tonight I went to a Prayer Vigil at the monastery, which is what they do as a wake. It was the first time I've gone to a wake because I knew it would make me feel good. Everything about knowing Sister Suzanne and thinking about Sister Suzanne makes me feel good.

She turned 99 years old on April 1, and I think we must have known she wouldn't make it to 100 because we celebrated her birthday for weeks. Some friends gave her a Bose stereo, on which she listened to Chant and about which she giggled because she knew how nice it was. Her room was filled with flowers. She still lived upstairs at the monastery until June, when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Then she moved to Saint Scholastica Convent, the home for elderly and infirm Sisters, where she was very excited to meet all her new neighbors. She was curious about everyone and when we last visited, she told me all about the wonderful people there.

I met her when she was 96, and I never expected her to give me so much attention. I didn't see her often, but she knew exactly who I was and was happy to talk to me even for a few minutes. Running into her in the hallway always brightened my day. I did a videotape of her in January, and we talked for over an hour. She was warm, delightful, open and generous to me. And I truly felt I was seeing Christ in her.

Many people felt this way about Sister Suzanne, and many knew her better and longer than I did. One day at Saint Scholastica she had 65 visitors! And she didn't tire of them -- she loved them all. When I saw her at Saint Scholastica the first time, I said, "What did you do to your hair? Did you get a haircut?" She laughed and siad, "No, I'm not wearing my veil!" She pretended that it had been left behind in her room when she was taken to the hospital, but that wasn't true. She just wasn't wearing it anymore.

Sister Suzanne had great joy in life, and knowing that she would die soon, she said, "I'm so happy for me!" She looked forward to meeting her Savior and was at peace about dying. We were the ones who were sad, because we would miss her, but we were also happy for her.

After we talked the last time, I got big hugs and kisses from her. And when I left her room, she said, "You're in my prayers."

I have a complicated history with people praying for me. Most of the time, it seems, they are praying for something specific, and usually not what I want or need. With Sisters, it can sometimes feel cliche. They pray for "the world," for many, many people. I didn't have any requests or special needs at the time. And I know this is what Sister Suzanne says at the end of every visit. But when she said it, it brought tears to my eyes. I was glad, genuinely glad. Because she is close to God, closer than anyone I know. And my life and prayer are both more rich, the possibilities of what life with God means are more real to me, for having known Sister Suzanne. We share a name day, August 11, and I know I will think of her each year on that day. And I will hope to live with more joy and more love because of what she showed me about life.

Here below is the most precious clip from the video interview I did with Sister Suzanne in January.


Kay said...

This brought me so much joy to hear about for some reason... There's something really inspirational an encouraging about knowing someone has known and loved God for so many years. Thanks for sharing, it made my day :)

Susan Sink said...

Thanks, Kay. It really is wonderful to know such people. I am lucky to know several monks and nuns in my area who are full of such peace and joy-- and truly delightful people!