Thursday, May 13, 2010

women of faith

It's almost July and I haven't written in a while. May was a hard month. The world lost two shining examples of how to live good, faithful, holy lives. I lost two of my strongest models of faith.

At the beginning of May, I lost a dear friend and inspiring mentor. She was, as my friend Melissa would say, my existential sherpa. She died after a long, tough, brave fight with cancer. I still can't believe she's gone. I imagine it will be real in a few weeks when something great or frustrating happens and I want to send her an email to tell her about it. I have a picture on my desk from my college graduation--Kim is on one side of me and Marybeth, the other female campus minister, is on the other side. Somehow, miraculously, it's a great photo of all 3 of us. It's reassuring to have their smiles in my office--and in these last few weeks, I've been known to talk to Kim (out loud) about some of my frustrations and struggles--always asking "WWKD?"

Kim is inextricably linked to my college experience. One of my first memories as a student is the accepted student weekend in the April of my senior year in high school. After a full day of panel discussions and touring campus, my parents and I walked into the college chapel for the first time. It was huge and beautiful--I remember thinking that. The clearest memory of that day, however, came after the Gospel reading. Instead of the priest staying at the pulpit to deliver the homily, he stepped down and a woman stepped up to the microphone. I remember a buzz going through the congregation.
A woman?! It was my introduction to Kim--she told a story about talking to seniors about their first memories of HC. It was clear to me in that moment that Kim loved her job, that she loved students, that she loved this place I had chosen to call home for the next 4 years.

During my college years, Kim became someone I could always go to for advice, encouragement, or a shoulder to lean on. She showed me what it meant to be passionate about your work, about social justice, about peace, about love. Kim truly bookended my college career, because one of my last memories as an undergrad is sitting on her couch (a pillow in my lap), talking about my fears and hesitations. Kim sat opposite me, as she always did, in her rocking chair and cried. In that room, in that seat, I always felt seen and heard and understood. It is what I try to give to my students...I have a lot to learn and a long way to go, but Kim was one of my greatest teachers. I could go on for pages (and I want to) I'll probably come back and revisit Kim in the coming weeks.

Two weeks after Kim died, my Nana died, peacefully, at home, and in her sleep. A few summers ago, we brought my Nana to Ireland for the first time--both of her parents were born there, but she'd never been. It was a great trip--one I'll treasure forever--but the running joke when Nana was MIA was, "Oh, she must be praying." My Nana carried her prayers and her rosary with her everywhere. She believed in God with every fiber of her being--and when she prayed for you, you saw the evidence of it in your life. I really do believe she had a direct line to God. Her love was probably the closest thing to God's love you could experience here on earth--she loved absolutely and without condition. She truly never met a stranger.

This post has been sitting in my drafts for a month, so I think it's time to post even though it feels incomplete...even though I have so many more stories about both Kim and Nana.