Just over two weeks ago, my 85 year old friend, Clara died.
Her death came as a relief for me, and I know that it was release for her from her suffering.
Clara, was a woman of faith and her trust in the concept of heaven and eternal life were her strong belief.
Her last words to me on the last occasion I saw her before she died were “Thank you for being a good friend”
Outwardly, to people who knew about our friendship, they would have perceived that it was Clara whom benefited most from our friendship.
She was housebound from the very start of our acquaintance, and the origins of my weekly visits to see her was to take the parish news bulletin.
Over the years, this contact developed into a strong bond of friendship in which we conversed on areas of the weekly scriptures, our faith, our hopes for the Catholic Church (in the midst of its turmoil) and then we discussed national matters, politics, the community and the parish and my family and my busy work and social life.
I was the vehicle by which she heard the local news, the events of the parish and the community and her gratitude for my visits was because I enabled her to remain connected.
Inwardly, I benefited from witnessing that despite the vagaries of a broken body, (which over the years deteriorated further and further, ultimately to end all forms of mobility for her), it is possible to live a life and to be integrated into the social, economic, political and spiritual aspects of life.
Clara’s greatest strengths were her capacity to suffer without complaining, to listen, to advise cautiously and to be interested in everything and everyone.
How are you today, Clara, I would say as I walked in to her sitting room.
OK thanks, but enough about me,
How did you get on at the meeting you were worried about;
How was Stephen when you called to see him;
How was the party; who was there?;
I heard Mary has died……
Her need was, I think, to focus on other things than self.
My wife would say, no wonder you enjoy going to see Clara, you have a captive audience.
How true, but although I am more than happy to talk, it would have been less enjoyable if Clara hadn’t wanted to listen.
Hows your back?, she’d ask
My back? I’d say.
Yes, last week you had trouble sitting and I have been praying for you all week.
Well your prayers have worked because, Clara, I had forgotten my back was bad last week.
But this small interchange highlighted the reality of our conversations – she was left at the point the story ended until we picked it up again the following week.
In recent months, as my dear friend declined further, I saw her more frequently.
The impact of her guiding counsel over the last eleven years has been a steadying force in my tumultuous inner life.
Her final lesson has been to show me how to die in a spirit of acceptance and in an attitude of prayer and hope and faith and trust in God.
May She Rest In Peace.
My next blog will be: Stricken