Wisdom Companion #1 – Cancer and Sr. Rita
Many of you, friends and readers, have heard me talk about Sr. Rita, who has been my aman-cara, my heart friend for these many years, and who is the inspiration for the character of Sr. Eileen in my latest novel, EVEN SO.
Sr. Rita had breast cancer some years ago and we have now learned it has metastasized and will be with her for life, as her ‘wisdom companion,’ the one who will eventually take her home.
As a writer she does what all writers do– she turns to the page to share this journey with us. She has given me permission to post her writings here, as she lives fully in this experience. I am deeply grateful for her grace in letting us receive her wisdom, inspiration, and example. So here is the first installment. More — many, many more — will follow:
August 31, 2022 next steps and some thoughts on the journey
That for which there is no cure . . . . I met with the oncologist yesterday who confirmed the diagnosis, metastatic breast cancer that presented itself in the liver. Rather than use the words “terminal illness,” he spoke of “a condition you will live with the rest of your life.”
It is now 3 am a familiar time when God seems best able to get my attention. Writing has long been my natural prayer form, so everything is falling into place. Some things are clear. I am invited to welcome cancer as the wisdom companion who will accompany me for the rest of my days and eventually bring me home.
Those of you who share my faith tradition, believe with me the ritual words of the funeral Mass . .. “Life is changed, not ended.” Those of you who embrace the mysteries of science understand that matter is neither created nor destroyed, only transformed. Those of you attentive to nature recognize the law of dissipating structures, the marvelous economy that allows the death of one organism to support the life of another. The unfolding story of the universe, and the history of our planet’s witness to the miracle of life emerging from what for all intents and purposes is the end of an age.
For me, these are not pious notions or intellectual havens from reality. They are reality, the mystery I am living. As I processed my grief at the loss of loved ones, I became acutely aware that living and dying are one reality. When it feels good, I call it living. When it feels bad, I call it dying.
So for now, I begin the halting dance with my new live-in companion, and medication to slow the pace. I prefer dancing, surrender, and silence to fighting. I prefer sitting with and listening to ancient wisdom. I prefer the companionship of Jesus who lived and died trusting Love. I prefer living fully each moment, loving those “who are mine in this world.” ( John) I find profound meaning and energy in my SSJ life and faith tradition.
Dear Lauren, thanks for sharing Sr. Rita’s heartfelt and poignant writing via your site. Sr. Rita writes so clearly on a subject any of us would find difficult to deal with when we’ll be confronted with our mortality. Her thoughtful and wise perspective is profound, hopeful, and real. It gives me so much to think about. I wish Sr. Rita many good days ahead and look forward to reading more from her (and you too!).
with warm regards to you both, Sarah
Thanks for your comment, Sarah. I’m sure Sr. Rita will appreciate it, as do I.
Hello Lauren and Sister Rita, I had the pleasure of attending a virtual event you did together as part of the launch of Lauren’s novel Even So (another one of your books I loved). So sorry to learn what Sister Rita is going through. The concept of “wisdom companion” is new to me and is such a thoughtful and spiritual way of considering the way forward. Thank you so much for sharing. Kindly, Ariana G
thanks for your comment, Ariana. That’s a beautiful concept, isn’t it… ‘wisdom companion’?
Lauren, thanks for this post. It’s generous of Sr Rita (and you) to share this journey with us. There are many unknowns ahead and it’s inspirational learning how Sr Rita is dealing with this, with faith and openness. Look forward to the next installment. Best, Tom
Thanks for your comment, Tom. It’s generous of Sr. Rita to continue to be there for us.
I’m not sure how I came across this page, but I was meant to find it for sure. I am a 1983 graduate of St Hubert HS and knew Sister Rita very well. She was an amazing Sister who I really looked to for strength and guidance in my HS years . Please give her my love and I am saying many prayers for her. God Bless.