Wisdom Companion — the last, for Sr. Rita has gone Home.

Sr. Rita Woehlcke, my soul friend, my aman-cara, has gone home on this day, September 23, 2023, the day of the Autumnal Equinox, which the Irish call Mabon, when the wheel turns into the long, quiet, dark half of the year, a time to ponder death and grief, and to bring in the harvest, a time to understand how very blessed we are with all we’ve been given. How fitting. How just like Sr. Rita to go out on a poetic note.




I, along with so many others, grieve. I also find consolation in this poem by Jane Kenyon, written while she was dying from leukemia. Rita and I talked about it a lot and agreed it contained one of the best descriptions of the God of her understanding.


I divested myself of despair
and fear when I came here.

Now there is no more catching
one’s own eye in the mirror.

 There are no bad books, no plastic,
no insurance premiums, and of course

 no illness.  Contrition
does not exist, nor gnashing

of teeth.  No one howls as the first
clod of earth hits the casket.

 The poor we no longer have with us.
Our calm hearts strike only the hour,

 and God, as promised, proves
to be mercy clothed in light.

Last Monday I drove to The Villa, a Catholic healthcare facility run by the Sisters of Saint Joseph where Rita knew she’d spend her last days, to say goodbye to her. It was the day after her birthday. She was very weak and had lost vision in one eye.

“So it’s come to this,” I said as I held her hand and tried not to cry.

“One-eyed,” she said. “Pirate.”

As her brother, Leo, said, she had mastered the art of the one-word conversation.

“Phone,” she said.

I fumbled in the bedclothes, but couldn’t find it. A nurse came in and went fishing among the wires and blankets and retrieved it.

Rita had made a voice memo for me about some dreams she’d had a few days earlier, knowing she would soon be too weak to talk about them. I won’t go into the details of her dreams, but the images were all about transition, and the death of the ego, and transformation, and traveling. Right on the nose, all of them. Rita nodded along, repeating a word now and then, for emphasis.

“Big dreams,” I said.

“Big.” She nodded.

Then she drifted off somewhere for a little while. The veil between worlds was thin as mist.

She came back. “All creatures,” breath, “everywhere, everything,” breath, “all of us, we’re all fine, completely fine.” She opened her good eye. “God loves us so much more than,” breath, “cares about any of what we think are sins.” She closed her eye again. Mercy. Clothed in Light.

I told her she had saved my life, which she knew. I told her it was her unconditional love. “Good,” she said. “That was the point.” Breath. “How God loves.”

I kissed her forehead.

“Thanks for coming,” she said.

There were so many others waiting to see her. I told her I expected to see her in my dreams when she’d gone home. “Count on it.” She smiled. “Love you.”

A week or so before this last goodbye, I had talked to her on the phone, when she’d called me to wish me happy birthday. She was still at home with Sr. Mary Ann and Sr. Mary Carol then, but it was clear she’d have to go to hospital. She was unable to walk and getting weaker every minute. She was concerned about her books and wanted to know if I would take a bunch (of course!) and if I would take her spiritual journals. I would. Several years ago, we put together a book proposal about our relationship and the lessons she taught me about what it meant to be loved without judgment and how all the world was at once profoundly broken, and perfectly radiant with the love of Spirit. It is one of my great sorrows that we couldn’t find an interested publisher. Maybe I’ll be able to do something with her spiritual writings. I hope so. Being a writer, which she absolutely was, was important to her.

After I got off the phone I found myself rereading this poem by Laura Gilpin (Rita often pointed me to poetry):

It’s one of those pieces that contains so much more than is on the page. I have yet to be able to read through it without sobbing, but even amid the sorrow, there is some deeper mystery, some consolation.

I imagined the dialogue I would have with Rita about it, how the first stanza focuses on the boys, to the callousness, the blindness, and indeed the harsh capitalism of humankind. The boys find what they perceive to be a useless thing, a farm animal who died (as freaks of nature do), thereby depriving them of what they see as its purpose: to produce meat or milk, and money. What to do except wrap it in that most transient of things, yesterday’s news, and see if they can get a few coins for it. To gain something, at least. They’re human. I can’t blame them.

Then, in the second stanza, the focus is on the calf and the gentle, merciful wonder of his life. The north field – North Star, guiding principle, the direction of earth, the turning point of the wheel. It is perfect with his mother, with her love. The moon, the orchard, the wind… all spirits and messengers, all ‘”interbeing,” as Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh would say. And then that sky, which would not have as many stars were it not for the calf’s unusual perfection. He stares at those stars, recognizing home, perhaps (I may be projecting here, but if one cannot project hope into a poem, then where?).

We are not told of the moment of his transition, because no such moment exists. There is only the perfect summer evening of his experience. There is only the eternal love and beauty — all that he will ever know, and exactly where he is.

I think I used to separate myself from the calf, and that’s where the sorrow comes from. I saw myself as not-the-calf, not the one living in that eternal, sublime moment, but rather as the blind boys, and I felt a horrible sense of loss, regret, and hopelessness, even despair.

Now, however, although I still see myself as those poor boys, I also see that I am the calf, and the mother, and the evening, and the moon, and the orchard, and the wind, and those infinite stars – eternal, radiant with love, holy.

Rita taught me how to live in that truth.

Rita called the cancer her Wisdom Companion. Well, that Companion took her on a path that insisted on her complete surrender and trust, and through her writings she shared that journey with us. Such generosity! It’s very hard, and if I could change it, I would. However, however. We can’t change these things. We, too, can only surrender and trust and be grateful we knew her. Rita was, and is, in that north meadow, and what a holy place it is. I know that, but still, the tears come.

I can’t help but think of what Sojourner Truth said: “I’m not going to die, I’m going home like a shooting star.” Looking up into the still-dark sky, I swear I can see Rita traveling there, at the speed of light, into the arms of the God she so loves, into the welcome that awaits her.

May all who love her be comforted.

The funeral will be held at St. Joseph Villa, 110 W. Wissahickon Avenue, Flourtown, Pennsylvania on Saturday, September 30 at 10:30. Greeting of friends and family at 9:30





  1. Maureen Kelly on September 23, 2023 at 11:06 am

    I’m on Retreat and was to have Rita as my director As tear’s flood my face I thank God for the wonderful gift He gave me to have been blessed with Rita in my life. Her Spirit has been with me all week. Rita will always be in my heart. She has taught me so much. I will always treasure her wisdom and love. Love you Rita and rejoice with your new home I know His arms were wide open to hug and welcome you home. Love you, Maureen Patrick

    • Lauren B. Davis on September 23, 2023 at 11:11 am

      Hi Maureen, What a welcome awaits her!! I’m so glad she was in your life. IS in your life. She’s just in the next room. L. xo

      • Bruno Multari on September 24, 2023 at 4:33 pm

        I will miss my former spiritual director, mentor and friend. It grieves me that I must be out of town during her services. Sending love, prayers and hugs to all to all who love her.

        • Lauren B. Davis on September 24, 2023 at 4:39 pm

          I hear you, Bruno. We’re all going to miss her. Thank you for your care. I send mine back to you.

  2. Susan Applewhaite on September 23, 2023 at 11:07 am

    Beautiful, Lauren.

    • Lauren B. Davis on September 23, 2023 at 11:09 am

      Thanks, Susan.

  3. Anne Mountain on September 23, 2023 at 11:33 am

    Oh Lauren. No one could know her in this type of deep and ethereal way. I have been profoundly touched by your incredible friendship and ways of being together even when apart. She loves and cherishes being with you, Ron and Bailey. And now Ms. Maggie. May we all be fortunate in our lives to develop this multilayered communion with another and the world. Xo

    • Lauren on September 23, 2023 at 12:02 pm

      Thanks you, Anne. There’s a Rita-shaped hole in the world, but it will soon be filled with her Spirit. She’s with us. Maybe just in the next room.

  4. JoLynn Krempecki on September 23, 2023 at 12:20 pm

    Yesterday I was swimming in Rita’s spirit. The word “authentic” refused to be silenced. It was her word. It is who she was/is. No pretense. Only the truth and the striving for truth in herself and in the world and in all of us who came to know her. And now she rests in Truth… where she was meant to be all along. We’ll see her soon.

    • Lauren on September 23, 2023 at 12:41 pm

      Thank you for commenting JoLynn. You’re absolutely right. “Authentic,” is exactly who Rita was/is, and what she wanted for us all.

  5. Terri Butel on September 23, 2023 at 12:25 pm

    Oh, Lauren. What a fitting tribute to a woman in whose orbit I was privileged to wander these last 5 years. It’s impossible to say how much closer to “me” I am because of those brief yet profound encounters, the depth of understanding I gained in her Light.
    I have so appreciated your Caring Bridges’ posts, and only now realize you are the author of whom she often spoke with such great appreciation. So, now that I am finally retired with a little time to read, which of your books is the one to begin the A.R. (After Rita) years of my life?

    • Lauren on September 23, 2023 at 12:43 pm

      Terri, thanks so much for your comment. I’m very pleased to hear of the Light you shared with Rita. As for the books, you might begin with my most recent novel, Even So. The character of Sr. Eileen is based on Rita, and Rita was my guide through the process of writing it. I hope you find something useful there.

      • Terri Butel on September 23, 2023 at 10:25 pm

        What a gift! I can think of no better way to begin this journey of grief and celebration. And something to which I can look forward: the book is ordered! Grateful to you, Lauren…

  6. Jane Woods on September 23, 2023 at 1:34 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss, Lauren. Together, the two of you created so much beauty and hope for so many people, myself included. We go on with the courage and wisdom she so freely imparted to us. I am so glad that her suffering has ended and that she’s found her way home.

    • Lauren on September 23, 2023 at 1:37 pm

      Thank you, Jane. That’s very kind. Going on with courage and wisdom. Well said.

  7. Judy Cuggy Lapalme on September 23, 2023 at 3:39 pm

    I am so saddened by this and feeling much compassion for you Lauren. Through you I have been so touched by this remarkable woman who embodied love even when it was a challenge. Please do find a way to write more about her.
    She found wisdom in her illness and all I can think of is that she was not even old and it is not right. And yet, she embodied love even in this illness. Even so. …..
    I am blessed to have wonderful notes from her when she was well enough to offer spiritual support through this page. I am just so sad. She has been on my mind every day since she went into hospice.
    Thank you for introducing her to us and my deepest condolences to you.

    • Lauren on September 23, 2023 at 3:55 pm

      Thank you very much for your care, Judy. Rita found wisdom in everything, and was able to communicate that wisdom to anyone she met. Such a gift.

  8. Mel Ryane on September 23, 2023 at 3:43 pm

    I have a sense that your whole body courses with Sr. Rita’s wisdom cells. These will hold you upright. These cells are filled with the words you’ll pass forward in your teaching, writing and befriending. She will forever be in you. Wishing you peace. It’s been a year of things.

    • Lauren on September 23, 2023 at 3:56 pm

      Thanks so much, Mel. There is no doubt Rita lives on in the soul of anyone who ever met her. And you did. I’m happy for that. Thanks for your good wishes. It has indeed been a ‘year of things.’

  9. ron davis on September 23, 2023 at 6:36 pm

    thank you Lauren for this beautiful post about Sister Rita. I join you and all those who were blessed to know and learn from her. Her indominable spirit and faith were inspirational and gave us hope, as did her belief in “meeting people where they are”. I was happy to accompany you last Monday to see Rita and tell her again how much she meant to us. love, Ron

    • Lauren on September 23, 2023 at 6:47 pm

      Thanks my love. She sure thought the world of you!

  10. Kathy D'Angelo on September 24, 2023 at 7:15 am

    Lauren, if you get a chance read the lyrics of “For Good” a beautiful song about friendship, from of all places, the play “Wicked”!! My favorite line – “because I knew you, because I knew you – I have been changed –
    for good” I think of those words often when I think of the friendships we still share and cherish for 57 years (so far) when we first met in the novitiate at St. Mary-of-the Woods for the Sisters of Providence. Having known Sr. Rita, only through you, I know she was a gem 💗. So sorry for your loss!!

    • Lauren on September 24, 2023 at 9:51 am

      Hi Kathy, thanks so much. Much appreciated. She was a gem.

  11. Cecelia on September 24, 2023 at 7:19 am

    A friend reflected yesterday “the wonder of Rita.” She was truly a gift to us, who shared for many years the gifts and lessons she received through suffering. I still have the note she wrote me when my Dad died in 1998, and it continues to comfort me through many more trials and losses. And her joy! She did that gig so well, too. Truly a shooting star. Can you imagine the moment of Holy Encounter? Love and solidarity to you, Lauren and to all who feel this passing.

    • Lauren on September 24, 2023 at 9:56 am

      Cecelia, you got that right! My mother had a hard life, as a result of mental illness. When she died, Rita said to me, “Oh, she’s going to be so surprised by the welcome that awaits her!” That idea of welcome for her changed my perspective in profound ways. Rita was like that. She had a connection to Spirit and was always bringing back messages. The ripples of love she generated in the world will never end.

  12. Leo Woehlcke on September 24, 2023 at 8:59 am

    Sunday morning…..had to read it again…..thanks….see you Saturday…

    • Lauren on September 24, 2023 at 9:56 am

      Thanks, Leo! I’ll see you Saturday. Big hug. Call anytime.

    • Catrese on September 24, 2023 at 10:02 am

      Lauren, I’m so glad that reading your post on the CaringBridge was how I learned of Rita’s passing. Your words capture her life and spirit. She truly was a gift, and her spirit will live in those whose lives she touched.

      • Lauren on September 24, 2023 at 10:10 am

        Thank you, Catrese. She was one of a kind. Part of us forever.

    • Marie Correale Carbona on September 29, 2023 at 8:53 pm

      Leo, I didn’t know your sister, but I remember you from St. Ambrose.
      My sincere condolences on your loss.
      God bless and keep her and may you be comforted by dear memories and Our Lord.🙏

  13. Michael Rowe on September 24, 2023 at 10:58 am

    What an utterly exquisite tribute, and what a privilege to feel as though I knew her, even a bit through these beautiful words.

    • Lauren on September 24, 2023 at 11:02 am

      Thanks so much, Michael. You would have loved each other to bits! I’m sorry you didn’t get a chance to meet her.

  14. Anne Moore on September 24, 2023 at 6:39 pm

    Oh Lauren, two losses in less than a year of two of your most dearly beloveds! What heartache; my heart goes out to you.

    I will miss Sr. Rita’s writings – I always found helpful insights and truths in them – she was an excellent writer and deeply human being, as are you. Please never stop offering your writings to us; you are a gift.

  15. Lauren B. Davis on September 24, 2023 at 7:02 pm

    Thank you, Anne. It sure has been a rough year, and it’s not over yet. But I’m so grateful to have had Sr. Rita in my life.

  16. Cecilia Davis on September 24, 2023 at 11:07 pm

    I am sorry Lauren for your loss and sorrow of Sr. Rita’s passing.
    It is a rare gift to have had a friend who is so wise and has such a significance in your life, as you had in her life. The treasure of your firendship is with her in her new home, and she will go on as her words
    and thoughts will be uttered often by you and all who knew her.

    • Lauren B. Davis on September 25, 2023 at 7:24 am

      Thanks so much, Cecilia. It really is a seismic loss, but I feel her with me as I’m sure so many others do.

  17. Marcie McCauley on September 25, 2023 at 1:44 pm

    What a responsibility and privilege to be able to be there for another person as she has been and continues to be there for you (and for many others as these comments reveal). I’m sorry that you have lost your dear friend in the here-and-now-in-this-room way. Over the years, your words have brought her into the lives of those of us who read your posts in such a way that we feel a very tiny bit of that loss as well ourselves, even though we have never actually met her.

    • Lauren B. Davis on September 25, 2023 at 7:22 pm

      Thank you SO much, Marcie. She had such a profound effect on everyone who came in contact with her, even those who did so only indirectly. xo

  18. Czech Mate! on November 9, 2023 at 8:17 am

    ‘Purify your souls with
    deeds of love and mercy’
    ● en.gravatar.com/MatteBlk ●
    Cya soon, miss gorgeous…

    PS: We shall be together soon…

    • X_x@gmale.coma on November 9, 2023 at 9:10 am

      The wayward mirth of the transitory
      earth is passing-away just like I was
      (I’m a Near Death Experiencer, lil1).
      You will never believe what we saw:
      ● AbstractVocabulary.blogspot.com ●
      Cya soon, adorable girl…

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