It was quiet. As I stepped across the doorway her eyes opened. “Oh it’s you! C’mon in. , She nodded to the chair by the vacant bed across the room. “ Bring that chair over.” The quick, curt command was reminiscent of many I had known since my first day of ninth grade religion class with Sr. Dorothy Sarachene OP at the helm.
“I did not mean to waken you.”
“Oh don’t worry I will have plenty of time to sleep,” the irony chuckled low in her voice as she wrestled with the IV in an attempt to sit up. Though I knew she was in pain I could not get used to the idea that these were her last few days. Hospice, I thought, a kind word pulled from the annals of ancient civilizations, a destination that pilgrims sought for rest as they journeyed to a holy place. Here, settling in with Sr. Dorothy, I felt its sacredness.
Dorothy did not like maudlin scenes so bypassed the traditional amenities and plunged immediately into questions about my son, grandkids, my mom and others. Though I had answered these same questions on an earlier visit that day these were ritualistic conversation starters stemming from years of lunches, dinners and walks tinged with intellectual bantering that eventually led us to sharing our most recent spiritual insights and challenges. Each journey , a spiritual maze of intrigue and wonder was a fascinating adventure filled with growth opportunities if one were quick enough to recognize them. Today Dorothy did not disappoint.
“ We need to talk about something. “
“Sure, go ahead. ”
“You need to write another prayer book. “ I inhaled deeply. Dorothy was well aware of my lagging interest in writing. I had created three prayer books using my stone carvings and prayer poetry and believing that the series had pretty much served its purpose I suspended that activity four years ago.
“You need to write another prayer book and you need to use the Owl.” I was still without words as my mind tracked the trajectory of her thought. This past year I carved an owl from a rich green and mauve colored alabaster. It was a quizzical looking character and Dorothy had fallen in love with its questioning eyes. When I had shown it to her she stroked every inch of its being as if it were a sacred object in and of itself.
Then before I could speak she added one last element, “ And you need to make this one happy!” The request, now a punctuation mark, was aimed directly at my heart and soul. Finished she fell back into the pillow and in a more hopeful tone asked,
I realized I was holding my breath, listening for words that would mitigate my shock, soothe the awareness of impending loss and uphold my ultimate respect and love for this woman. As the twinkle in her eye expanded and a grin, glittered with joy spread across her face I knew what to say.
I slowly measured each word. “Well, you are not being very fair here.”
“I mean, c’mon Dorothy. Really? You are literally lying here on your death-bed and asking me to write a prayer book I do not want to write. What am I suppose to say, no? “
Her eyes sparkled and laughter exploded as tears merged our souls together in grace and gratitude.
Thank you God!
Dorothy Sarachene, OP Dominican Sister of Peace died on June 29, 2017. In August of 2018, Vicki Perfect, OPA self published her fourth prayer book titled Perfect Prayers, Wisdom Seeker. The book is dedicated to Dorothy Sarachene O.P. Dominican Sisters of Peace, soul friend and wisdom seeker extraordinaire. Always soul connected. Always loved.