st therese

Today is October 1st. We could talk about praying the Rosary, since this is the month of October, which is noted for the Rosary. Today is the day we celebrate the feast day of St. Therese. We could talk about her life. But selfishly, I would like to talk about Eleanor, my sister, who we buried yesterday.

Eleanor was one of those persons who you knew and wondered how did they get so good? She was special. She could talk to you in such a fashion that afterwards, you realized you had a lot to think about. She passed away at the age of 79. Though diagnosed with stage 4 cancer 20 years ago, she lived a life that was beautiful, compassionate and oh, so full of energy. Ultimately, the cancer ravaged her entire body, yet the end was merciful yet peaceful. Through it all, her sole pain killer was Advil taken now and then.

El knew she was dying, but I don’t think she ever felt self-pity. She was frustrated that her energy level was decreasing to the point that she could not do the things she wanted to do. The last two years she could not pick up a paint brush to create those beautiful works of art that depicted God’s beauty. She seldom sat at the piano and let her fingers ripple over the key board, allowing her listeners to marvel at the sweet delicate sound of God’s love. Frustration, yes, but not self pity.

Though she was good at oil painting and music, her first and only love was teaching. She taught at many schools in the archdiocese of Philadelphia. Her students quickly learned that Sister Teresita was not only teaching them the subjects in the books, she was teaching them the art of living. I think it is safe to say that El was interested in bringing each student into an awareness of themselves.

She left the convent after 24 years of religious service. She came to the Camden diocese and began her lay career as… what else?… a teacher! Here too, she presented the children with the values of life. She wanted each one to know their own worth, their own mind set, and to form and love their own value structure. What we didn’t realize was that Eleanor was also teaching us, by her life and love of God, what we needed to know about ourselves, as well.
Well, we buried El yesterday. And as the long line of people passed by her casket, they would stop by and wish us, her family, their condolences. And, oh so many, had stories to tell. Stories of how El had helped them, taught them, motivated them, and turned their lives around. You see, El was the type of person that grew on you. You could not pass her off as a casual acquaintance. She cared about YOU. She listened to your worries, your fears, and your annoyances. She actually “Listened”. And, as she was so accustomed to doing, she spoke to you from her heart. She did not speak AT you. She talked to you, from her heart to your heart. Her heart, so full of love, simply sought out your heart and raised your spirits.

As I sat in a pew this morning, waiting for Mass to begin, a friend came up and handed me a picture of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. Oh, did I not mention that St. Therese was Eleanor’s favorite saint? She was so close to St. Therese, that El’s wishes for her funeral were ONE rose and balloons. (The balloons can only be explained with “Well, that’s El.”) But the Rose? Roses were always associated with St. Therese. And, El loved St. Therese. She was laid out with one rose in the casket.

So, the picture of St. Therese being handed to me, by a friend, could be explained as, “Well, it was her feast day”. Yes, I guess it could. But to me, I firmly believe with my heart and soul, that there are no coincidences with God. That picture was El, telling our family, “I made it. I am with Therese. Rejoice. Do not mourn for me. Be happy.” PRAY THE ROSARY.