08 November 2009

The last of a generation.

When The Boy I Currently Like sprang out of bed around 11:30 this morning to answer the phone, I was a little disappointed to be getting up so early (when you don't go to bed until 3:30, 11:30 feels kinda early). But it turned out to be ... good, I suppose. My mom had called a few minutes before I checked my phone. I could kind of tell by her message that there would not be good news when I called her back.

My great aunt, The Nun, had a stroke this morning. She's not going to recover. She was sent back to the convent; to the third floor. She often told us that when nuns go to the third floor, they don't come back. That's where they go to die.

She is 96. She has congestive heart failure. But this was unexpected. My dad talked to someone at the convent who said she spent yesterday with friends and had popcorn last night -- she had a good day. All that ... well, it doesn't make me feel better. Maybe a little.

Sister Noreen is the last of my grandpa's siblings left. She is the last person from that generation left on my dad's side of the family. When I was a kid, I was apparently scared of her. She could be a little brusque and set in her ways, but she really was a remarkable woman. I mean, how many 90-plus-year-old-nuns can you have a reasonable discussion about abortion and politics with at Christmas dinner?

Her given name was Lucy. When she was 13, my great-grandparents took her to the convent and basically said, "You're going to be a nun." Someone from each generation in my family went into religious life; they alternated sexes each year. So, one of her uncles was a priest. She didn't have a choice and that has always bothered me. However, because she was a nun, she got an education and worked and was able to travel ... things she might never have done if she'd stayed a lay person.

My poor sister. Today is her birthday. Not exactly the kind of news you want to hear on your Special Day. Unfortunately, I know how that feels. My grandpa died the day before my 13th birthday and we buried my grandma the day before my 23rd birthday. I thought it would be my 33rd birthday that we'd lose another relative, but I guess it was her 33rd.

I'm not really sure what else there is to say or what I might want to say. I know there is more, but I'm fairly drunk right now, and hours of crying have left me pretty wiped out. I just hope she knows how much we love her.

Sister Noreen died a short time after I wrote this.

7 comments:

Stephanie said...

Jess, I'm really sorry to hear that. I think one thing about being where she is right now is that she is surrounded by a lot of positive energy and prayer, which is probably a real comfort. I'm sending good thoughts your way tonight.

Jess said...

Thanks Stephanie.

Little Ms Blogger said...

I'm sorry to hear about your aunt, but it sounds as though she had a long and happy life.

I found it very interesting that in your aunt's era, families designated one child into a religious life. My parents' family did that in Canada. I'm happy that tradition died in the U.S.

Diana said...

Oh, Jess, I'm so sorry. Big hugs to you.

Jess said...

Thanks, ladies.

I wish I knew more about how the decision was made on who to send to the convent or to seminary. One of my uncles got her to sit down and record something of an oral history of our family -- that's how I found out about my great uncle who took a federal marshal hostage after a jewelry or liquor store robbery in New Mexico.

I hope he still has the tapes, because I'd really like to listen to them all. I'm not sure how much she ever talked about herself on them, but maybe I could get some insight that way.

Frank said...

I'm sorry for your loss. My grandpa died on my 18th birthday, so I know how that can kind of taint the day for years to come.

Jess said...

Thanks, Frank.