I was thinking of sharing this post before, and then decided against it. But since April 6 is the day my sister was stillborn and it holds great significance, I thought I’d share. She’s still offering me hugs; they just don’t always happen like this.
I found a spiritual mentor of sorts during grad school. I met her leading the rosary after daily mass. She took the effort to get to know me, inviting me to lunch and talking. She helped me keep perspective in the midst of chaos with classes.
I shared about having questions of where God was leading me. She encouraged me to find a spiritual director, either a priest or possibly someone in a religious order.
Among her suggestions was to contact the Poor Clares, Mother Angelica’s order. It wasn’t such an outrageous idea, since their monastery was less than two hours away. The goal wasn’t to make an official show of interest in joining their community but solely as a way of receiving guidance in discernment. I thought I was clear about that when I left a voice message. Yet the reply I got was to submit an application. I chalked it up to “I guess it’s a way of sharing your background.” So I did that. Then I got a letter in the mail.
It was a random afternoon on campus as I checked my mailbox and found an envelope from the community. Eager to see the response, I opened the letter as I headed back to my apartment. The letter pointed out my history with mental illness (depression, even though being monitored with medication and counseling) and a small amount of debt I owed to my parents as reasons I couldn’t pursue further. Apparently the wires of intention had indeed been scrambled. But their answer was clear: we can’t pursue this further with you. I’ve since shared the reasons of rejection I received with others, and it seems a bit strict and unreasonable. But this particular community has higher standards and expectations. Anyway, it was disappointing to get that response, especially since I truly just wanted some guidance.
I continued making my way on campus, doing my best to conceal my crying. I just wanted to slip through the crowd unnoticed so I could fully succumb to the building sadness in private.
But that didn’t happen.
I heard “Are you ok?” as someone walked past me. I glanced over my shoulder to see if it really was directed at me, and this student had stopped walking.
I stopped too and turned in her direction. I tried to brush off my crying as nothing too serious, explaining that I had just received upsetting news; this wasn’t a matter of life or death.
I was resistant to get into my situation but she kept prodding. She asked if she could pray for me. Well I wasn’t about to turn down that offer, so I agreed. And I blurted out the first prayer intention that popped into my head: peace of heart.
She prayed over me. I don’t remember what she said, but I was moved by her very public gesture of faith and her eagerness to reach out to a stranger in distress.
By now my crying was more controlled. We were preparing to part ways. She asked if she could give me a hug. At this point I was more receptive to the physical contact, so I agreed.
She suggested we continue praying for each other. I thought that was such a wonderful idea. So we exchanged names. She looked up at me with a beautiful smile and said, “I’m Lauren.”
Comforted by this stranger, I continued on my way to my apartment. But I couldn’t shake how surreal it was to have a stranger take time for me like that. She could have been heading to a test or running late for a class or a group of friends were waiting for her somewhere. But she stopped.
And as I continued walking, the thought came to me that this is what sisters do. That beautiful sisterhood in Christ. Of supporting each other through the good and tough times. But then her name finally hit me. Lauren. She said her name was Lauren. My sister, the one who was stillborn, my parents named her Lauren.
Wow. I just encountered my sister. Through someone else, but that’s how this kind of thing works.
This student had no way of knowing the full impact she was making. She didn’t know my background or have any way of realizing how significant her name would be. But that’s the beauty of faith. Even the smallest detail is significant.
It made me want to be more open and willing to reach out to others because you never know what a simple gesture can mean to the other person. It seems small, it seems dismissible, but it matters!