I've learned over time (and over losses) the great gift of being present to someone's leaving. It is a lesson that my Dominican sisters have had a good hand in, along with others who are close to my heart. It is never an easy gift to accept, yet it is one of the greatest we will be given.
When beloveds leave, we gather them up within ourselves. We make a rendering (a clarity) of our experiences with them - especially of our carefree time spent together, the pure pleasures and, of course, the clear lessons they leave us. We secure it all within. All that they were to us, is now in us.
Yesterday came the passing of Sister Chiara Paoloni, O.P. (her name means “clear” in Italian...). She was very dear to me. Her passing was not a surprise, in fact the last three weeks were one long vigil since I last poured blessings on her as she slept, and left her room knowing I would not likely see her again. I knew I was in “the gifted time”, along with the many others whom I know were present with her in person and in spirit as she made her way to the place of renewal. And just as all leavings do, her leaving now calls out to me one of the clear messages of her life: to let out the creativity born within. Bring in, bring out, bring on the beauty as you see it.
She was, among the other beautiful traits she held, a most dedicated artist. And just as she lived her faith through more than 70 years of vowed religious life teaching others, there also didn't seem to be a place where her faith ended and her art began. They simply ran together as she found her truest expression for being drawn to the Mystery, in sculpting and making block prints. The subjects she portrayed told us she felt closest to her God in expressions of tenderness and in the loving protective nature of the divine. As she contemplated the mysteries with her eye for God's tender reaches, she gave a new feel to old familiar stories. Her beautifully simple interpretations of Love enfolding and unfolding, revealed the nature of the inexplicable pull that led her in life. Her art called us all warmly to the wonder.
Hopefully we have all been encouraged at some point to discover “the artist within”. We all need to be inspired to look for it. After all, creativity is the place where we grasp hands with the divine - and can't help but make something of it. I think that's clearly what my old friend would say anyway. I know Chiara has left, but in her leaving, I once again find the artist within.
For a collection of Rebecca's poetry: HERE
A retreat for your artist-writer within: THE SACRED THREAD. This September in person at Perennial Yoga in Fitchburg, Wisconsin.