"The journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain curtain of this world rolls back and all turns to silver glass. And then you see it. White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise." J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
On Facebook I posted that I started out 2016 with an adventure. One of my New Year goals is to tweak my blog (yet again) to make it more focused and useful. Going forward my posts are going to be about traveling and the magic I find on the road, but I didn't know that another journey was afoot while I was making plans.
When I attended Caldwell College it was a small, Catholic school that had just turned co-ed. Now it's Caldwell University... how things have changed. I was an English Major, and the English Department had three professors: Dr. Dollar who focused primarily on 17th century through Victorian Lit, Dr. Lindroth, who taught (mostly) modern and American Lit, and Sr. Brigid Brady. Sr. Brigid was my mentor and my friend. She read at my wedding. She was wise and kind, and she passed away on January 1.
The first thing you might have noticed about Sister was the whiteness--white hair, white clothes (she didn't wear a habit), almost translucent white skin... Then she would talk, her voice low and deep and sweet, her conversation laced with gentle turns of phrase and dry wit. Seriously, she was Gandalf in nun-form. Incidentally she loved J.R.R. Tolkien. She was a prefect on my floor in the dormitory, and she had an "I brake for hobbits and unicorns" (or something like) on her door. We chatted often about Tolkien. In one conversation about C.S. Lewis and Tolkien and faith she recommended that I read the former's Screwtape Letters (it's good, read it). I'm pretty convinced that she was a wizard.
Sr. Brigid never rushed, especially when she talked. It might be the briefest of conversations, and you might have been in an obvious hurry--but that didn't phase her. She knew the importance of time, and taking time with people. It was a gift--one she had, and one she gave. Every word was carefully cultivated, and it came out perfectly. And by the time you left, you probably forgot why you were in such a hurry, and you felt better about things. She had that effect on people. On several occasions she ended our talks with, "go gently." You always left Sr. Brigid feeling loved.
Her written word was just as on point as her speech--and rendered with the preciseness and flourish of an illuminated manuscript. An accomplished calligrapher, Sister was an expert on Shakespeare and all things medieval. After I graduated and was a "colleague" of sorts we would get together and have lunch, or go to the Cloisters (a favorite place) or into New York for a performance. We saw Anonymous 4, and later, Benjamin Bagby when he sang his rendition of Beowulf at St. John the Divine Cathedral. Sr. Brigid read Beowulf with the flair of a bard--and she could sing, too.
Sr. Brigid encouraged me in everything I did, every word that I wrote, academic or professional. When I came back to Caldwell to get my teaching certification she told me, "we (the department) were wondering when this would happen." I was always worried that I disappointed her in some way. When I told her this she gave me her trademark skeptical brow arch (she was a master of this art). I know she followed my career, even when I didn't update her. Busy times separated visits--and at the end of this last crazy streak, she went, gently.
I would have liked to see her one last time, talked one last time... The regret is why this will be a wound that always aches. But I take comfort, sweet Sister, knowing that you sit at the table of my guardians.