Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sister Sarah O'Neil

One of my mothers best friends died decades ago in the early 1980's.  I wasn't living at home when she finally left this world.  I was in California going through the final months of a really rotten marriage and wasn't anywhere near my family.

When the phone call came, I was very sad.  I hated to be so far away from what had just happened.  Sister Sarah had been a very large part of my mother's life and my childhood for as long as I can remember.  My mother and Sister Sarah had been friends since college days.

I don't know or remember the details, but they met when they were both in the novitiate (convent).  Sarah went on to become a fully fledged nun and my mother left the convent to marry my father. 

Their friendship remained.  Sister Sarah used to visit us when we lived in North Dakota.  I even remember Sister Sarah's parents visiting us.   She was a bigger part of our lives when we moved to Minnesota.  Sarah's convent was in St Paul and she was able to visit us regularly.  We also visited the convent.  I actually liked visiting Sister Sarah in the convent.  It had a huge pool table in the basement and we would play for hours.  I also liked talking to the other nuns and novices. 

Sister Sarah was a gentle and loving friend to my mother and to us kids as we appeared in the world. When my first child was born, Sister Sarah sent handmade pajamas for him.  She made a white nightgown type garment that tied at the bottom. It was perfect for an infant whose bottom needed changing often.  My son Ian wore it to bed almost every night.  Later when he got taller, I pulled the bottom cord out and he just wore it as a nightgown.

I wish I had at least one photo of Sister Sarah.  I can't believe I don't have a single one.  I have been thinking about Sister Sarah a lot today.  Of all things, it was the death of Shirley Temple Black that brings Sister Sarah's memory to the front of my mind.
When Sarah O'Neill was a little girl, she wrote a fan letter to Shirley Temple, then a big movie star that was charming the United States with her dimples, and curls.  Here was the lovely thing, Shirley Temple wrote back!  Sister Sarah had a hand written reply to her letter. It was a bit bland and may not have been written by the child star but it was a kindness that Sarah never forgot.  I don't know how long she kept the letter.  I suspect she kept it with her things up until she left home. 

Isn't it funny how the memory works and what will be a trigger to a deeper memory?


Sarah said...

Loved Sister Sarah and haven't thought about her for a while. Thanks for the post and the lovely reminder. Shirley Temple reminds me of Saturday afternoon TV movies. She was as cute as pie, but I can't remember being a huge fan. I was more of a comedy girl.

katie said...

Hi Megrit,

Sr. Sarah had a way of telling stories that were so encouraging and inspiring. You definitely had a Shirley Temple phase... now I know where it came from! Of course, the doll that I clearly remember that we could only touch at risk of our own peril. Loved this entry.