Slider

"And Sarah Laughed": Losing Sr. Mary William

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sarah, Abraham's wife, knew who she was.
She knew she was old and more so than most, certainly not old enough to have a child.
She also knew the ridiculous when she heard it.
So, when angels came to their tent to say she was going to have a son, Sarah laughed to herself, thinking the ancient version of "yeah, right".

Deep in my Google Drive is a voice recording of Sr. Mary William Sullivan, who passed away last week at the age of 91. Her voice is raspy, yet you can still hear the energy as she shares her thoughts at the local community's house meeting. Before the tape ends, she adds her opinion to a discussion about contemplation and the very last thing she says on the recording is this:


"What I laugh about with God! And I do! I have this picture that I was given years ago....and I use it to center my prayer. And [God and I] laugh, you know....nobody ever taught us that. [speaking to the other Sisters] Our old Seminary Directress never said 'laugh with God', did she?"

Sr. Mary William on her 70th Jubilee
as a Daughter of Charity, 2013
When I met Sr. Mary William in the hallway of the retirement home, with a mischievous smile on her face, the very first sentence out of her mouth was "Did anyone ever tell you I was Sister Servant when the Sisters got arrested in Chicago?" No, no one had. And I had no idea this Daughter of Charity knew Martin Luther King Jr. and was known for her activity during the civil rights movement.
[But interestingly enough, despite the initial question, Sr. Mary William never brought up the Sisters in Chicago again despite our many visits. It was I who had to ask for the story.]

I don't remember Mary William as the one who taught me to be a voice for the voiceless, although she certainly was.
I don't remember her as the one who taught me the importance of community life, although she cherished it.
I don't remember her as the one who taught me how to be a good social worker, although she certainly had telling stories about it.

I remember Mary William as the one who taught me to be authentic with a humble heart.

She knew who she was.
She knew she was fiery and more so than most - at times where others may shrink and shrivel under the pressure of what others may think or say, Mary William stood tall.

But she also knew who she was.
She knew that fiery personality sometimes went too far.
So, she spoke up with a humble heart - she apologized for her shortcomings and spoke openly about the issues she had that still affected her, even in the retirement home, even in her old age.

She did the same with God, arguing with Him, apologizing to Him, crying to and with Him, laughing with Him. While God knows each of us through and through anyway, I truly believe He knew every part of Mary William because she opened up to Him about everything.

I already mentioned that Sarah knew who she was - old, not easily fooled, etc. But I didn't share the rest of the story. Like Mary William, Sarah also understood the rest of who she was.
Unlike Mary William's relationship with God, Sarah feared Him, which led to some mishaps. When God asked if she laughed, she immediately answered "No". Yet, with a humble heart just like Mary William, she admits it in the most unexpected way possible:

Abraham gave the name Isaac [meaning "He laughs"] to his son whom Sarah bore him....Now Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” - Genesis 21: 3,6

There is a story Sr. Mary William used to tell me about her friend Sr. Catherine Sullivan [no relation] that best describes both Mary William's and Sarah's authenticity with a humble heart. It ended with Sr. Catherine saying: "at my funeral, tell them all my friendships were particular and all my sins were original!" 

[If you'd like to read more about Sr. Mary William Sullivan, her obituary is located here on the Daughters of Charity website.]

1 comment:

  1. This is a lovely tribute to Mary William. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
CopyRight © | Theme Designed By Hello Manhattan