Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sr Mary Jo

 A few days ago I got an email that informed me that Sister Mary Jo's health was declining rapidly, and that she wasn't expected to make it through the weekend. I tried to prepare myself. She really didn't want visitors, so I didn't push it. I just prayed.

So tonight when I got the news, right after I had been running around my kitchen screaming over the fantastic Taylor Swift performance, I was surprised that I was so taken aback.  I had been ready for this. Wanted it, even, so that she could go peacefully. And yet I still felt that heaviness on my heart, that nervous breakdown type feeling everyone gets when they hear of a loss. I couldn't concentrate on anything, I just sat on my floor and did what I had to do- passed the word along. And prayed some more. And now, I let out my thoughts on paper.

Everyone has a mentor. I've had several. A friend, a family member, a teacher, and idol. They have come and gone throughout the years and they have shaped me into the person I am today.Three years ago I began a year of volunteer service though Mercy Volunteer Corps, a catholic volunteer organization hosted through Americorps. I was placed in Detroit at a high school. MVC is sponsored through the Sisters of Mercy, who are a group of extremely intelligent, compassionate women who have founded their own organizations and helped and healed hundreds of people.

My very first day in Detroit as an MVC-er I met Sr. Mary Jo. Instantly I was drawn to her. She was quiet, but said so much with her eyes. Sweet, genuine, loving. We were told that she had been diagnosed with cancer and was fighting strong. Mary Jo lived on the opposite end of the state, but she was our community resource person- we went to her for everything. And she became my mentor, she became my friend. She took the idea of "love in action" seriously. She did everything with love and kindness. She lived simply and beautifully.

I remember very clearly the day that Mary Jo and I started to form a close relationship. She was in town to help us out with stuff, and she offered to drive me to the pharmacy to pick up and pay for my medication that was not covered by my insurance. In our short drive to and from the store, we had this amazing conversation. The words just came out so easily- we shared a lot about ourselves. It then became a tradition of sorts- she drove me every month to pick up my medication and we’d continue our conversation wherever we left off the last time- plus we e-mailed each other often. And when Laurence died——no one else comforted me more than Mary Jo. Our retreat as a community was shortly after he passed, and at one point during the retreat I joined Mary Jo, alone, on a couch in one of the rooms. We were silent for a few moments, and then she said “He is with you, Megan”. I looked at her and she was shedding a tear. I held her hand and said “I know”. And then she read me a prayer from a mercy book about finding hope in grief.

My year with MVC ended in July 2010, but we have continued to e-mail back and forth...and every time she came into town for a meeting, we set aside time to have our chats. My face lit up when I would see her waiting for me in the lobby. We would go for a walk around the facility or eat dinner in the cafeteria, and she always lifted me up with her wisdom and encouragement. What Mary Jo probably never knew was that one of the main reasons I became an associate was because of her. I wanted to be more like her. She gave me so much confidence in myself and made me really feel like Mercy was in my bones and in my heart. She made me feel like Mercy was home.

Now that she is gone I will keep her in my heart. I will remember how she lived her life, and I will keep that in mind with each step I take. I am sad, struck by grief and wrapping my head around this loss. But I am pleased to know she is in the arms of God. I have to believe there is a very special place in heaven for her. Somewhere she can walk around as she loves to do, and where she can pull up a chair next to Catherine McAuley and enjoy a comfortable cup of tea. Sprinkle Mercy down on us, Mary Jo.

Rest in peace, Mary Jo. Thank you.

“There are no goodbyes for us. Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart.” ~ Gandhi


Nathan said... Add Reply

I just talked to Mary Ellen today and I agree that despite feeling like I would be prepared for this, I was unprepared for this. I hope you're doing okay right now. She was a rock for us in many ways and I really miss her.

Shari said... Add Reply

She sounds like a wonderful person - a bright light in the lives of so many. That will continue even now, as you hold her in your heart.

Sending many hugs and prayers <3