Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sister Mother

The Phone Call

"We found her!"

"You did? Where?"

"You're not going to believe this! But it's going to explain why she was so hard to find."

Becky* knew that a whole team of sleuths had been working on her search for months. This was back before high-speed Internet. What little was available online was painfully slow (and by-the-minute costly) to retrieve with dialup access. Those of us who could afford sets of CDs of regional phone directories felt fortunate, indeed. Much searching was done by phone and by snail mail, using various ruses to track people down without spilling the family beans.

Becky's mother wasn't listed anywhere. We could find neither a marriage nor a death record for her, so it would seem she shouldn't be that hard to find. But it was as though she had left the planet.

Until the breakthrough came, explaining it all.

"Your mother is in a convent."

"A convent? As in a nun in a convent?"

"A nun in a convent."

"Oh! Oh, now what do we do?"

"But there's more. You have a sister."

"Now I'm really confused. How can I have a sister if my mother is a nun?"

"It's a long story, and there's something else you need to know. Your mother was told, following your birth, that you were a boy and that you died."

"What? Are you serious?"

"I'm serious; I've spoken to her."

Silence; sound of sniffling.

"She wants you to write to her and send her a picture."

"To the convent?"

"Yes. She gave me permission to give you her address. And she said not to worry. Mother Superior knows all about you."

And so it began. Becky and her Sister Mother began the get-acquainted dance we're so familiar with - but with a twist unlike any other.

Recapturing a Childhood Dream

Sister Mother had been on her way to becoming a teacher when an 'unwed pregnancy' (don't you hate that term?) sidetracked her. Obeying societal and religious mandates at the time, she hid her pregnancy, gave birth - in a Michigan hospital - and intended to relinquish her baby for adoption. But even that part of her planning went awry. Her baby, a boy, died shortly after birth - or so she was told - so she felt like a double failure.

Life went on, however. She became a teacher, got married, and had another child - a daughter. But her marriage was on shaky ground and eventually ended. Yet another failure. After her daughter graduated high school, Sister Mother did an evaluation of her life to that point and pondered how to rebuild it in some meaningful way. In the evaluation process, she remembered fondly her childhood dream of becoming a nun. But would the Church let her, after all her troubled life experiences, actually become a nun?

The upshot was that she could, indeed, become a nun, but first she had to have her marriage annulled. She was already divorced, of course, but now she had to make it appear she'd never been married. This is a bit difficult for me, a Protestant, to understand, since that would seem to make her second daughter illegitimate. Be that as it may, she did what she had to do.

She was now very happy and felt satisfied and fulfilled with her new life. So would the shocking news of her thought-to-be-dead child's sudden appearance - a daughter instead of a son - destabilize everything she had worked so hard to achieve?

The Reunion

Mother Superior had known of Sister Mother's pregnancy and her 'dead' baby all along, since this had been shared with her from the first interview. Now she would need to be told of this new development and would be asked for guidance on how to handle it.

A loving Mother Superior came through with flying colors for this anxious sister. Not only did she endorse and encourage a mother-daughter reunion, but she arranged for a private apartment for them to spend some time together at the convent. It was like something out of a movie!

Witnessing all this from a distance, I made a guess that Sister Mother would leave the convent after the reunion and take up being 'mother' to her two daughters. But I was wrong.

Peace at Last

Sister Mother found peace in a way that had alluded her prior to her meeting Becky and bringing closure to that long-ago traumatic experience. Her religious fervor deepened and she was able to give herself over totally to her chosen vocation.

I didn't communicate with either mother or daughter very long beyond their reunion, but the last I knew, they - and Becky's half-sister - had settled into a comfortable, largely long-distance, relationship with occasional visits at the convent.

And I just know God was smiling on them all, including Mother Superior.

*Becky, as in all names in this series, is a pseudonym.

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