Mourning Mary Ann

by Melannie Svoboda SND on January 9, 2017

My sister, Mary Ann Hartman, passed away a few weeks ago after a brief illness. She was 77. A widow, the mother of five and grandmother of nine, she was my only sister and my best friend.

Mary Ann

The day before Thanksgiving she learned she had cancer in her stomach, liver, and kidneys. Prior to this diagnosis, she was essentially asymptomatic. Mary Ann declined chemo and dialysis, saying, “It’s all in God’s hands.” And later, “I’m ready to die.” She died ten days later in hospice surrounded by her children, their spouses, a couple of grandchildren, and me.

Losing a loved one is always difficult. But losing a loved one right before Christmas is especially hard. Here are a few of my thoughts taken from my journal during those first few weeks after her death. Though the grieving process is different for everyone, maybe something here might speak to your own experience of loss.

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+ The sympathy cards keep pouring in. And I appreciate every one—honest I do. But today I wanted to say, “Enough already!” Each card underscores the gravity of my loss.

+ People ask, “How are you, Melannie?” How do I answer that? Do I say, “Fine”? No. My sister is gone. How could I be fine? From now on, my “fine” will always be tempered by the loss of Mary Ann.

+ I wish I had had more time to talk with Mary Ann those last few days. And I wish she had had more strength to stay awake and speak to us, to me. But there I go again, trying to orchestrate the perfect death…instead of giving thanks for all the time we did have with her as she lay dying. And all those countless times over the years that I did have to talk with her—whether on the phone, across the table in a restaurant, beside her on her couch, with her in the park, next to her in the car. I tell myself, “Regret less. Give thanks more.”

+ Christmas cards are mixed in with sympathy cards. Before I open a card I try to guess: Christmas or Sympathy? The hardest to read right now are the Christmas cards—especially from people who haven’t yet heard “the news.” All that bright cheer amid my dark sorrow. It’s almost too much to bear.

+I feel strangely immune from pain. With Mary Ann’s death, I’ve been dealt one of the hardest blows life can give. And yet, here I am still alive. Limping from the blow, yes. But still walking.

Mary Ann with me circa 1954.

+ It’s her fault my grief is so great. If only she hadn’t loved me so much. If only we hadn’t gotten along so well. If only we hadn’t enjoyed each other’s company so much. If only I hadn’t loved her so much. If only. If only.

+ When I crawled into bed last night, the tears came. Finally. I haven’t cried since the funeral. But last night in the darkness, I cried on and off until after midnight. The tears didn’t pour out. They trickled out. I whimpered more than sobbed. My mind was flooded with questions: How could she have been filled with cancer and nobody know it? Not her. Not her doctor. There’s anger in my question. If we had only known, maybe she could have received treatment. Maybe she would have had more time with us. But then I hear her words, “It’s all in God’s hands.” She really believed that. Can I?

+ She died with such courage, such dignity. Though she slept a lot, she was easily roused when family came to see her. Lori would whisper, “Mom, Zach’s here (Lori’s college age son).” Or, “Aaron (another son studying in Colorado) is on the phone. He wants to talk to you, Mom.” And Lori held the phone by her ear. Mary Ann listened, nodded a few times, and ended the “conversation” with a soft, “I love you too.”

+ She told us she was ready to die. But how did she “get ready”? She got ready by embracing the challenges and blessings life set before her: by being faithful to her husband, by raising five children, by working at the deli, by welcoming in-laws and grandchildren into the circle of her love, by doing small acts of kindness for her neighbors, by praying every day, by appreciating the beauties of nature, by feeding the birds, by volunteering at the animal shelter. She got ready by dealing with ambiguity, sorrow, disappointments, loneliness, worry, and fears with her gentle yet steady faith. She got ready to die the way we all get ready to die: by the way we live our life.

Mary Ann (center) with her family at her 70th birthday party. Her ninth grandchild was born after this picture was taken.

+My friends have given me permission to do whatever I need to do these days. Cocoon. Or be with people. Write. Read. Sleep. Clean a bathroom. Sit and stare out the window (which I’m getting good at). The ones who best understand my needs, are the ones who have already been where I am now.

+I had forgotten how tired grieving makes you.

+I will miss being known so well.

+I feel as if I’m walking around in a envelope of grief. Part of me wants to break out. Part of me wants to stay inside.

+Aaron said to Lori as she drove him to the airport after the funeral. “I was thinking, Mom. I lost my grandmother, but you lost your mother…” And his voice trailed off. Lori had tears in her eyes when she told me this. I have tears now as I write this. Mary Ann’s death has poured down blessings on all of us. One blessing: the deeper realization of how much we mean to each other.

I chose a simple song by Marty Haugen: “We Walk by Faith and Not by Sight.” Not only are the words appropriate for Mary Ann, so too are the images: flowers, ponds, pathways, ducks. May our deceased loved ones who now see God “in full and endless sight” help us to maintain our belief that God is always near.

What has been your experience with grief?

Does this reflection or this song evoke any thoughts or feelings in you? Any you would like to share with us?

{ 63 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary Ries January 9, 2017 at 5:13 am

Dear Sister Melannie – what a beautiful tribute to your sister and the love you shared. Thank you for sharing your very personal journey of grief. I too have only one sister (she is my only sibling) and we have grown incredibly close over the years. I can only imagine the sorrow I would feel should she die before me. A handout I have on praying the glorious mystery of the Assumption of Mary suggests meditating on the grace of a happy death ; sounds like that is what transpired for your sister.

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Sr, Bobbi Bussan January 9, 2017 at 10:56 am

Dear Melannie,

I am saddened to read your best friend and sister died. What a loss. I appreciated your sharing your deepest thoughts from your journal. May you find peace as your mourn and in the days to come. Life goes forward but never the same. I trust Mary Ann is with peace and joy in the Lord. God bless.

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John Hopkins January 9, 2017 at 5:27 am

Dear Melannie,

“She got ready by dealing with ambiguity…” “I will miss being known so well.” Such beautiful and profound words for your beautiful and profound sister.

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Doris January 9, 2017 at 5:51 am

How difficult it must have been to write this post. Thank you for sharing such personal insights in your grief. Although we do grieve each in our own ways, you describe many common experiences. One insight in particular resonates with me this morning, “Regret less. Give thanks more.”

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Kathleen Magiera January 9, 2017 at 5:58 am

Sister Melannie,

Thanks for sharing your heart so honestly about your sister’s death. Your words rang within me since I have lost 7 people to death since August 2015. Half of them without warning.

When my brother-in-law died suddenly at 47, I walked around telling folks that I was sick, sad, and tired as I finished teaching the semester. It gave me permission to just do as much as I could in those early days last spring.

You are in thoughts and prayers.

Kathleen

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Denise Wiseman January 9, 2017 at 7:18 am

Dear Sister,
I too am experiencing an intense grief for a person who yet walks with me physically. Your comments remind me to focus on what I have, not on what has slipped away. Thank you.

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Eileen January 9, 2017 at 7:00 pm

There is nothing like holiday grief. My mom, my best friend, died on Dec. 6, St. Nicholas Day. She loved Christmas and gift giving and all that the holidays bring. I have no sister so she was my confidant, my support my “girlfriend”. It does get better but still brings a tear even after many years. Perhaps it’s because we loved and were loved so much that the grief twists our heart into a tight knot. How blessed we both are that we were loved so completely. Bless you and thank you.

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Donna Pointkouski January 9, 2017 at 8:10 am

Sister,

What a beautiful tribute to your sister. May she Rest In Peace and may you and her family cherish her memory forever and find comfort.

I lost my father last summer (he was almost 82). I had never experienced the death of a parent before, and I recognized my own feelings in much of what you wrote above.

Thank you
Donna

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Kathy Donnermeyer January 9, 2017 at 9:09 am

Sister Melannie,

Thank you for sharing your grieving, and giving us a little insight into the love you have for your sister. This reflection is beautiful, and must have taken great courage to write.

I’m remembering a cousin of mine, who I was very close to, who died young. It was very sudden, and was probably the first time I really thought about my own mortality.

My favorite line – “She got ready to die the way we all get ready to die: by the way we live our life.”

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Andre Sequeira January 9, 2017 at 9:23 am

Dear Sr Melanie

Thank-you for sharing your very personal journey in relation to the passing of your dear sister Mary Ann. No matter who we are or what the situation is, we all seem to go through the same though thought processes. However it is only faith that helps us to see at this difficult time. It is a blessing that the Lord truly prepared Mary Ann both in life and in accepting her death. We all pray for the similar grace to live our lives with no regrets and be ready when we are called. Though you live and work in the field of faith and spirituality, thank-you for giving yourself the permission to be human and walk the journey. You also continued to to send us your weekly blogs while honouring Mary Ann with a special tribute today. When I lost my young wife many years ago, our priest said that my wife would continue to live in my heart which I found very comforting at the time and subsequently proved correct. Be assured of the love and prayers of your on-line friends.

Andre
Perth, Western Australia

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Susan January 9, 2017 at 10:01 am

God bless you, Sister Melannie. Thank you.

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Mary Bunting January 9, 2017 at 4:36 pm

So sorry to hear of the death of your beloved sister. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings of this very personal experience. May you be comforted by a loving God who knows you most inner most thoughts & feelings.

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Janet Schaeffler January 9, 2017 at 10:07 am

Melannie —

You’re in my thoughts and prayers. May your deep love and precious memories always keep her close.

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Sister Lois Wedl, OSB January 9, 2017 at 10:13 am

Oh, dear Sister Melanie. My heart aches with yours. I can’t imagine what it is to have your one and only sister die and so suddenly. Thanks for sharing the mixture of feelings you are going through at this time. Truly, feelings are what they are . . . neither good or bad . . . but gifts God knew we’d need so he gave them to us when he created us. My love and prayers are with you during this time when your sister is more present than ever. Lovingly, Sister Lois Wedl . . . Benedictine Sister from St. Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota.

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Suzanne Sayer January 9, 2017 at 10:14 am

A beautiful, loving tribute to your sister. Praying for you and all her family.

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Mary Jo Kozar January 9, 2017 at 10:27 am

On January 1, 2015, my sister died. On that day my only thought was my heart was broken…it still is. You are so correct your “fine” is forever changed. My thoughts and prayers are with you and her family.

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Kathi S January 9, 2017 at 11:01 am

Thank you for sharing your grief. We also suffered a loss just before Christmas–my husband’s beloved sister Dorothy. So many similarities: seemingly healthy person diagnosed with multiple cancers, dying in a few short weeks…. the loss felt so keenly at Christmastime. Melannie, you spoke comforting words to me days after my mother’s passing two years ago. Now I share your grief and pray you will find comfort in your family, your memories, your faith, and that you always feel your sister close, knowing she’s always in your heart. Many blessings and much love.

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Rita Rings January 9, 2017 at 11:03 am

Your writing has blessed me this morning. I thank you for your sharing your gifts even at a most difficult time and I thank God for His gifts to all of us. I will be pondering your message and translate it to action somehow, someway in honor of Mary Ann’s life.

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Jean January 9, 2017 at 11:18 am

Ah, sisters, there is nothing like them. I am so sad for you. Hugs and prayers.

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noelle anderson January 9, 2017 at 11:58 am

Thank you for sharing. Grief is difficult. Thank God for wonderful memories. I lost my 42 year old daughter, a medical doctor with two small children. I thank God that I was able to help take care of her for the last two years of her life. It was a blessings. Know that you are not alone. Many blessings and prayers.

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Gloria Denos January 9, 2017 at 11:27 am

Hi Sr. Melannie,
I don’t respond to your posts; usually simply read & appreciate your thoughtful insights! This one was “spoken” to me – I just had a student come in who needed to talk – she had just found her great aunt who had passed away over the weekend. It’s not easy to comfort her in trying to help her understand grief! More importantly, I understand losing a sibling. My older brother Jim has been gone for a little over 2 years, my mom’s death came a short 8 months later. I think her heart was broken after Jim passed. I was with him during those final hours before he left, but the hole in my heart where he was – will never heal. I miss him beyond words! I know he is in a better place; that God’s ways are not our ways….yet I miss him so much! I never knew you could physically miss someone in your life! Please know of my thoughts & prayers for your loss!
– Gloria

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Maryanne V. Tuite January 9, 2017 at 11:40 am

Dear Melanie,
Yes, what a beautiful tribute to Mary Ann. Your phrase ‘I will miss being known so well’ resonated as I lost someone who did know me better than I knew myself in 2009. However, I still have my only sibling, a younger sister, and yes I can only imagine all you are experiencing. I submit some comforting words of John Shea: “Each person is a mission of Love sent to stir Love in others. When this happens God is glorified, the work is accomplished, and life is complete.” Mary Ann will forever be in your heart and I will pray for your broken heart.

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carolyn January 9, 2017 at 11:45 am

Sr. Melannie, In 1960, I lost my precious sister, instantly, victim of a drunk-driving accident. She was 19 and I was 20..my only sibling. My parents chose to grieve privately, never in front of me. I followed their lead and never really “let it out”. Now, all these years later, I have made a scrapbook for her..photos, memories, etc. It feels so healing to look at it, and finally “cry it out”. You were so blessed to have your sister for so many years. Peace to you.

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Theresa Jungers January 9, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Dear Melanie,
Thank you so much for sharing your grief and loss. I have been consoled in my own loss of my beloved Sister from cancer on Dec. 19, 2011. I remember her daily and feel her presence. Please know that I am with you in love, gratitude and prayer.

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Jean Shott January 9, 2017 at 12:26 pm

Mom died 9 years ago. Your post makes it as fresh as yesterday. We “lost” her to dementia several years before she passed. I still find myself wishing I could talk to her, get her take on something as trivial as an old TV show she used to watch. Your whole family was filled with special people – I treasure you all. Remember all the good times with Mary Ann. She would not want you to grieve too long.

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Sue January 9, 2017 at 12:44 pm

Sr. Melannie, I lived so many of the same thoughts and feelings when my father died in December, 2013. God Bless You! I will keep you close in prayer. Your words comfort me and I hope my words can provide a small amount of comfort to you. Bless you in your grief and mourning.
Praying for God’s peace and grace,
Sue

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Sister Marianne January 9, 2017 at 1:31 pm

I am so sorry Sr. Melanie!
I lost my sister, Jeanette after a 12 day illness on April 7, 2016. How I resonate with what you say. No time to talk to them. Why didn’t we know how sick she was? Why didn’t we go with her to the doctor? Way too soon to lose her. I do have other siblings but this was my fist sibling lost. We were very close too and did a lot of sharing. I was at your retreat in Maine and we spoke of loss then. Do know I am praying for you during this very difficult time. God Bless YOU!

Sister Marianne Mader S.P.

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Cathy January 9, 2017 at 1:44 pm

Dear, dear Sister Melannie,
I am so very sorry for your loss and your pain.
I hope the love and prayers sent your way help you as you grieve.
Two thoughts are prompted as I read your blog:
What a beautiful scene of love is depicted in the photo of your sister with her family! That is her legacy.
Your great gift is putting into words what we feel in our human experience. I am grateful to you for that.
Hugs and hugs

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Jane January 9, 2017 at 1:51 pm

I am moved to tears by your beautiful tribute to your sister. I was privileged to meet her last summer at Chautauqua and I realize how special she was and is.
My only sister lives around the corner here in Florida and we have many special times together. I will treasure them even more now.
Be blessed in every way as your journey continues. Know the blessing you offer to all who read your precious words.

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Beverly Palumbo, RSM January 9, 2017 at 1:56 pm

Thank you….as have you I know grief as well….
We have met on several occasions at Sea Isle and Merion where you shared your faith with us on retreat.
God is with you…you continue to inspire me by your deep humanness and deep faith. Go gently dear sister….God is with you…My prayerful support….

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Marilyn T. Sabatino, S.N.D. January 9, 2017 at 2:10 pm

My dear Melannie, Your sister is smiling on you for that great tribute and for many other reasons! I remember her well but of course from our younger years,,,since we have not seen each other in a very long time…….she was as proud of you as you are of her! Holding your grief in prayer and in heart…as I also continue to grief the loss of mary Frances.

Yet as time goes by we will still feel the closeness of them, for love lives on forever and continues to encourage us, hold us dear, helps us to grow to be better persons, and perhaps most of all helps us to die well.

love you, Marilyn

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Loretta January 9, 2017 at 2:27 pm

Thanks for your message. Today was the anniversary of my premee twins death 42 yrs ago. Thanks again for your loving thoughts

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Nancy Connor January 9, 2017 at 2:52 pm

Dear Melannie,
My heart hurts for you. I lost my husband of 50 years so I know your grief. I am 77 and my only sister is 76 and not in good health. I am going to call her right now because of your reminder that we don’t know how much time we have to say the things we should. Lean on your faith. Thank you for all the pleasure and encouragement I receive from your writings.

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Mary Fran January 9, 2017 at 2:52 pm

Mel,
Thank you for sharing as you did. You have been in my thoughts and heart each day since learning how ill Mary Ann was and how quickly all changed for her, you and her family.
I shall say no more and not intrude… I’m here whenever …
Mary Fran

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Gayle Wentland January 9, 2017 at 3:36 pm

SR.Melanie, I too lost a dear sister and felt I had lost my best friend. There something about the closeness of a sibling that devastates us. I try to be grateful to God for having given me this precious person to love for awhile. A priest told me, “just because someone dies, it doesn’t mean love stops.”

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Mary Ann Yenc Gaster January 9, 2017 at 3:52 pm

I lost my husband weeks before Mary Ann died. I am tempted to share my grief journey, but your journey mirrors mine. I am so grateful for the sweet moments I had with my beloved groom. They say the passage of time helps dull the pain, but the pain reminds me that I am human and vulnerable, depending on a good God and my family and friends. I pray you find comfort and peace.

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Kim January 9, 2017 at 4:41 pm

Beautiful words. Thank you for sharing your grief. Your sister sounds like she was a lovely woman. What a role model. The line that you wrote is so true; ” how we get ready to die, is the way we live our lives (each day)”. To love is to risk loss. Love-such a warm blessing-what would we do without it? God bless.

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Barbara January 9, 2017 at 4:44 pm

My sister, my best friend, Mary Sue, died in 2003 of cancer. I know what you are going through. What helped me was to keep her close in my thoughts and plans. I would think about her every day and discuss things with her. I still do. May you find her close to you, always.

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Marla January 9, 2017 at 5:02 pm

Oh Melannie, did not know until reading this post. I walk with you in this deepest loss. There is so little to say to one whose heart is broken because she too loved much.

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Nancy Frederico January 9, 2017 at 6:11 pm

Dear Sr. Melannie

The courage and grace your sister displayed will be the healing balm for you when you need it most. Thank you for sharing your deep love and gratitude with all of us.

Nancy Frederico

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Laura Pennybaker January 9, 2017 at 7:20 pm

Dear Sister,
Your words are of great comfort. My dearest friend recently lost her sister, her sister was so close to my heart. We were friends over thirty five years, and our lives were entwined for so long…later in life we were separated by circumstances. Until this past summer, as Mary (her sister)and I talked more, I realized that the separation could not go on, God spoke to me, and thru his grace, we were able to speak, and make amends…How I loved her, only for her to die four days later. Her sister, Mary, and the whole family mourn her death, though we know she walks with God, for she was truly loving and kind, we mourn the beautiful spirit she was. I called her friend, but she was the sister of my heart. Your beautiful words resonated with me, for my grief, is silent and tiring……I pray for peace to come to our hearts, and to yours as well. It’s just such a difficult thing to express. But Arlene was truly generous in her love for her family, friends and faith….and her dear sister, Mary whom I also call friend, is beside herself,
It was just so sudden, and so devastating…..we muddle thru, but the words written at the end “we walk by faith, not by sight” was her…..we donated a outdoor bench with that very inscription, to be dedicated in the spring, to The Shrine of Mariapoch. Our hearts are still very bruised….my sincest sympathies…..I know my post is wordy ,,,but you have no idea, how amazing your words are to me…..you see a friend of mine insisted I sign up to read sun flower seeds last year, her name was Cheryl. She lost her battle to cancer a month before loosing Arlene……life is certainly precious and fleeting, and being called home can truly come at any time, Gods time.
Peace be with you.

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Steve Grant January 9, 2017 at 7:25 pm

Sister:
It is so easy for us lay people to forget that our priests and professed brothers and sisters are still human just like us. You have the same struggles. I always love your writing, but this piece especially hit home. God bless!

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Maryann January 9, 2017 at 7:58 pm

Sr. Melannie, My heart and prayers go out to you at such a sad time. What courage it took for you to write about and to share this difficult chapter in your life. Your message, “Regret less. Give thanks more,” resonated with me. It reminds me of a message that I cherish from Sr. Mary Caron, SND: “There is a faithful, never-changing God in control. Every day begins and ends with God’s purpose.” It’s hard for us to know God’s purpose though, and I imagine that we all have a lot of questions for him! I read somewhere about the importance of knowing love; that for all of our regrets, we can say that the person we miss did know love. Your sister surely knows your love for her. God bless you and your family.
Maryann Mraz

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S. Pat Newhouse, SC January 9, 2017 at 9:17 pm

S. Melanie, thanks for sharing about your sister, Mary Ann. The happy memories you shared together will keep her close to you in the years to come. Be assured of my continued prayers and sympathy for you and your family.

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Colleen Schuster January 9, 2017 at 10:53 pm

Sister Melannie,
I am so sorry to hear of the passing of your sister. As you know, my mom passed shortly after Christmas in 2014, after a brief but courageous battle with melanoma. My dad passed away in May of 2016. It is a very sad, strange feeling not having your parents. I am overcome at times with waves of grief. They are on my mind every day, and I remind myself that they are now together watching over my sisters and me. We have grown closer since the deaths of our parents and continue to keep their memory and traditions alive for our families, their beloved grandchildren. Continue to keep the memory of your sister alive for her children and grandchildren. I still take comfort in the words you said to me after my mom died… that she is ahead of us at the finish line, waiting for us to complete our earthly race. She is in the best hands, the hands of God. And she is with you always. Please know you are in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.
Love, Colleen (McFarland) Schuster

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Mary Schneider January 10, 2017 at 9:03 am

Sr Melannie:

I too am a Mary Ann, age 77. My older sister Helen died of pancreatic cancer with multiple metastases, in 2011. I was especially close to her, we shared a double bed for many years as children. Now I have her funeral card with picture and scripture verse on the refrigerator. Finally I have come to realize she is now my intercessors in heaven,I stop each day to talk to her. The pain has lessened and I am finally happy for this sister and mother of 7 that she is at home with God. May He comfort and bless you!

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Carol McH January 10, 2017 at 11:17 am

Melannie,

My heart weeps with you! Thank you for opening yourself to us.

Carol

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Sr. Therese Demers,ssa January 10, 2017 at 11:29 am

Dear Melanie,
What a beautiful tribute to your sister! You made me cry. Thank you for
sharing your feelings.
I do know what it feels to loose love ones. I lost my parents, brothers-in-law, very dear friends and students. But I do fear the lost of my sister and
brother who are younger than I.
My prayers and sympathy are with you.

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Diana January 10, 2017 at 12:37 pm

Melannie,
This reflection is so heartfelt, Melannie.
No words or actions will ease losing Maryann.
My prayer for you is simply, to breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
Love,
Di

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Melannie Svoboda SND January 10, 2017 at 1:23 pm

Dear Readers, I want to thank all of you who have read this week’s post–but especially to those who responded to it. This post has received more responses than any other one I’ve written. What does that tell me? It tells me that everyone has experienced loss of some kind. It tells me that some elements of the grieving process are similar for us. It reminds me to be gentle with others, for we never know the burdens and sorrows they bear. And finally, this large number of responses speaks to me of your sensitivity, your goodness, and (above all) your faith. Thank you for your openness and your willingness to share with all of us who form this “sunflower seeds community.” Gratefully, Melannie

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Sue January 10, 2017 at 2:04 pm

Losing a loved one is so personal. I’ve always feared how I will “react” in the moment. But, I know God is always by our side to get us through it.
Your writings are all so beautiful, even the sad ones. My heart goes out to you for your loss.
God be with you,

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JoAnn Welch January 10, 2017 at 2:30 pm

Thanks, Sr. Melanie…thank you for your tender words of grief. My only sister and best friend, Mary Beth, and I have spoken about who will go “first”… We will really need Faith as it will be extememly hard on one of us. Prayer is definitely a necessity at the time of extreme pain and sorrow. May your year be comforted by knowing she is now in the arms of our ever loving God. Peace.

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Barbara Donahue January 10, 2017 at 4:20 pm

Dear Sr. Melanie:
Beautifully written and a tremendous tribute to your sister, Maryann. You are correct in saying you were blessed you were having her as long as you did. Many siblings never get that close. Cherish the memories. Time heals all and a smile will someday return to your face when you re-live all the wonderful times you shared with your best friend. Be at peace knowing that she is in God’s kingdom now, surrounded only by love and the utmost peace. She will watch over you, I am sure and send you the energy you need to heal body, mind and soul.

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Pat January 10, 2017 at 7:00 pm

Dear Melannie,
How tender you are ! Thanks for being so open and insightful with this time of loss and mourning. Yes, you are walking in an envelope of grief and all your daily experiences are colored with the lens of I lost my sister, I want to have my best friend to share with.
It touched me when you said ‘it is her fault my grief is so great. If only I hadn’t loved her so much.’ Yet we wouldn’t give up one second of the loved experiences we had together. And as her physical presence is ripped out of my physical world it hurts. I have to keep looking for all those mystical presences that will make her presence known.
I am with you in prayer and support. Thank God you have friends who have given you to cocoon, clean, be with them or be by yourself.

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Tom January 10, 2017 at 10:15 pm

What a response, and so rightly deserved. I just came across a quote from Fiona Stafford: “To make landscape a place, you have to feel it.” Obviously, all of us who have responded to this particular blog have traveled over the ‘landscape’ of personal loss, but may have struggled to feel it deeply, making it difficult to inhabit it as our ‘place.’ Your willingness to be vulnerable by describing the feelings associated with the loss of Mary Ann has helped us to turn our ‘landscape’ into our ‘place.’

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John Frauenfelder January 11, 2017 at 1:26 am

Dear SrMelanie,,
Your words brought me to an understanding of and appreciation for the beautiful person of your sister, but also I came to see you anew through this beautiful journey with your sister. Timely words and reflection for me as I walk with my 99 year old Mum and learning to know her anew in her current situation. You challenge me to “walk by faith” in these difficult days. Thank you.
John,
Australia

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Michelle January 12, 2017 at 12:43 pm

My father died in November 2014…he had been battling cancer for a few years and we knew palliative care was most likely just around the corner but he suddenly died and it hit my mom hard (he was still at home and going out, just the day prior to his death he was out with his sister and cousin for lunch; but the next day something wasn’t right and my brother called an ambulance and he died just after arriving in the hospital – only my brother was with him – my mom was coming with my sister-in-law since my brother went in the ambulance). She still is berating herself for not going in the ambulance and being there for him at the time of his death.

When I read ” The sympathy cards keep pouring in. And I appreciate every one—honest I do. But today I wanted to say, “Enough already!” Each card underscores the gravity of my loss.” it made me think of my mom and how she found the cards just kept making her feel the gaping wounded emptiness of her heart after losing her husband of 51 years. One day she just passed all the sympathy cards to me and said “I can’t deal with these – take them”. So I did. That Christmas I gave her 2 of your books (she always like your reflections in her “Living Faith” booklet) and you helped to soothe her soul. Thank you for this.

Do we ever stop grieving? I don’t think so, it just changes in intensity and we start to learn to live with it. After 2 years my mom struggles with her grief and admits she would just like to die too. She is only 72 and I hope she has many more years. I pray that she becomes aware of God’s healing touch in her life. And may you feel God’s healing touch in your life as well.

And when Thanksgiving and Christmas arrive next year and your heart begins to ache for the loss of your sister’s presence remember that it is only her physical presence that is absent but she is spiritually with you.
One day you will be with her glorifying the Lord together forever. This thought helped me get through the first Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Peace be with you.

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nan January 13, 2017 at 9:44 am

Is it right or wrong to grieve someone’s death before they die, Melannie? I wonder if you did, and how did you cope with it? Is one
stronger because of knowing their death is inevitable and sorrow will
lessen when it comes? Does that give me more time to accept God’s will? I was grieving one of my religious sister’s death as soon as I heard of her prognosis. Now I am doing that again, for another SND and for my own sister.

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Madeleine January 13, 2017 at 9:24 pm

Just heard about your sister Mary Ann, so sorry. I know how sisters are best friends. My only younger sister just went through cancer & is doing better. Know u are in my thoughts and prayers. Peace and love

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Bridget January 14, 2017 at 6:56 am

Thank you.

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MaryJane January 16, 2017 at 11:24 am

Thank you, Sister, for your beautiful words. My heart and prayers are with you. I am so happy for you that you were able to be with your sister and “walk her home.” Your sister’s full life is an inspiration to me, and she will be my guide as I strive to love Jesus more as this new year begins.

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Pat January 26, 2017 at 11:11 am

I just read this entry now. My heart cries as you express so well our own deepest feelings when someone at one with us dies . . . I miss my own sister even more and found it difficult to get in touch with the pain . . . you have helped me and now perhaps healing is possible. Thank you.

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Fran T February 18, 2017 at 12:24 am

Dear Sister,
I lost my husband 4.5yrs ago. I am a mother of 5 grown up children w 3 grandchildren. I am so blessed w these children of ours. In spite of been years ago, I still feel the pain, the loneliness of missing my beloved husband. Reading thru some of the comments of your friends, it gives me comfort that I am not alone in this world. I love God & I have faith in Him & I think this is what’s holding me up to this day. Your sister & my husband are all in peace. It’s us here In this world that are suffering & in much pain. However, thru Gods goodness & blessings, we managed to be happy & live each day to the fullest as if it’s our last day.
God bless you & much prayers to you & your family!

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