“Well, Merle, what are you going to do next?” Joseph, who hardly ever spoke, raised the question that was on everyone’s mind. “Sell the house? Travel? What?”
Merle had finished taking the empty dishes back to the kitchen, and now everyone was relaxing at the table with cookies and coffee and tea.
“I’m thinking of going to college,” Merle said.
“Wonderful, my girl!” said Sr Mary Angeline.
“A worthy goal,” said Joseph.
“But, Why???” said Dolores. “Honey, with all your money you could travel the world! Buy clothes and jewelry! Get a condo in New York and another one in L.A. and go back and forth! You can’t be serious about going to COLLEGE!”
“Well, I am going to look into it and see what I want to do with a college degree. If I can achieve my goals without going the academic route, then I will look into some other way…”
“What are your goals?” said Sr Mary Angeline. “I know at the orphanage, you were a person who could quietly console, or uplift, or inspire whatever was needed of a person at the time. You were an enabler of the best kind because you could also encourage. And you were a realist, not an idealist. So you were able to give hope to those around you, not false hope, but real insight that you saw in the people you wanted to help. You seemed to be able to see into a person – to see what they could be and do, and not just what they or their circumstances presented to the world.”
Merle said, “Sister, I have been a prisoner in a golden cell – well-fed, treated with deference, most of my earthly wants and needs provided immediately. But I meant nothing as a person. I did nothing as a person. I helped no one as a person. And I was so lonely! Until Brian came, I had no one to discuss ideas with. I didn’t realize until Jack died that everyone in this town could name Jack’s three best friends, but most people didn’t even know he was married much less what my name was. Even the minister failed to acknowledge me as Jack’s wife. I felt invisible…”
There was an awkward silence.
“And then, I fell in love with someone who loved me back unconditionally…not for whose wife I was, or how much I had, or what I looked like! And I felt EUPHORIC – ! (She looked at Sr Mary Angeline, questioningly.) Is that the right word, Sister?”
Sr Mary Angeline’s face was beaming! “Yes, my child! Euphoria is feeling great happiness or great well-being. But who is this person? I’ve never even heard you allude to anyone of this magnitude.”
“It doesn’t matter who he is. What matters is that when I met him, I realized I was capable of great depths of feeling that I had never before encountered! Suddenly, someone I cared for loved ME! Just as I was, just who I was. And I wanted to share being loved with the world! With everyone in the world! But I realized that in order to be at my best, I had to challenge every part of me: how I look, how to learn things beyond my own interests, things that can help others; how to interact with others through humor and concern and information. How to become wise…
And, thanks to Lucille, I know how to look my best! And because she sees different sides of me, she can help me present my best self to the world in any situation. Thanks to her, I was perceived as being serious yet attractive at the reading of Jack’s will. She has already shown me a ‘look’ for being academically serious, yet approachable. She has shown me possibilities that I could never see in my miror.
“Remember at the orphanage, Sister? I wasn’t really interested in a whole lot of things, and I chose as my friends those girls who shared my interests. Well, now I want to try a lot of different things to be able to feel what others are feeling – what’s that called, Sister?”
“Empathy, dear child! Being able to understand what others are experiencing.”
“And I wanted to be able to be silly, or happy, or snicker at the least little thing! I wanted to feel…what is it, Sister, that wells up inside a person that makes you giggle and laugh that is so cleansing, and so mood-altering…?”
“JOY! That’s joy! Oh, my blessed child! The Lord has given you a great task! You will bring Love and Joy and Understanding to God’s people wherever you are on Earth!”
Joseph had quietly placed his hand over Dolores’s hand.
Dolores said, “I envy you, Merle. You may not know exactly what you want to do or where you want to do it, but you sure do know who you want to do it with!”
Sr Mary Angeline cleared her throat. “With whom you want to do it, Dolores.”
And then she giggled, and laughter flew all around the table!
Dolores looked at Sr Mary Angeline and said: “I don’t believe you’re a real nun. I mean, I KNOW you are, but I never saw any nuns like you in our orphanage. All they wanted to do was to hurt us and humiliate us kids. There wasn’t any love there. There were no friendships, nobody helped anybody. We each just tried to survive the best we could. There was no encouragement or any teaching or training. I mean, when you corrected me just then, I had no idea what I was supposed to have said, but I will remember the correct usage because you cared enough about me to teach me. And then, too, I love how you giggle!”
“Dolores, even though I never met you until today, Merle has told me of the difficult upbringing that you and Jack experienced. May I now consider you my child, just as I consider Merle my child? I want you to know that Sister Mary Delmas was an aberration, a departure from the norm, who in no way represents the presence of God in women who chose to serve Him. I want to offer my services to you to talk any time of the night or day about anything that comes into your mind or your life that reminds you of your torment. You can recover from a lot of these memories, and you can learn methods of dealing with the triggers that set them off. All my numbers are listed inside the packet I am giving you. So call me any time.
“Remember: evil people always are damaged people. The more evil they exhibit, especially to those under their influence or control, the more damage their souls have been subjected to. These people have not been loved and therefore are without God. They are literally, God-less. Ordinary people cannot hope to stand against them without the presence of God in their lives. But sometimes we can do extraordinary things if we have been practicing one thing: Love. We have only one definition of God and that is, GOD IS LOVE.
“To Love is not easy. It demands everything within us to constantly be at attention and to seek out those who need our love the most. We all have the seeds of Love within us and Love can grow at any time. But we have to nurture it, feed and water it, and constantly check two things. First, is what I did or am thinking of doing the Loving thing to do? If we choose Love every time, then Love becomes our default position and we Grow in Love. Second, we must honor the good sense that God gave us. We must hone the skill of discernment, the process of exhibiting keen insight and good judgement, to advance God’s goals through us. We don’t need to be viewed as the nutcase that stands on a street corner and yells out “God loves you!” That only serves to bring attention to ourselves. But to seek out those in need every day while simultaneously developing our own radar beacon, well, that takes commitment and focus and purpose! And that is no job for sissies!”
Merle said, “I don’t believe I have ever heard the term ‘Radar Beacon’, Sister. What is it?”
“Let me give you the dictionary definition. “A Radar Beacon is a fixed device that sends or receives, or amplifies, alters, and returns a radar signal, permitting a distant receiver to determine its bearing.” We are the beacons and God’s Love is the signal. I think God has chosen some of us to function in this way to participate in a gigantic communication community that can accomplish more together than only one of us can. So we must seek out, identify, and align with those other ‘beacons’ so that God’s great work can be accomplished on an incredible scale!”
Sr Mary Angeline reached in her rather large handbag, which she had put at her feet when they came to the table, pulled out a couple of large manila envelopes and laid them on the table in front of her.
“You girls are living in wonderful times! Even though the world as we know it may seem to be crumbling around us, there are miracles zipping through the ether, swirling around our heads and piercing our hearts as surely as well-aimed arrows! It will soon be made known to you – and to me – what our part will be in bringing these miracles to fruition. I have proof of this and I am sharing that proof with you (giving each girl an envelope) because you are going to be doing great things! When you read what is inside these envelopes, you will have a clearer idea of what God wants you to do, so read these few pages with an open mind and a searching heart. You have each other to lean on and to talk to and to encourage. And Dolores, you have Joseph, whom I believe to be God-sent, to help you through the rest of your life, but also to help you enjoy the rest of your life! You both have money, management skills, and the ability to see the magic in others! You literally CAN make dreams come true!
“You each knew Jack as a troubled soul who struggled every day with demons we can’t imagine, but who was actively nurturing the Godbits that were in him, and who was making a positive difference at the time of his death. Be proud of the man that he was struggling so hard to become, and help his dreams come true. Those dreams are outlined in his will and now that Donovan is out of the picture, someone is needed to take ownership of those dreams and activate them. Use your money and your time and your presence to stir them up, pour them out on people who have never dared to dream, and stand back to watch what happens!”
Merle and Dolores and even Joseph had stars in their eyes! What a motivational speaker this little nun was!
Clearing his throat, Joseph said: “I hate to break this up, ladies, but Dolores and I have a plane to catch, so we need to be going.”
“Oh, no! Wait just one more minute! Dolores, I must ask you about Jack’s allergy to apples…” Merle was stopped by the puzzled look on Dolores’s face.
“His allergy to…Oh, my gosh! He told you he was allergic to apples?”
“Yes, and I had to be so careful not to buy anything that might have any part of the apple in it because he said he might die if he ate apples.”
“Jack never had an allergy to apples. He didn’t like the taste of apples, especially the pithy ones, but when the nuns told him he HAD to ‘eat an apple a day to keep the doctor away’, he saw his opportunity to control a little piece of his world and he took it! You see, if any kid got sick, the doctor would be called in, and if a kid died, well then there would be an investigation and the orphanage would be under scrutiny from the State from then on. But allergic to apples? No.”
Merle was speechless. Only she knew the full impact of Dolores’s words on Merle’s future.
The only thing she could think of were these words from Sir Walter Scott: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” But Sir Walter Scott’s murders were plotted and carried out in a book. Jack’s murder had been plotted in church, the murder weapon had been fashioned in Jack’s kitchen and the murder had taken place in Jack’s easy chair in front of the fireplace in Jack’s own den. What part of all these decisions would Sr Mary Angeline say was the Loving decision?