Last month, in the space of a few days, I heard of the deaths of three women aged only forty or so. One - who died unexpectedly - was unknown to me: the friend of a friend, whom I had only encountered via her postings on social media. From these, though, and from what her friend has said to me, it's clear that she was a woman of great faith and love, of humour, humanity and a strong, quietly intense passion for God. These were qualities she shared with the other two, who both died after long illnesses, which enabled them to prepare themselves - and those who loved them - for their eventual deaths.
Mariola, one of our Spanish sisters, wrote a letter to her Province, parts of which they published on their website. It was a last testament, in the word's original meaning of a sign or evidence of something: in this case, of the love and grace she had received and which, she declared, were enough for her - enough for everything. And grace and love were certainly in abundance in the final weeks of the other woman, whose funeral I attended yesterday. A quiet grace, permeating her life and enabling her, even in sickness and pain, to radiate the love and goodness she had received: to do as RSCJ are called to do; as she had desired to do when she joined the Society sixteen years ago, and continued to do after she left a few years later - to discover and reveal God's love, in all the circumstances of her life.
I heard of her death on the 21st December, when the O Antiphon sings of Christ as the Rising Sun, splendour of eternal light who will enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. And on that same day, when night is at its longest - as it surely feels for all who grieve - these words from a reflection by Richard Rohr appeared in my Twitter feed:
If you are already at home in love, you will easily and quickly go to the home of love, which is what we mean by heaven.
And I am confident that for my friend, for my Spanish sister and for my friend's friend this is what has happened... And can only pray that one day, it can be so for me too...