The Good People
One of the Yaya sisters died. Actually, she wasn’t one of the eight Yayas who meet monthly for lunch, but she was the roommate of one of the Yayas. Her name was Carol. Carol lived with Yaya Marie and Marie’s sister, Caroline. They were all nuns back in the day, who left the sisterhood to move to the Cape, where they taught school. Marie also worked as a telephone operator. They lived in a small three-bedroom house where there now will be two.
I went to Carol’s memorial mass this morning. Forty-five fabulous minutes at a simple Catholic church on the Cape (where Caroline Kennedy was married, actually). Some of the congregation were just there for their morning mass, complete with communion. Those of you who follow my blog know that I am on a spiritual quest for the meaning of it all, and the Catholic church has never been anywhere near the top of my list of places to search. I may have been wrong.
What a morning. Carol’s friend, a priest who has known the three fabulous former nuns for decades, led the service — and he had me at hello. His voice. His motion. His lilt. His love for Carol and his love the repetitive chants that make up the very fiber of being Catholic suddenly worked for me. I could see the enormous comfort in doing the same thing over and over again to reinforce a belief in something greater than yourself.
He told a wonderful story about Carol. He said after she left the sisterhood she moved to New Hampshire, where she taught school. He said she lived off Interstate 89 and drove a fun VW. She told him she loved New Hampshire, but it was difficult to drive the little Volkswagon at 89 miles an hour on the main road. Yes, she thought the Route sign was the speed limit. He said the moral was not to drive with a retired nun. They don’t know how to drive. He loved her. He was her friend. And he celebrated her life and lifted the Bible up to the heavens and thanked God for her life as well.
We all went to breakfast after the service, where the priest laughed the big laugh of someone who has no secrets that might escape if he were to let it all hang out. It occurred to me that perhaps he focuses on his own faith, and those of his small enclave, and leaves the judgement of the church as a whole to ridiculous people like myself. Caroline and Marie were happy he was there, and they were chatting with friends and family without grief. Carol had lived a long, good life. It was her time.
Perhaps it’s their belief in an afterlife that keeps their grief at bay. Perhaps they will all go home and collapse in painful, lonely sadness, which they had only held back because they needed to be strong — but I don’t think so. Perhaps they have terrible secrets of dirty deeds done over the years. I don’t really know these people, so I cannot vouch for their moral fiber. But I learned something from them this morning, and I’m grateful to have been there.
Good people are hard to find. When you find them, take the time to find out what makes them who they are. Marie told a few stories this morning about when she was an operator. How one man called, clearly drunk, in the early morning hours asking for the number of a liquor store. She told him he’d had enough to drink and he should go to bed. She giggled. But really, she had his back, now didn’t she?
Oh yes, the Yayas bring me a ton of good things. I wish I could better return the favor.