WORDS TO MY SISTER IN THE CONVENT

 

Several months ago, in the height of summer, I wrote a post about my sister entering a convent to become a nun, or rather to finally, after ten years, genuinely pursue the possibility. I wrote of what it might mean for our family, on what it called on each of us to become: rooted, entrenched, and open to transformation. Despite any attempt at preparing, her decision was nonetheless unprecedented. My mind has parceled this year into Life Before the Convent and Life Following the Convent. In the months following, life has been utterly unpredictable. Wholly new, and frightfully lonesome at times. I ache for her to be home, to be less convicted. Moments of peace have crept in too, sometimes existing without me even noticing. For a family whose charisms are joy, affection, and togetherness, having her away is foreign.

Vermont transitioned out of Summer weeks ago, deeply settled into Autumn, and now sheds her layers to breathe in Winter. We summit mountains that are no longer laden with mosquitos, and we admire the escalating cuteness of the goats as they put on winter coats. Farming is a sure way to realize how dramatically Earth and her inhabitants change with the seasons. Why then do we not change, also? Winter requires fortitude, and strengthened mettle, and courage. One of the greatest challenges of Summer was feeling my experience was unique and not traversed by anyone on the internet. That is to say, nowhere could I find thoughtful consideration on siblings + best friends entering religious life. A specific predicament, maybe, but also universal in scope. These are feelings of deep loss and deep bounty, and I desired to walk through those first weeks with others who had done the same. My husband carried the weight of me, humbly listening, and encouraging growth out of pain. Undeserving as I am, it is for him and for you that I am working to shed my layers to breathe in Winter. With respect to Courage and Mettle, I have shared excerpts of a letter to E. in the convent, which are really excerpts of my own heart.

E,
New writing paper! Personally, I wanted to go with the big size but Mark says we are small writing pad people, and so it is. Do I still write you the most letters, even though I don't have words to actually write (as said in my first letter)? The morning I woke up and had an email from you, I... you guessed it... cried. I walked to the milk parlor at 7a.m. and greeted Mark, who was milking since 5:30a.m., with a French press. And then I burst into tears. I mean, it makes sense to you, doesn't it? We hear nothing and spend so much time thinking of you, and then we get a tiny glimmer of you. It's surreal every time. I wanted to write you to say that you should expect that I will cry upon opening every single letter you ever write, so that's no reason not to write me. I have cried more tears — or at least as many — as one ocean this 2016. It's ok. I learn about myself more each time.  ... This is just me, I usually think.

Now, I cry because my heart contracts with longing and confusion and I am convinced there is nowhere for it all to go but through my eyeballs. I called mom the day I got your email and cried (obviously. ok, sam, we get it. you cry a lot.) to her and tried to be raw. She met me smack-dab where I was and just said, "I know. I was there. I will be there. I know." I need her as much as I need you. Do you know I need you? I wish you knew what it was like to be a little sister. It's like being a child to a parent, kind of. Except with the shared experience of being children to the same parents. Our indelible bond is the work of art, and right now it hurts me. It burns, burns, burns.

. . . To love someone so much and have them disappear from sight, off on a camino of unprecedented proportions — this is not something they teach in Sunday school, or regular school, or college. We pray for the religious vocations of Him and of Her, but when do people say, "It's your sister who will go. Imagine it is your sibling." Nobody. So I turn to the Bible, scouring Psalms and Luke's gospel and Job, my friend Job, and still I am lost. I am open to being transformed. As I once said, "Where are you God? I need you now!" except this time I'm not afraid to go pee as a five-year-old; this time I'm navigating a wilderness of thicket and bramble that seems safe but is so dense I barely make it ten feet without falling. Does my use of imagery help you understand me? Do you understand me?

. . . Do you feel my heart, constantly beating for you, my darling sister? 
Ok. I've said all I can. I hope you find me in my words; know me in these words.
I miss you, I love you, I need you.
Always & all ways,
Samantha


—S