Ruth went to the funeral a week ago today, 3rd July. She took the family with her in spirit and was welcomed by the Glen Avent family as family. She joined the sisters in the chapel early in the morning to celebrate Sister’s life in her home place. I am reporting Ruth’s words as I remember them, I didn’t take notes as she told us all in a group on Skype about it, was too busy dabbing at my eyes. In the chapel Sister lay in her magnificent coffin and everyone sprinkled holy water and said their good byes. Apparently the funeral parlour donated the coffin as well as the huge marquee for the later ceremony. After the service in the chapel all processed into the marquee and were ushered in by people identified as ushers by their chiffon sashes. It was all very orderly and everyone had their place to sit.
It was a full funeral Mass with the Bishop of Mthatha and 6 priests. In his speech the Bishop said that he hoped that the apprehending of the suspected hijackers would stimulate the police to solve the other 100s of unsolved murders in Mtatha. Patrick “Terror” Lekota also spoke very movingly, Sister had been his teacher at Mariazell. One of her brothers sent a letter in which he spoke about how she had been a beautiful social young woman and shattered the family when she announced, aged 17, that she was going to enter a convent and be a missionary. Apparently she could have had her pick of the young men in the town! As a missionary she founded 22 NGOs and in all cases they were partnerships with the local communities so are still sustained.
Ruth was thrilled to see so many of the people who had sustained and supported us at Ikwezi Lokusa, among them Sr Ignatia of the kitchen, Fr Cass Paulsen and especially Sr Consolata who fetched her from the airport and who Ruth did not recognise immediately! She was the physiotherapist who taught Ruth to walk again after she was paralysed by Guillain Barre Syndrome. It was amazing after 30 years how many sisters had memories of our family. We have visited since we left but mainly to see Sr Mary Paule and Bethany. I suppose we were part of the start of the After care service and the first family to live there so we are part of the history of the place. I am thrilled each time by how the trees I planted have grown and the huge bougainvillea in front of our house.
Thank you Ruth for a rich account of the day and of how appreciative the sisters were that you spent your own money to be with them in their sorrow. It all makes my grieving easier. I have had to do a lot of that long distance sorrowing since I left South Africa in 2001 I am not rooted anywhere anymore and there is sometimes a sense of existing in a twilight world that is much limited especially now that we travel all the time and have no fixed points …