"I write so that my handful of pebbles, cast into still waters, will create a ripple."

Monday, April 20, 2020

Lessons from the Fall

My three sisters and I used to joke that we were the embodiment of Little Women, with our gentle Marmy, our shared faith, sewing projects, late-night cooking fests and the farm. Childhood was a simple time of laughter and chores. But, alas, life is difficult without a script. I left for college before my youngest sister started kindergarten. Mom passed in late 2017 at the glorious age of 92. By then we had scattered to the wind, each of us residing in a different state. For some, our shared Catholic faith fractured under the weight of divorce and disappointment. Time and distance created breaks in our relationships.

On Good Friday, my sisters and I began a nine-day novena asking mercy for those who cannot ask it for themselves. Each afternoon at 3:00 we pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy on our rosary beads, on a conference call. It hasn't been perfect. Our pace and pauses are as free-wheeling as we are. Cell phones promote voice lag that makes it seem like one or the other of us is deliberately lagging. But shared spiritual purpose is a balm to the soul. When the last prayer ends, we chat.

The first two days involved cautious circling and respectful pauses as we struggled to avoid old triggers and forge new ways of being sisters. Easier in one-on-one conversation, not so easy in a conference call where miscues overpower and silence speaks.

But with each attempt we come closer to finding our rhythm. We offer mea culpas for the ways we injured each other in the past. We take belly breaths and our blood pressures ease. Our voices sound younger and less constrained. Laughter emerges from the cautious consensus-building that consumed our first conversations.

There is something poignant about the nature of limits. Our memories recall what it meant to be “The Thompson Girls” in days past. We don’t speak of husbands or careers—who needs that? Sisters are the ultimate bullshit meter. There’s no wiggle room. They were there! And trust me, silence can speak volumes. Our honesty takes us back to a time before regret robbed us of our courage.

Sharing gives us something to contemplate while we wait out another day of confinement. With the end looming, we’ve decided to continue our conference calls once a month. We can no longer imagine our lives without the four of us together in one place.