Recently I got a chance to visit a beautiful, beautiful place. The moment I put my first step into this place, I was filled with a rare kind of joy and grace filled my soul. And when I say this, I am not talking about a Holy Shrine or a Pilgrim Centre. Well, actually according to me, this place is no less than a Pilgrim Centre.
The place I am talking about is a Convent in my hometown. Most of the nuns at the Convent are old and suffering from some kind of illness. I had been there to visit my grandma’s 84 year old younger sister, and this was the first time I was ever seeing her in my life. My mother had described her as a loving, caring and gentle person. And she loves to talk. She simply loves to talk. I have an ever growing fondness for the old, and well, an equally growing fondness for babies and young children.
There isn’t much difference between the two, anyway. You need to take care of both; you need to listen to them. Both have a difficulty to walk, so you need to either hold or support them while they walk. I have seen my paternal grandma toddle around the house like a 1 year old, only slower and more carefully. Basically, old age is said to be one’s second infancy. The only difference being, one can talk out loud, the other cannot; so they cry or scream or use other forms of communication. And while we are at it, my 90 year old maternal grandma cries and screams while we take her to bath. She dislikes bathing – again, something we see in little babies too – and we need to bathe her.
So ya, coming back to the Convent story. I was filled with an extraordinary bliss the instant I entered the Convent. As I said, most of them were old. One had recently had had a cataract operation and was wearing dark glasses, and she was the one who received us. She was so full of smile, and lovingly asked me whom I had come to meet. She took me by hand and walked me to their lounge, and asked me to sit while she called in my grand aunt.
I looked around the place and noticed a couple of nuns in the Chapel praying silently – all of them old with a walking stick propped besides their chairs. It was afternoon time, and if it were me, I would have been napping. But they did not show a sign of laziness or drowsiness.
My grand aunty came in, walking with great difficulty. She had broken her hip ball a couple of years back and has never been able to walk properly ever since. The doctor has advised her complete bed rest. So it took her time to get dressed up in her habit (dresses that nuns wear). I noticed that her veil and her mantel was a little out of place, and she kept pulling it while we were talking.
I was so full of love for her, and I was so happy to see her and she us. She kept on talking about her childhood days, about her siblings, about her convent, about her broken hip ball, about our grandma, and it just went on. I couldn’t follow all of it since her talking wasn’t comprehensible to me sometimes - she had less teeth in her mouth and refused to use dentures, and also that most of the people or things she was talking about made no sense to me. But it all made perfect sense to my mom. She knew them all. I didn’t.
And then there was this other nun – the one who received us – she brought us coffee. I wondered how she could walk around with her recently operated eyes, wearing dark glasses and balancing two heavy mugs of coffee in her tray. What I enjoyed more than the coffee was the love and humility with which she brought it to us. She sat next to be, held my hand and started talking to me. She was so full of love, and smart. She understood all the things I was talking about, my studies, the state I live, how far it is, et al.
I thought our talking might be disturbing the nuns praying at the Chapel. Some of the old prefer silence, and don’t like much noise. So I went up to one of them and asked her if we were disturbing her, to which she lovingly replied that it was all okay and that it wasn’t disturbing at all.
And then it started raining, and what a rain it was! I haven’t seen it rain so hard in a long time. We could barely hear each other’s voice over the sound of the rain. It was as if the Heavens were expressing my happiness with the outpouring rains. It was gorgeous.
What I felt deep inside my heart was a pang of grief for these Convent inmates. They dedicated all their lives for the work of Christ, to the vocation they were called to live. This particular Congregation works for the poor and destitute, and gives free medical treatments to the poor.
They did their part. And at evening of their lives they have just each other to take care of. They don’t have a family nor do they have children to call them up or visit them. It’s like Jesus says, leave it all behind and follow me.
Following Christ, that’s what they did all their lives. And now in their loneliness, in their solitude, it is visits like these that they cherish. I cannot imagine how happy our visit would have made them. And it’s wonderful how they never complain. I never, for once, heard my grand aunt complain about her difficulties or how painful it is for her to go on with all the illness that she bears (asthma, backaches, cannot eat properly, diabetes etc, etc.).
I think I shall always treasure the love I experienced here, and it still moves me when I think of it.
May God bless them always, and I hope could pay more visits to places like this.