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Conversations with Sisters

By: Fatima Ignacio Gimenez - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | May 01,2023 - 08:39 AM

Barely 5 feet in height, slightly stooped but very much agile despite the advancing years, she comes through the gate and straight to me to give me a tight hug. Finally, I get to meet the owner of the sewing machine. Encasing me in a warm, firm embrace, I felt the strength in the arms that held me close. The rush of emotions was swift and intense. The power of a hug never ceases to amaze and convey what words fail to do. Pulling back to savor my first glimpse of the woman that I was blessed to have made happy, I took both her hands in mine and gave a firm squeeze.

Five months ago, at 12:30 a.m., God had singled me out to be an answered prayer for Sister Jude. She and I were the only ones left waiting in the conveyor belt for our pieces of luggage. Mine arrived, but hers was nowhere to be found. We were later informed that it had been classified as cargo and was delivered to Terminal 2. I offered her a ride and found out that she was a Carmelite nun and that she was on a mission. Her goal: to fulfill a request from a beloved friend and mentor. Sister Vilma, whom she fondly calls as Lola Vi, had asked permission to have her most treasured, trusty, and decades-old sewing machine that accompanied her on numerous assignments but had been left behind in Davao be brought back to Manila.

Initially, their superiors had been very much concerned that giving in may cause Sister to overtask herself. It must have been a difficult decision for them to make. They all knew that sewing has always been her passion and the unadulterated joy from once again being able to do so despite her health challenges would be more than therapeutic.

As a physician, it reminded me of the numerous instances that I was placed in a position to decide, and how I would always lean toward being cautious, thinking that it would be better for the patient. Though the intention is always good, we have to realize that doing so leaves them out of the equation. We know nothing about what brings anyone true happiness. Let us leave it to the person to decide what is best for him and provide the needed respect and support. Please believe me when I say they will thank you for it.

“Sisters let’s go na po?“ After the warm introductions earlier, we had been given permission to step out for a few hours to celebrate our newfound friendship and to fulfill a promise that I would bring them both to meet my family. Sitting down to a meal, as most initial meetings go, there were periods of silence as the three of us were just getting acquainted. Sister Vi knew how to put me at ease. “Mukhang bagoong!” Delivered in a near whisper, she managed to make us burst out in laughter. Sister, amongst her many talents, is a natural comedian. She was referring to her order, and her colorful take on the berry drink must have come from her love for art, her eye for detail, and her obvious zest for life.

Being a little more comfortable after her icebreaker, in between bouts of pizza, salad, and pasta, we engaged in a conversation that covered topics on family, career choices, religious concerns, current events, and even politics. Sister refreshingly was pretty straightforward and unapologetic about her points of view. If you were to ask how best she could be described, it would definitely be as “a person ahead of her time.“

Brief but precious moments made special for the memories created. That is how I will choose to remember what we had. Hopefully, there would be another chance to savor a day out with the Sisters. To watch, to listen, and to learn. Such encounters, never fail to reaffirm God’s amazing grace.

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TAGS: physician, sisters

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