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My dearest, dearest Sister,
I went to a Catholic school that was built by the British before India’s Independence. It is a magnificent building with unique stone walls. I loved the stone, it was pure poetry – very earthy, strong yet warm. I adored the walls of my school, the lovely garden with a statue of Jesus Christ in the middle of all those sweet flowers and plants, it was very well maintained.
The school was run by Catholic nuns – Sisters. I loved the serenity of their white habits, though the headmistress, a sister, was very strict and scared the hell out of me, it put a grapeseed’s doubt in my mind that sister’s are gentle and full of love.
Inside the school was a chapel. I thought it was a beautiful, magical word ‘chapel.’ School kids could go into the chapel at any time during the day, of course not during class hours but surely during lunch and snacks time. I loved going into the chapel even if it was only for five minutes. I loved Jesus for what I believed he did for mankind and the painted red drops on his hands and feet and around his head moved me. There always was a certain calm inside the chapel … I had never before known what silence was like and I have never experienced such peaceful, blissful stillness ever again after leaving that school after third grade.
I went to other corporate schools after that and none of them ever gave me the bliss of solitude that St Joseph’s Girls Convent School offered me.
For the want of a similar experience and desperate to see a human-angel, I joined a Catholic College for women run by the Sisters of the Franciscan Society. There was no calm and the walls were nothing like school but there was a garden and a happy Jesus in the middle of it. There also were sisters who didn’t seem very nice for they said they had issues with me or perhaps my religion.
There were no human angels until Sister Valentine – you came along in your Goan straw hat and eyeglasses that looked like very cool sunglasses.
Did you know? You always had the look of an angel on your face, gentle disposition and an ever glowing smile. You loved me and out of that love, sometimes addressed me as ‘child.’ I loved to be called so, especially by you. You loved me with all your heart but it is a shame and now regret that I did not get to spend much time with you during those blessed years of learning, knowing and growing.
I am thankful for one brief walk we had together from the college administration office to the library, when you walked with me and inquired about my life generally. As we walked, you halted and looked deeply into the ground. I wondered what it is that you were looking at. And then, pointing your finger to something you said ‘That’s Mubin for me.’ I had no clue what you meant and couldn’t still figure out what it was that you pointed to.
My dear Sister Valentine – my heart burst with gratitude when I realized you were pointing to a tuft of herb that made its way through the gravel stones that were thickly strewn to make a walkway between the office and the library. There was no other herb around, just this one stem piercing through the tough gravel and you said … “That’s Mubin, reaching for the sunshine, making her way through the toughest situations of life and standing alone but standing strong, that is Mubin to me.”
In that moment, I felt your love for me and my love for you could consume the world. Brightness filled me and I glowed all day. In that moment, Sister Valentine – you gave me all that you had in your heart – all your love. I can neither forget the moment nor you my dear Sister.
A few years after graduation I went back to the college looking for You. I realized that I had never hugged you, never thanked you, never bid you a proper farewell before leaving college, I realized that I just left in all my selfishness. I am ashamed. I went back to the college one very silent day only to hear that you – my dear, radiant sister suffered a massive heart attack on Christmas Day of 2007 and you left this world two days later. Did the Lord long to see you and your happy straw hat in his garden? Was that a call that only your heart heard?
I hear you are now resting in Goa. I am trying to muster all my courage to go looking for you again and spend sometime at your grave, to talk to you and to thank you. I hope that miracle happens someday…
Forever basking in your warmth,