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Farewell to Sr. Godelieve Theys, OCSO

Farewell to Sr. Godelieve Theys, OCSO

June 30, 2019

Birth is a miracle. Death is mystery.  Our lives move between these two realities, realities that are immersed in God, that point to our spiritual journey through, with and in the Divine Life and Mystery.

 Dear Godelieve, I dare say that your focus was more on birth, the life birthing forth in a variety of ways…death was more elusive.  You delighted in the flowers in your room, the deer you saw outside your window, the landscape that you soaked in on your walks or when one of your sisters wheeled you outside or wheeled you to the garden!  The expression from 1 Corinthians that ‘God is all in all’ became your sacred phrase/metaphor that you walked with for most of your monastic life…For you, this moving expression was around LIFE, God’s incarnate life known in this present moment; death being more a shadow, the dying process ever so silent, intimating new life, however, still remaining a mystery, the mystery you knew that was connected to life, the life that we name ‘eternal life’.  ‘Eternal life’, elusive yes, but present daily on our pilgrimage: sensing it, knowing it without knowing it…experiencing, not fully experiencing because the fullness of ‘eternal life’ embraces us only after our final passage, our physical death.

 Yes, you loved life…‘dying with Christ we rise with him’…in your faith, you accepted these words….but still what these words concretely mean when we love the life that we can see, the life we smell, feel, see, touch….Experiencing what we know and what delights us is more comforting than breathing our last into the ‘great unknown’. Fr. Thomas Merton who visited you in several dreams reminds us that we don’t leave the unknown for the secure, that it is, as he said, the other way around…‘we leave the secure for the unknown’….this is one way perhaps to describe death…it is the last great leap of faith that we all take….and our faith tells us that this final leap into the unknown is into the resurrected life…

Birth seems easier than dying…we know that they are so intertwined…they go together…they are golden strings that link together our pilgrimage on this earth…on one level they are bookends…as metaphors they point to how we grow: ‘unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground…’  The single grain must die for life…always a cost for life.  Dear Godelieve, the mystery of your physical death was a struggle in your last months: interiorly something so strong wanted more time, you felt you had something more to do.  How beautiful is this: something more to do for humanity that so needs another tiny seed bursting, blossoming forth, giving voice to God’s life and to God’s love.  Yes, just a little more time to give of your life for others…Well, you did this, perhaps not in a way that you imagined: you gave to all who cared for you, you gave to everyone who visited you in the hospital, finally, you gave so much to all of us in how you died.  The struggle before was not easy for you or for any of us but the WAY you died redeemed any lingering memory of the struggle.

‘God is all in all’: you now have realized this in your final passage: yes, even in death ‘God is all in all’.  Our beloved, dear sister….you abide now in the mystery of the Resurrection…and this means we are here today celebrating your life, knowing that you are bathing in God’s love….for love always has the last word…love transforms all and continues to bestow on us the so called ‘living’ this knowing and remembrance….As we remember you now and in the days ahead, we won’t forget the Love you sought, the Love you radiated through your searching mind, your delight in knowing, your child-like wonder, music that sang inside your heart and in your dreams. We have lost a pillar, a foundress, and in this mystery of your passing, we have gained a voice on our behalf, a voice singing, a voice praying for us from God’s immense heart, where you now dwell.

Death is a mystery. Perhaps these familiar words of Basho, the great Master of haiku, best describe the mystery of your passing:                               

the temple bell stops –

                                      but the sound keeps coming

                                                 out of the flowers.

 Yes, ‘the sound keeps coming out of the flowers’, the sound of your amazing 96 years of life.

Final Remarks given by Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess, at Funeral Mass, June 29th, 2019

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