This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
By Maryanne M.
It has been six years since Margret passed away. But I feel like it has only been yesterday and the memory keeps coming back every time I wake up in the morning that I couldn't almost bear the pain. It's like an invisible knife burrowed in my chest for eternity. Each morning promises new emptiness. The emptiness I felt brings new sorrow. I ceased to witness the sunrise six years ago. For I felt it unfair for the sun to shine while I am dying inside and ready to take my own life whenever needed. There were a lot of times in that six long years that I lose my every reason to live. If it's not for the last words Margret has said, I should've taken my own life before now.
"Take me with you. You are my life Margret, without you everything is meaningless so take me with you... I can end everything now. Just say it!" My own words choked me as I cried beside Margret's hospital bed holding her hand, not ready to let her go. She has been in and out of the hospital since she was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. Even though it has been a devastating news for us, she remained strong and tried to live her remaining days normally. And because of how she handled it, I swallowed back the fear that was already building up inside me and tried my best to live normally with her. Every day was like a walk to my death row. Each day was bittersweet. My own fear left unsaid was tearing me apart that I woke up each night only to find myself in tears. Feeling her arms around me was an agony I didn't want to end.
"We had an amazing life Amanda... I have not one regret. I was and will be happy and it started when I met you. You showed me how it is to love and how it is to be loved. You showed me the real meaning of life. You have done more than enough. Please, if you give up life, you're giving up what we were fighting for."
And so I let her go. I hold on to life and live with her last words.
February 19, 2003; 03:44 PM
I was standing in the left wing of Mt. Carmel church looking at a beautiful Honeysuckle vine against the high concrete wall. I was amazed by its vivid color and the freshness it provided. It calmed my senses. The spectacle was rare in an old city I lived in for 17 years and every bit of it surprised me. I went closer to the plant and was mesmerized by the scenery. The old Spanish architecture, the stone walls, the giant trees, the cobblestones, the tree vines and the sound of birds. All of it. I am a writer. And it started here. In this very place.
It was like a different world all of a sudden. I was there not because I am church person. I was there because I don’t go to church on Sundays and only sent my prayers written on a piece of paper inside an envelope to the monks who will pray for me. I thought it made me a believer. The serenity of the sacred place enveloped me like a lost child. I stared at the yellow blossom. The poet in me enjoyed every detail of the flower and how it has been connected to the cycle of life. Such mystery, I sighed. I glanced at my wrist watch and realized that I had been waiting for almost 10 minutes for the altar boy to collect my donation and my prayer inside the envelope I was holding. I decided to wait another 5 minutes and went back to what I was doing.
I glanced at my wrist watch again and decided to leave the envelope at the sacristy inside the church. I was to turn myself about when a soft, almost celestial voice spoke.
"Beautiful, aren't they?” I was frightened and almost jumped to my feet. A woman in a black habit and a black veil was standing next to me. She was a few inches taller than me. A scapular hung on her chest. I was looking at a nun.
"Did I scare you?" She looked at me and smiled. She has the most beautiful. They're the color of steel. She was so beautiful even behind those covers. I shrugged myself back to reality.
"Yeah, I-I guess." Embarrassed, I struggled for an answer.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do that," she chuckled silently and went back to watch the flowering vines, "I saw you standing out here for awhile so I was thinking if you need someone to talk to?" Her arms folded on her chest. She was a little too brisk for her state.
I didn't answer. I just watched her as she watched the flowers in front of us. She seemed too young for her clothes. In fact too young to be a nun. And too beautiful at that. I wish I can see her hair, I thought as I fought the urge to take the veil off her head. Then I realized that she was looking at me again.
"Is there something bothering you? You can talk to me if you like. I'm always here to listen." She smiled again. "Call me Margret." She extended her hand. I was in my deep thoughts that I was unintentionally unable to respond. "And you are?"
"Oh!" I took her hand quickly and coughed out my embarrassment. "I'm Amanda."
"So what brought you here Amanda?"
"I visit here every Wednesday to send my donation and my piece of prayer to the monks inside the monastery. I don't know, maybe it's my love of the place and its tranquility. I was actually waiting for the altar boy to collect it," showing the envelope in my hand,” but he wasn't here I guess."
"Alan? He wasn't here indeed. He's gone to attend seminary school. I can carry it for you if you like."
"Thank you sister."
"It's Margret. I'm still a novice." She winked as she said it.
"Okay, M-Margaret." It felt awkward saying the name of this woman in veil.
"No sweat!" She flashed a smile. "Maybe I should get going. It's almost prayer time." She said as she walked toward the monastery.
There was something about her that made her entirely out of place. I was certain it wasn't my appreciation of her beauty. There was something I was not yet to understand. I watched her as she got closer to the iron door. She was about to reach for the knob when she turned to my direction.
"See you again on Wednesday. I'll be taking your envelope until Alan's replacement arrives." I didn't expect that. I was a bit surprised. I smiled at her and responded with a nod. I was too excited to say a word.
"Until then." She said as she went inside.
February 26, 2003; 3:00 PM
I was nervously waiting in the same place. I was looking at the Honeysuckle again. Only that, that day I was unfocused of the details. I was waiting for any signs of her impatiently. I had the envelope in my hand. A gentle wind quietly mingled the sound of the birds and the rustles of leaves. I heard footsteps behind me and saw that same beautiful young face as I turned around. Eyes the color of steel, so raw, so beautiful.
"There you are!" She was smiling as she approached me. "You're on time."
"I guess." I felt defenseless and too nervous to even make defenses. I handed her the envelope and thanked her.
March 5, 2003
"It's a little too early, don't you think?" She has her slim arms folded on her chest again with my envelope at hand. I was a little confused why even the slightest gesture she made caught my attention.
"Yeah, I think so." Was the answer I could muster?
"Why I think so too!" She chuckled. "Why don't you stay a little while and have some soda with me? I'll show you more of these wonders at the back part of the church."
I was excited to see the natural wonder she was about to show me not because I'm a nature lover but because I liked being with her. Her presence was intoxicating it hurt. I followed her around. Her habit was flowing erratically it created a ghostly figure in front of me. She walked briskly as I followed. There was something in the way she walked that made her so out of place. I was figuring it out as we walked toward the back part of the church avoiding large tree vines overhead.
It took me a good five minutes to finally figure out. It's her long carefree strides that made her different. She didn't look demure at all in that black habit and black veil. Every movement she made exuded confidence. My chest pounded as she halted to a stop. There before my eyes was a manmade paradise hidden behind those high stone walls. I gasped in mere amazement as I came to stand beside her. The place looked like an ancient Greek ruin with broken statues of what supposed to be a water fountain that were now partly covered with Hyacinth Bean Flowering Vine. Skunk vines covered all over the stone walls and large tree vines hanging overhead blocked out the sun. There were few carved Limestone benches at the side of the cobblestone pathway. The view was spectacular.
"Beautiful...” I whispered under my breath.
"Indeed. This is where we spend our Prayer of Solace. The tranquility of the atmosphere helped us with our meditation." She said while staring ahead.
"Can we stay here for a few more minutes?"
September 24; 2003
"Can I ask something?" I interrupted her deep thoughts. She looked at me and smiled.
"How did you become a nun?" There was a hesitation in my voice.
She took a deep breath and smiled. "I'm still a novice. I'm not yet under vows."
February 20, 2002
"Maggie, your daughter is fine. She doesn't have any mental disorder of any sort." Explained Dr. John Cain as he handed the report to Maggie Ward. "You have to accept it Maggie, it is not a disorder. You knew the scientific explanation behind the issue. I don't have to recite it to you, do I?"
Maggie Ward shot a look of despair and concern at 17 year old Margret who was seated opposite to her inside Dr. Cain's office. Tears started to fill in her weary eyes. Margret looked down her shoes, desperate as her mother. If only there was anything she could do to ease the pain she has caused, she would have done it. Her heart was heavy and confused.
"You need to stop hurting yourself and your daughter. Let her live a normal life Maggie. She's still human after all." continued Dr. Cain who was about to release Margret from their sessions because he felt that it was getting nowhere.
Maggie started sobbing hysterically.
"You don't understand John." She shifted her attention to Dr. Cain who has been very sympathetic from the start. "You don't understand how I feel. How to watch a daughter grow and to do everything I could to give her everything she needed to become a better person but in the end... In the end you see yourself fail. Do you know how painful it is for a mother?" She placed her palm on her chest.
Margret was also crying. Not because her mother cried but because she started to see herself as a failure.
"I may not understand how it’s like Maggie but what I understand is the person you wanted her to become is not the person your daughter wanted to be. The two of you were living in two different worlds for so long. You failed to recognize it because you're too busy creating plans."
There was silence.
"Let her be Maggie. Let her live a decent life."
January 5, 2002
"And you young lady," Maggie angrily pointed out to a teary eyed girl, "I want you out in my house and never come back, ever!" she shouted on top of her lungs as she pointed out the door. The girl ran outside the house while Margret was silently crying in a corner, hugging her knees with her head rested on it. Maggie turned to Margret.
"You're a disgrace! What did I ever do to you that made you do this?! Tell me!" She grabbed Margret by the arm. "This has to end, you're sick in the head! You're going to see a doctor!"
December 2, 2003
I took a deep breath still mesmerized at the magnificent scenery as I always have been. I walked toward a stone bench and took a seat while I waited for Margret. My chest never stopped pounding like it was going to swallow me down. I heard her coming moments later. With her was a tray of butter tart and soda. She settled next to me and the tray at the far end.
There was a moment silence as we both watched the flowers, the birds, the vines and everything as far as our eyes can see. The air was crisp in that cold December afternoon. The tip of her black tunic danced hastily as the wind blew. The silence was deafening it made the world around us became smaller and smaller until I couldn't take it anymore. I reached out for her hand. She let me hold it for awhile and I felt its beautiful trembling fingers against mine. She withdrew all of a sudden. Shaken. We were sitting on the stone bench in silence without looking at each other. Listening to our own heartbeat.
February 30, 2002
Margret was all dressed up. She was wearing one of those dresses she wore on Sundays. She was sitting on the edge of her bed, a baseball cap in her hands over her lap. Her soft, curly brown hair was flowing down her shoulders to her back. She was blankly staring outside the window. A suitcase at her side.
The door opened. Maggie came in.
"You have to get ready." She wasn't looking at Margret as she spoke. Her voice was stern. “The volunteer who will take you to the General Superior of your congregation will be here in a few minutes."
Maggie didn't answer. Eyes transfixed to the window.
December 10, 2003
I saw Margret sitting on one of the stone benches in our secret garden. It was unusual for her to be there ahead of time. My footsteps returned a cracking sound over dried leaves and fallen twigs. She didn't turn to look at me as I approached. I settled myself down beside her. She was staring ahead as if trying to prepare herself for whatever it was she's about to say. We didn't talk for a long while. I sat there waiting. Questioning. For what seemed forever. Suddenly, I felt her fingers touched my hand. The softness of her skin sent shiver to my spine. I heard my own heartbeat as if it was the only sound in the world. I didn't know how to react. I was overwhelmed. As I turned to look at her, I saw tears falling from her eyes.
"What's the matter?" I softly asked.
"I love you." She whispered.
I wanted to hold her close. I wanted to let her know I was ready to take a risk. I wanted to kiss her. But I didn't dare to make any moves. We held hands as we sat side by side on the stone bench by the secret garden. Listening to our own heartbeats. Never thinking what the future holds.
January 7, 2004
We must hide ourselves from the site of questioning eyes. We chose to sit on a stone bench hidden behind the largest tree a few meters from the stone wall. I had not forgotten that she was still a servant of God so I never dared to do anything she might regret or blame me for.
"My novitiate year is about to end in two weeks." She said silently as we sat side by side, holding hands. My heart sank with the realization that it could also be our last time together.
"I don't want to lose you Margret. I know this is coming but I am still unprepared. Unprepared as the first time I set eyes on you." My voice trembled as I hold back my tears. I felt defeated and angry. Defeated because I'm powerless to change the course of events. Angry because He gave me a wonderful chance to love a person He already owned. A person I would love for a lifetime.
January 21, 2004
I was uncontrollably crying on my bed in silence. It felt like I'm drowning in my own tears. It was the day when Margret was to enter into consecration vows.
February 11, 2004
I was in the place where we first met- the left wing of Mt. Carmel. Reminiscing the past. I was crying the whole week as I was crying that day.
February 18, 2004
I went back to the place. In the left wing of Mt. Carmel. I was sitting on the stone bench with my journal and a pen in my hands. I was writing our own story.
February 25, 2004
I went back to that same old place. I went there every Wednesday because it became a significant day of our relationship. I simply watched the same old things. The Honeysuckle vine, the cobblestones, the stone bench, the trees and the birds. I never got tired watching them as I never got tired writing on my journal.
March 3, 2004
I was there again. I wandered for a while in the cobblestone paving after handing the envelope to Caesar, Allan's replacement. I was staring at the leaves of the Honeysuckle to get its details and write them down on my journal when I heard footsteps. I was thinking it was Caesar who was to light the candles of a nearby grotto but the footsteps stopped right behind me. I turned around to see what he was doing. I staggered backward when I see Margret's face in front of me. My knees became weak. I felt like I couldn't bear my own weight. I was shaking and was very confused. But suddenly the confusion became over joy. My feet were practically pinned down on the ground and I was unable to move.
She smiled at me. The smile I saw when we first met. The smile that infected me. I was like seeing a ghost. She was no longer wearing a black habit. Her hair was no longer covered with black veil. Her locks were flowing like there was air in them. She was simply wearing a leather boots, denim jeans and a purple cotton top. A brown leather handbag hangs on her shoulder. And it all came down to me.
There were tears in her eyes.
I can hardly breathe.
"At the end of my novitiate, I can request to enter into vows or I am free to leave the community." She uncontrollably sobbed as she reached for me. "I chose you." She was shaking as I held her close.
We hugged for the first time. It was an overpowering feeling. It was like the first time I ride an airplane. The first time I went for a dive. The first time I bungee jumped. The first time I ran a bicycle.
March 3, 2004; midnight
We had our first kiss. We made love for the first time. We made love countless times that night. And the days after that night.
Hours were broken into days. Days were broken into weeks. Weeks into months and months became years. We we're happily living together in pure love and honesty. We were so occupied with our own world, bathing in our own happiness. The feeling of being a failure to her mother was no longer in existence as her mother has been married to another man.
We laughed, we hugged, we kissed, we made love, we lived...
April 18, 2006
"Hey baby, aren't you ready yet? My sister's recital will be in two hours and we still have a thirty minute drive down town." I kissed her on the neck while reminding her about our commitment later that day.
She was lying sideward on our bed in her night shirt, facing the wall. She didn't answer. I can hear her ragged breathing and noticed sweat dripping down her forehead. I went hysterical that all I ever did was hugged her.
"Baby what's the matter?!" I held her close and felt her body became rigid and erratically shaking. She coiled herself up like a ring, her arms hugging her stomach like she got stabbed in. "Baby please don't do this to me... I'm bringing you to the hospital".
February 8, 2012
It has been six years since Margret passed away. But I feel like it has only been yesterday and the memory keeps coming back every time I wake up in the morning that I couldn't almost bear the pain. It's like an invisible knife burrowed in my chest for eternity.
I was standing in the left wing of Mt. Carmel looking at a beautiful Honeysuckle vine against the high concrete wall. I was amazed by its vivid color and the freshness it provided. It always calmed my senses. I was mesmerized by the scenery as I have always been the old Spanish architecture, the stone walls, the giant tress, the cobblestones, the tree vines and the sound of birds. All of it. I am a writer. And it started here, in this very place.
The serenity of the sacred place enveloped me like a lost child. I stared at the yellow blossom. The poet in me enjoyed every detail of the flower like it has always been. Such mystery, I sighed. I glanced at my wrist watch and realized that I had been waiting for almost 10 minutes for the altar boy. Then I heard hurried footsteps approaching. I turned to see Caesar in his long white tunic.
"Are you ready?" He smiled as he asked.
I nodded as I went with him inside the church where the bishop, the Rev. Mother Prioress and the other sisters of the Community I served with were waiting to witness as I take my Perpetual Profession of Vows.
Today, I will be consecrated.
"Receive this ring, for you are betrothed to the eternal King; keep faith with your Bridegroom so that you may come to the wedding feast of eternal joy.”
"Receive the crown of virginal excellence, that as you are crowned by us on earth, so may you merit to be crowned by Christ with glory and honor."
“In order that your life may be one act of perfect love, accept this crucifix as a symbol of your offering of yourself as a victim to the Merciful Love of Jesus. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”