Monday, October 18, 2010

Remembering Catherine

I'm safely back in Suchitoto, but was saddened to learn today that our dear Sister Catherine McInnes died very early this morning. Catherine was one of the grand sisters of our community. Born in Canada, she trained as a nurse before entering the community and for many years was the administrator of PeaceHealth's St. Joseph Medical Center, Bellingham, the first hospital built by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace in the northwest (the hospital's Sister Catherine Chapel was named in her honor). After "retiring" from hospital ministry, she was treasurer for the Western Province of the Sisters for eight years. Then she "retired" again, and promptly went to work at St. John Medical Center, where she was a patient advocate until a return of her esophageal cancer a few months ago. Here she is at our 2008 Congregational Chapter.

That tells you a little bit about Catherine, but doesn't begin to capture her. When I learned this summer that Catherine was to undergo a pharyngectomy and larnygectomy, which would mean loss of her natural speaking voice, I spent a long time in prayer, just remembering her voice, her totally distinctive voice and laugh that I knew I would never hear again. She was the best storyteller, always full of fun with a wit that was both dry and droll. She was always a complete lady, never a hair out of place, a great nurse, an excellent and caring administrator - and that laugh lit up every room she was ever in.

Catherine's last months have been voiceless as she endured many surgical procedures until just a couple of weeks ago, when she decided to put herself in hospice care. I was blessed to be able to visit her briefly during my time at home, though I doubt that she was really aware of me. Now we all will be saying goodbye to a dearly loved sister, knowing with relief that her long struggle is at an end, but sorrowed by all she had to endure, and missing her voice, her laugh, her stories.

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