Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sister Margaret Anne

Photo taken yesterday whilst out and about locally.

She was a plain woman. Some might say ugly. A whiskered and misaligned face which drooped in chronic disappointment at life and those participating in it. Nature compensated her with beautiful hands, large, well formed and competent, the hands of a sculptor, and naturally blonde hair which she wore in a fluffy halo around her head. An incongruous appearance.

At the age of thirty-six, when her widowed mother died, she left her nursing order of Catholic sisters and reclaimed her birth name of Grace. She wrote to a man who had an advertisement in the lonely hearts section of the Catholic Register. Serious replies only, he said. Loyal, he said. Looks not important, he said.

How was she to know when he drove all the way from rural Saskatchewan to Brampton, Ontario to meet her and marry her within the month that he was a drunk and would beat her every Saturday afternoon and make her perform disgusting things in bed? She a thirty-six year old virgin and twenty years in a convent her only life experience?

She desperately wanted a child so suffered the daily indignities of living with such a man. And of course there were the vows of holy matrimony, and the leaving of the convent to consider. Pride? Yes, she swallowed it.

Her longed for child resulted in a great hulking daughter with the bright red hair of her father who outweighed her own mother by her tenth birthday. This was the year Grace left her husband and had a restraining order placed on him by the courts. Her divorce and subsequent annulment on the grounds of unrepentant abuse and chronic alcoholism followed swiftly.

Her daughter moved out when she was barely sixteen. Searching, Grace found her living in a commune on Bathurst Street in Toronto, high on drugs and alcohol. Grace refused to speculate on the type of income that would support such a lifestyle and thought it best, after pleading with her, to leave her there. It had been a challenge to love such a child, a child who seemed like her father reincarnated in female form.

Grace drifted backwards, drawn more and more to the life that had been so safe and uncomplicated. She retook her vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and asked for, and was given, work in the wards of the terminally ill.

She would often say to me that she didn't know what that long intermission was about as all she was taught when she was out in the real world was how to hate the man who had abused her and the ungrateful daughter who was his seed through and through.

And I'd say - Hate? Is hate all you learned? Can't you let it go?

And she'd shake her head vehemently and her crooked mouth would settle into a grim straight line and she'd hiss:

You don't understand at all, do you? Hate is all I have left.


  1. 'Hate is all I have left'.
    Is that what a life in a convent leaves you with, when life outside has disappointed you?

    This is a horrible story. It is wrong from beginning to end, a waste of the gift of life.

  2. I think part of Grace's problem, Friko, was in the fact that she truly believed that life was a vale of tears (validated by her work on cancer wards) and that the only joy she would ever feel was in the afterlife.
    I knew her very, very well. And the hate finally killed her.

  3. This is such a sad story and difficult to read without being moved. Problem is, there are more than one Grace in this world.

  4. Too bad she was left so embittered. She could have made something of her life on her own. It's a very sad story and I'm very glad that I'm not Grace.

  5. Simply, WOW!!!

    Thanks for visiting my blog and for the wonderful comment.

  6. That is just so sad - it feels like such a waste of a life (both for Grace and for her daughter)

    How does hate fit in with Christian teaching,and how did she manage to not show it to the terminally ill patients that she was caring for? (and even sadder if it came through into their care)

  7. That first paragraph (and actually the whole story) is powerful stuff. I would change the last sentence in the first paragraph to something more complete. Other than that, gorgeous writing and the first paragraph grabbed me.
    What I would suggest is that you take the truth of the real story and use it as inspiration for a made up story. What if Grace overcame her horrible experiences instead of giving in to hate? There you would have a really great story. Real Robinson Davies type stuff. Just giving in to hate may be the truth of her story but it's not a story that does much for the reader.
    I have some friends who desperately wanted children only to produce real terrors who made their lives miserable. Hulking is a great word to describe them and gives me an immediate memory of seeing one friend with three huge teenage boys. All I could think of was the groceries. And I have a relative like Grace's daughter, sad, hopeless young woman. Not a thing we can do to fix her.

  8. second thought, you almost don't have to tell us she had an incongruous appearance because you have given us the image so perfectly.

  9. GM:
    Sometimes the life force is hate and disappointment, I have seen it far too often.
    Far too common, I'm afraid.
    Well deserved!
    The irony was that she was one of the best terminal care practitioners EVER.
    Ah my first draft! Points taken and executed. Your comments are totally valid. Of course, as mentioned to Jo, she was an amazing nurse. I had a very bad surgical wound once and she came to dress it every day. I perhaps should focus on the dichotomy of her life? This very real hatred she 'nursed' and her capacity as a superb caregiver? Thank you for your always valued comment!

  10. Such a sad story. Yet another woman abused and brutalised by a sick and rotten man. Yes, I also wonder what she learnt in the convent if she so quickly succumbed to hatred and despair.

  11. Hate is the other side of a coin with Love on one side. You can not have one without the other. Either can motivate one to acts of compassion and valour and here is one where hate motivates a person to just that. A remarkable story. This, in a non Christian culture, will be a story that would make perfect sense.

  12. A compelling story. Hate holds her prisoner; hate releases her of responsibility. Powerfully written.


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