Sister Florence could tell a story and I wish she were here to tell this one. I wish it was she recounting the tale of taking a hallway walk and collapsing under the weight of old age and the ailments of her final weeks.
It is so fitting that her death this past Monday occurred while walking. She loved a good walk. On the monastery treadmill she could out-walk nearly everyone, scaring the rest of us to bits with an all-out pace on a machine that didn’t seem to know how old she was. She took near-daily walks outside, rosary in hand, praying as she walked. She went down to the cemetery. She walked up and down the front drive. She walked to the guest parking lot to read the license plates. She walked up and down the chapel steps. She walked everywhere she could. She was 94.
She told stories like she walked. Up and down every drive. Around every corner. No detail of a license plate would be omitted. She could out-pace anyone with a story, and she told every story she could. She was still telling stories in the days before she died.
When telling a story, Sister Florence would often conclude a narrative block with the phrase “and so on.” She would then turn a corner and proceed headlong down the next stretch of the tale. She told stories just like she walked, rounding a corner and never breaking stride. And so on.
She left us on Monday, and she would be the first to put her monastic life in narrative perspective. She would weave herself into the long and winding story of this community with color and detail, yet with the long view that says “and so on.” There were Sisters here before her. We now survive her. Others will come after her. Rounding a corner. Never breaking stride. And so on.
She would weave herself into the long and winding storyline of Benedictine history in the same way. Rich with detail, long on perspective, she would describe herself as one of the countless individuals who have sought God through the monastic way of life. Many have gone in centuries past. Others are here now. Yet more are to come, with each character, every detail, as vital as the next in the never-ending narrative of seeking God.
Sister Florence lived her monastic life with the faithfulness of one tirelessly committed to her journey and with the enthusiasm of one with a great story to tell. She’s now turned a corner and reached the “and so on” of her own story. And how I wish we could hear her tell us all about it and listen to her say one more time “and so on.”
Postscript: The photo at top was taken this past spring in the retreat center parking lot. As usual, her rosary was in hand. The only thing missing is her whistle, which she usually wore when walking outside.
The photo at table was taken this year on the Feast of St. Scholastica, one week after Sister Florence turned 94.
At right, Sister Florence exits Ottila Hall in our Palm Sunday procession this past spring.
And below, this past July 4th, Sister Florence received a Wii lesson from Sister Tonette.