My aunt (“the nun” is how I refer to her often, because I have a lot of aunts) was a regular reader of this blog. One of my “token” Aunt Marie stories that I tell is that I would forget she was a reader until she would email me about something I had written here. Once, when I wrote about taking your family to a Pride Parade, she emailed me a quick sentence saying it was lovely and she was going to send it to friends with children. When you are in the middle of several large Catholic families and the nun validates something you wrote about gay pride? It does wonders for making you feel like your gay family is accepted.
I have many memories of road trips with Aunt Marie. I’m not entirely sure if it’s because she would go hiking and camping with us often, or if it’s because she was in our car for 30+ days when we went cross-country camping in 1989. Either way – it is her that I remember teaching us the road games like Finding the ABCs on signs or keeping lists of states on license plates. She also taught us songs (Like “Doe, a deer…a female deer…” which I didn’t know was from a movie until later in life.) and other ways to pass the time in the car.
I also hear her voice in the car at night explaining to me how the “BRIGHTS” setting on headlights worked and she casually said something like, “You want to make sure you turn them off when another car approaches so you don’t blind the driver.” Which – of course – I took very literally and spent a long time – even into driving age – flinching when I would look at a car with their brights still on…fearing losing my eyesight.
But specifically, something I’ve been thinking about a lot this weekend, is her telling me one story when we were weaving on a mountain road and had just seen a “Watch For Falling Rock” sign. I don’t remember the specific details of the story, it was a long time ago. But the general gist was that an American Indian Father had posted those signs after he lost his son: “Falling Rock”. There was a story of how the son got lost, which I don’t remember, but I remember she told the story with a “Legend says that…” air to it that made it feel mysterious. It was as if these signs, and her sharing the story, inducted me into some sort of folklore and I now also shouldered some of the responsibility for looking for this lost son.
Sister Marie Moore, my “Aunt, The Nun,” died peacefully Saturday night after complications from a stroke 2 weeks ago. I was able to visit her Friday and Saturday afternoon and say my goodbyes. I had also visited her several months ago when she was in the hospital following a heart surgery and that visit was good as her health was improving. I’m very glad I made that trip now, it gave me a recent memory of her to cling to when she was unresponsive this weekend.
I could write for days and not list all of her professional or personal achievements and accolades. I couldn’t begin to list the lives touched or souls counseled. To say she lived a “life of service” is an understatement. I read one article written about her in 1967 that mentioned her “14-hour work days” like it was just what you came to expect from her. And up until her heart surgery this last fall, she was probably still working that hard.
Just know she was amazing and she will be missed. I’ll be heading back to Knoxville for services again as soon as I know when they are. We had a great trip to Asheville which I’ll tell you about later, but today I wanted to pay tribute to Sister Marie Moore. She is the standard by which I hold everyone who every says they’re praying for me. She carried her prayer list around with her when she would visit patients in the hospital and if they were sleeping or unresponsive she would sit and pray for them, and then pull out her list and pray for those people as well. She didn’t say, “You’re in my prayers…” casually like I feel many do. She meant your name would be on her lips and delivered to God’s ears as long as she felt you needed it.
One more story:
In 2011 I went to her 60th anniversary celebration of when she took her vows. The priest at her church – a new church in Knoxville – told the story that he would get up and go to the rectory in the early days of the new buildings and Marie would be standing on a ladder and painting trim. Or working in the flower beds. SHE WAS 78. And she was working her ass off to get that church open and ready for business.
She did not mess around.
Love you, Aunt Marie. I’m sad you won’t get to hear about my trip to Asheville, but I also know a life where you couldn’t work would not be a life you enjoyed, so I truly believe your soul is at peace now.