Write on Edge Prompt: A stand-alone scene, fiction or memoir, in 500 words or less, involving a handwritten letter. This was very out of my comfort zone, and I have no idea why this particular story popped into my head.
Sister Mary Catherine, of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart Franciscan order, had been a nun for over forty years. She had walked the stage at Jonesboro High School, received her diploma from Principal Dickerson, hugged her family, then marched across the street to the convent and never left.
In quiet moments, Sister Mary Catherine could often be found reading an old letter to herself. The other nuns whispered that the letter seemed to have a profound effect. Reading the letter seemed to lift Sister Mary Catherine's spirits, and the others were of the opinion that the letter was from a family member offering encouragement.
No one was ever able to speak with Sister Mary Catherine about the letter, however. The day she had entered the convent, she had also taken on a vow of silence. Vows of silence are a tradition for those called to the monastic life; the silence is often used for reflection and meditation and prayer. No one ever expected that the good sister would remain silent for over forty years! Sister Mary Catherine did not even speak her confessions aloud, but wrote down her sins and passed them to the priest for his perusal.
Over time the letter became tattered from being folded and unfolded numerous times a day, and the ink faded into the paper until it was no longer visible. Sister Mary Catherine still went through the motions of unfolding the paper carefully; her lips moving silently over words put to memory long before they disappeared from the page. As her health declined, and as the cancer gnawed on her bones, that letter seemed to provide a measure of hope. The other Sisters of the Sacred Heart cared for their dying sister during her last year, and though they longed to hear the words that Sister Mary Catherine prayed silently, they respected the nun's silence and never pried.
Far too soon, the priest came to sit at her bedside, to hear the last confession and administer Last Rites. The Mother Superior sat holding Sister Mary Catherine's hand, offering what little help she could. After a sip of water and some coughing, the dying sister began to speak aloud, in a whispered voice cracked with disuse, finally sharing the words from the letter.
"Dearest Kate, I tried, but my life is emptiness and nothing without you. We cannot openly be together, I know, but when you said that you would never speak my name again, I underestimated your devotion to me, to us. I cannot live without you. I now go to a better place, where no one will deny our love, or hate us because of that love. Look for me in heaven, in the light of God's love, where we can be together once again. I love you. Marlene."