Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Learning like water, or Sister Patricia Recollection, Part 1A

Like the wear of water on rock over many countless centuries, great teaching changes the form of the rock forever. Water leaves its gentle worn-away fingerprints and the rock is re-sculpted for all time. If that rock is ever called upon to serve as the foundation for something unexpected, the foundation bears that imprint. And so it is with me, with my sisters, and with Sister Patricia. So it is with Part 1A: the unexpected, for it may bring us a way to never, ever forget Sister Patricia Eileen.

She was born to teach. She was born to be a musician. At the intersection of these things, blessed with sparkly good fortune, are me and my sisters. Miss Jo, Miss Tracy and Miss Judy (and in a second degree sense, Miss Lis) stood at this intersection, gathered what we could, and set off on our own roads. Many other people also stood at this intersection over the years, and I do hope to hear their stories as we go. For starters, though, just us few and eventually The MadriGalz. But I'm way ahead of my story. This is what she looked like when she graduated from Florida State University with her doctorate in music, and what she looked like when I met her. Sister is now afflicted with a form of dementia so that she doesn't remember her nearly 30 years as Director of Music Ministry at the Basilica-Cathedral of St. Augustine. She is also quite deaf. After serving as Director of Music, primary organist, director of a wide range of sacred and secular musical performances, and giving COUNTLESS voice lessons to almost anyone who asked, having played the piano or organ during those quiet improvisational moments in liturgy...she is deaf.

Here is another intersection, for me: Sister Patricia and Alzheimers. Rodney's dad, as many of you know, was afflicted with this awful thing and though Sister's dementia originates differently it's not so different, really. And though Rodney's dad is gone, the challenge today is to collect memories and recollections of Sister's life to help her own sisters care for her. Perhaps those memories will also serve to memorialize the effect she had on our lives. And perhaps those memories will give us the armor we need to defend ourselves and our dearest ones from the robbery of the disease.

So: I'm collecting. Sister R., the chaplain for my dear SPE, has asked us to collect our memories in some format and share them with her caregivers. They'll be better able to take care of Sister, and perhaps they'll be better able to help others recall her when she's gone. Are you holding a memory? Is it a memory of Sister Patricia, or is it a memory of someone you've lost to a like illness? Help me, if you will, to spend this summer collecting these memories and pictures and bits of song. Help me keep our best loved ones alive, even when they seem to be gone. I'll be grateful for the sound of your voice. Sister would be grateful, too, for after all, it was your voice, my voice, all our voices, that she strove to improve, educate and care for; that's what she did for all those years. Share your stories.


  1. What a great story Ang. I am happy to share my smallest of roles in this tale and to give my own thanks to Sister Patricia for the musical legacy which is indeed leaving a lasting mark on my life and I have no doubt, the St. Augustine community-at-large over her long years of teaching so many.

    It's been a lovely journey of learning from you Mz. Ang, as well as you, Mz. Judy. Y'all know everything. As Junior in our group, I am ever the student betwixt you two knowledgeable Galz. The language of music that you share is a marvel to be around. I don't know what most of it means until you start to explain it to me and we carry on with the song. The love and deep appreciation for the musical and life teachings of Sister are ever-present in your exchanges and in our music, into the foreseen future.

    So.. there's some grateful thoughts m'dears. Thank you Angie. xo Sweet dreams to Sister.

    Love to all of you,


  2. I don't know the lady, but it is a wonderful thing being done here. Bravo.

  3. Lis, dear - thank you SO MUCH for your part of this story. I'll be adding it to the .doc format I expect this will take. Her work does live on in the holiday work of the MadriGalz, and in the work of so many others; some of it is quite visible and some of it passes almost unnoticed except for the echo of good it leaves in its wake. Thank you so much.
    Suldog - YOUR comment goes to the very core of why we blog. The connection we make across the virtual space is more profound than I ever imagined. Thank you, my friend.


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