One of the earliest memories I have of Eleise as a young girl is spending a day with her playing the piano and making necklaces from cantaloupe seeds and painting them with nail polish. And then our lives took different routes and there was quite a gap in our relationship. She married Bob and I entered the convent 41 years ago. It was during my mother’s short illness and death 10 years ago that Eleise and I started to renew our friendship as cousins. We would talk on the phone every week and she was a support to me through this suffering. I became a support to her as her mother became sick and needed nursing home care and died just a short time ago. Through these conversations I truly began to know her heart.
I wrote a little poem that compared Eleise’s life to a piece of music..She had her glorious “upbeat” moments loving life, her family, friends and pets…but she also knew the “down times”…bearing intense inner suffering, physical pain and emotional isolation. She often felt so sick that she couldn’t do the most simple tasks.
But as in a piece of music, there were gentle rests along the way..Sharing early memories of living in Mercerville was a consolation to her. Also the Prayer of St. Francis gave her deep peace. Just the word “hope” rejuvenated her. I once mailed her a book by Billy Graham entitled Hope to fill her soul with daily thoughts. Like the birds she loved to feed, it seemed that Eleise could exist on just a little crumb of consolation to get through some of her dark days. Nature replenished and restored her; looking at flowers in bloom perked up her soul. She harmonized with all of creation.
Like the refrains of a song that keep coming after each verse, Eleise needed conversations with loved ones throughout the week. The phone was often her lifeline to us. She listened intensely to conversations and would often read your soul even if you couldn’t find words. And then came this last battle with cancer that led up to her final rest. Her family and loved ones visited Eleise and spent quality time with her. Hopefully the gentle refrains of our visits came at the time she needed us the most. She never lost her smile or sense of humor. She never wanted us to leave. But then as she drifted into a coma, she caught sight of a greater beauty and heard a more magnificent sound than all the rest. God took her to join the heavenly choirs of angels and saints. May she rest now as an instrument of His peace.