Choosing A New Response to Loss When A Community Elder Dies

The other day, I was paging through my college’s alumni magazine when I came across the belated news: Sister Miriam Ward had died in January 2014 at age 88. “What?” I thought. “Wow. I can’t believe it.” I had somehow expected her to live forever.


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Sister Miriam had been one of the elders in the Vermont community who inspired me with her fierce dedication to social justice and peace issues. As a leading voice on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, this Sister of Mercy touched thousands of people as an activist and professor over the course of her long life.

I hadn’t seen her in 10 years, maybe longer. And now she was gone.

My heart sank.

I felt that sensation I can only describe as “dropping” inside my chest, as if my emotions stepped onto an elevator from the top floor and pressed L for the lower level underground parking garage.

And as I felt my heart sink deeper, I felt my curiosity rise up . . .