It is 2:28 am. When the phone rang, I knew.
"I am sorry to call you this hour, Keri."
"I am calling to tell you Vania has passed."
Then no words, just sobs from my precious sister-friend.
Vania had been in surgery for almost a day. Sister Brunetta is still at Atlanta medical, almost 24 hours after they arrived.
I wish I were there to comfort this usually stoic woman.
Our loss of Vania is piercing.
This past Sunday, one of the volunteers said "Keri, Vania is very sick. They want to operate on her heart." Tears immediately came, despite pleas from Sister Dominga to not let them, lest she cry before Mass. Too many surgeries of too many patients like Vania had me afraid for her.
Two Sundays ago, Vania was, ever faithful, at Mass. She patted the arm of a recliner, offering me the leather chair next to her. As always, I commented on how beautiful she looked. As always, she said "I know, Keri."
Sunday night I called her in the hospital. "Vania, I know you are faking it just to get attention." She said, "Keri, if you see the doctors here, you fake it too." Ever the flirt.
"Are you scared, Vania?"
"Why I scared, Keri. I have Jesus. He take care of me."
Good point, precious friend, Good point.
Her story is straight out of Redeeming Love. Born in Haiti, her life was harsh and hard. Her life in the U.S., marked by struggle, abuse, disease.
And then, like so many, she met the sisters.
and they tough-loved her and prayed her right into the path of a new faith.
They gave her a home, a purpose, a family.
And when I entered that blessed fold, she became a part of my heart, too.
She suffered often, due to kidney failure related to AIDS.
But she never, ever despaired.
She worked hard to support herself and to live independently.
Yet, many nights, returned to the Gift of Grace to help, to serve, or just for a piece of home.
Her faith was huge. "Why I scared, Keri?"
Oh dear friend, what a huge hole you leave on this earth.
Eternal rest, grant unto Vania, o Lord
and let perpetual light shine upon her.
May her soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, Rest in peace.