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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

I Am Being Erased…What about You?

November is the month traditionally dedicated to those who have preceded us in death—whether canonized (Nov. 1 – All Saints) or uncanonized (Nov. 2 – All Souls). Those of us living in the northern hemisphere have only to look out our windows to see this emphasis on death reflected in nature: bare trees, increasing darkness, colder temperatures. All of this makes it easy to ponder our own mortality, something I have been doing a lot lately. In doing so, I have come to this conclusion: I am being erased.

After all, my childhood home is gone. In fact, the whole farm where I lived my first 18 years is gone, now a part of a golf course. The only thing that remains of the homestead is the driveway entrance, now used by golf carts. My first elementary school, James A. Garfield in Willoughby Hills, is gone too, the

My elementary school being demolished.

victim of age and insufficient funds to revitalize it. When it was being torn down, my sister and I stopped by to pay our respects to a school we both loved.

My parish school is gone too, St. Felicitas in Euclid. In fact, my parish is “gone” too, merged with another parish and now called St. John of the Cross. My high school, Regina in South Euclid, is closed too, the beautiful building now a part of Notre Dame College.

At age 73, I have lost many family members and friends, and with each death a part of me was erased—the me who was known uniquely by each person. My nuclear family of six is down to two, my brother Paul and me. I have said goodbye to aunts and uncles, cousins, good friends. My religious congregation—at least in Europe and the United States—is being erased too. Over the years I have seen the median age of my province rise. When I made my vows in 1965 the median age was 38. When I celebrated my Golden Jubilee two years ago, the median age was 74.

Writing books does not insure immortality!

The way I figure, within a few years, no one will know I ever existed. I have no direct descendants, a consequence of my vow of celibacy. Even though I have written a number of books, that fact certainly doesn’t insure remembrance. In fact, some of my books are already out of print. Yes, I am being erased. Definitely.

You might think I find this realization depressing. But it isn’t really, for on a deeper level, as I am being erased on earth, hopefully I am being “drawn” in eternity—whatever that will be like. I have seen a number of individuals die, and one thing I have learned is this: ordinarily, we do not die all at once. Death is a gradual process: hours, days, weeks, or even longer. This means we are actually dying a little bit each day. But here’s the upside: we are being born into eternity a little bit each day too. As we pass from this life, we are being born into the next.

The awareness of our own mortality is very important. It helps us to appreciate the gift of each day. It gives us a more authentic perspective on people and events. It helps us keep our priorities straight which can so easily get out of whack. The sense of our mortality tells us that we do not have all the time in the world. We won’t have our loved ones forever. This earthy home (as beautiful and meaningful and mysterious as it is) is not our final home.

This November I recall that I am being erased… What about you?

Do you ever have the sense that you are being erased?

Does the knowledge of your own mortality effect the way you live your life? If so, how?

I chose the song “Where I Belong” by Building 429. My favorite refrain is “I’m not home yet.” Although we should cherish our time on earth and work for a better world, we know we are “passing through.” (An interesting note: Baseball players sometimes have a certain song played as they step up to bat. Over the pass few years two different Cleveland Indians chose this song for their “walk up song.” Maybe they wanted to keep their work at “home” plate in perspective…)

I welcome your responses to this reflection and/or song below:


26 Responses

  1. I love the image of “being erased” here on earth as a prelude to “being redrawn” in eternity. It speaks so powerfully to my resurrection faith as a Christian. God bless you, Sister Melanie! I always look forward to Sunflower Seeds every Monday morning!

  2. I like to think that we DO live on (and are not erased) in our children, nieces, nephews, and all those whose lives we have touched. Hence, the importance of telling our stories. I also believe that our works tell the story of who we are and what we believe in: books, photography, painting, teaching, corporal works of mercy, etc.

  3. My daughter died this past summer. As the one and only person on this Earth, who understood the depth of me, I really appreciate the concept of being erased. But the love we shared will live on in ways that will last into eternity.

  4. Thank you, Sr. Melannie for putting things into perspective so beautifully! I always share your blog with my 85 year “young” mother, knowing it will inspire her also.
    Blessings to you this November as we celebrate our loved ones who have gone home before us.

  5. Re: the song “Where I Belong”…I am profoundly at home and at one with all living beings on this Earth intimately united, soul and sinew, in communion with the Holy presence of the Sacred who is Now as well as Forever.

  6. I sure am. Lost all my immediate family which makes me an orphan. My husband and children are quick to point out- you have us. Of course I do but till you have lost all your immediate family you just don’t understand. I like you Sister am 73. So good of you to direct my thoughts to my true home. Thanks!

  7. This is a powerful message. The more I contemplate my life and works on this earth the greater my mortality scares me. So little time , so much to do. Your blog is very thought provoking and I always come away with encouragement. Although we are being erased we are leaving a foot print for others to follow. Yours lead us to the next life. Thank you.

  8. Thank you. I have never used the word erased. I too have experienced loss of schools, convents, home and homes, and now 2 of us left out of 10. Some became parking lots, new structures, residences for various groups, corn fields, and of course the cemetery for my family members preceding me in death.

  9. I have never thought of the losses in my life in the way you have presented in the idea of being erased, but it is certainly a unique and valid perspective. Perhaps contemplating all the losses is why my longing for heaven is so strong.
    Thanks, Melannie.

  10. Sr. Melannie…thanks for this piece…yes we are dying each day…all the more reason to unload ourselves of “stuff” either tangible or in tangible. The more we cling the harder it becomes to accept death. Thanks for your continued thoughts on life (and death!)

  11. Beautiful reflection and thank you…I can so relate to your experience…yet hope does keep us going in the strength of the Risen Lord. God bless.

  12. Sr.Melannie:

    You may becoming “erased” but will never be forgotten. Your books have had such an impact on me, that I share them with others. As I age (now 78) I feel more hopeful for my re-birth in heaven. (Don’t wait at the entrance way for me, I am sure purgatory will be home for a kazilliion years). Thank you for all you have done for so many people.


  13. So often your reflection speaks to me but as I approach my 70th birthday on All Soul’s Day this could not have been more appropriate. I too am an adult who has seen schools and homes erased. I am without immediate family members and often consider that I will not be remembered when I am gone. Yet I am comforted by the idea of being erased each day but redrawn into someone more whole and complete. I firmly believe that some day I will be Oned with God and then somehow I will also be Oned with all of creation. I don’t understand how but I believe it to be true. Thank you for your birthday message.

  14. Yes, Sister, we are all being erased. Life has definitely changed for you and for me as well. Where I find solace, besides prayer, is the hope with every good deed I do kindness is perpetuated. Maybe, just maybe, the person I held the door open for will hold the door for the next person. Please know Sister, your goodness and kindness will live on well after we are all gone. God bless!

  15. Dear Melannie,
    While reading your blog above my first thought was, “but I don’t want you to be erased!” Erasing for me seems to be an attempt to undo an error. I know that even though we will live on in eternity, eventually we will be forgotten by those left on earth—although hopefully a few trees will remember us for quite awhile longer than even our nieces and nephews! But I see it more as fading memories than erasure, something like a watercolor in the rain. Where does the color go? Maybe it lives again in the grass and the sky and the flowers and leaves blowing in the wind….

  16. Thank you for the reflection. Very interesting about the Indians players choice of song. With each passing day, I realize my mortality more strongly, but I have never thought of being completely erased. My prayers are that I can share my love and faith with my family and friends, so that in the knowledge of God and Love , that they can live in this fallen world with some peace and in turn pass it along to others.

  17. Dear Sr. Melanie,
    Thank you for your inspiring reflections. When I think of joining my family and friends in the next life, I don’t think so much of it as my being erased, but passing on the seeds I’ve planted. As teachers, we have often heard that we are planting seeds and may never see the results ourselves, but there will be more wonderful outcomes than we can even imagine. I think your positive spirit, your smiles, your inspiring reflections, and your love will be passed on from all the people who have known you to future generations and will bring about more of God’s peace and love and hope to our world. Thank you for the goodness you bring to us!

  18. Dear Sr. Melannie,
    Your line, “As I’m being erased on earth, hopefully I am being “drawn” in eternity — whatever that will be like,” is beautifully profound. And will your final sketch ultimately be? No doubt divine.

  19. Time is not my friend….but I have been blessed to have had almost 64 years of vacation time on earth. However, some of my “excursions” have not always been what I signed up for or expected. I started off on this journey surrounded by myriad family & friends, but now many have moved on to another destination, leaving me feeling lonely. The ties to my childhood past are gone…I’m left with no one to share or reminisce about the good old days or a time when things were simpler. I take comfort in knowing & believing they will be there to meet me when my earthly trip is done. In the meantime, I will follow the course I’m chartered to follow in the hope that the divine “Concierge” will show me the way & guide me towards my final destination.

  20. The home I grew up in no longer exists and even the little country town I grew up in has been disbanded and is now a shopping center. As my husband and I age (80 & 78), we are acutely aware that our time on this earth is also limited. Vacations are no longer put off because for us there is no “someday”.
    My sister and I are writing our family history and plan to have it bound and in the hands of our children and grandchildren by Christmas. As I record my memories, I am comforted by the assurance that at least for the next two or three generations, my existence won’t be completely erased.

  21. Sister Melannie,
    I love your blogs! I feel I have been erased. This is the last blog I have
    received. (Oct. 30) Did I miss something? Are you ok?
    Did my email get erased.
    I miss my Monday “pick me ups”

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Meet Sr. Melannie

Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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