Times Change For Sister Joan – Episode 04

CARING for Flora, who at the age of ninety-two was still a very active and healthy person, wasn’t the easiest of tasks. Joan drew up a rota which covered night time as well as the daylight hours. The nuns, including Joan herself, took it in turns to go with Flora at night to the apple tree in the garden where she had long conversations with Henry, mostly about her childhood because, she explained, he had always been beside her since the beginning.

“If he’s always beside her,” Imelda muttered, “why do we have to sit under the jolly apple tree in the middle of the night?”

“Bear with her, Imelda,” Joan said. “Our Mother Superior Catherine will be in touch very soon.”

“I know.” Imelda looked sad. “I would care for her always and so would all the other sisters, for as long as she needs us, and I wouldn’t even mind if she kept the jolly teapot under my bed.”

“She must eventually go home,” Joan replied. “We must all come to terms with that.”

“I can come to terms with most things,” Imelda said. “But the Stella Maris without Flora? Why, it won’t be the same.”

“Things never stay the same for ever. Times change, but new things can be just as good. There will be many things that we will have to bear in the future, but we will find the strength.” Joan patted Imelda’s arm. “We all have one another.” She smiled.

“You’re right, Joan.” Imelda sighed. “Together we jolly stand – the Good Lord and us.”

Clare bustled into the kitchen where Joan was helping to set the table for supper.

“Flora’s having a little nap, so I felt it safe to leave her for a while and give you a hand.” She took mugs from the dresser and set one at each place.

A car drew to a halt on the gravel drive outside.

“Now, who in heaven’s name could that be at this time of day? We’re not expecting anyone, are we?” Clare asked.

“Oh, yes!” Joan exclaimed. “I’ve invited Father Anderson for supper. I phoned him and told him about Sister Flora. My mind has been so occupied with her that I forgot to tell you.”

“Not to worry.” Clare smiled. “There’s always plenty to go around.”

The doorbell rang.

“I’ll go.” Clare made her way along the corridor to the hall. Joan could hear voices as the front door opened, first the familiar welcoming voice of Clare and then the deeper tones of Father Anderson, their parish priest.

“Father,” Joan said as they came into the kitchen, “you’re just in time. The sisters will be here shortly so you will soon be aware of the problem I discussed with you on the phone the other day.”

Father Anderson sighed and nodded.

“My sympathies lie with you, Reverend Mother, and the dear sisters. It must be a round-the-clock responsibility caring for Sister Flora. I have had some experience of this condition among my flock. Flora herself will be happy enough and quite unaware of her situation. Everything will seem normal to her. Keeping her safe is another matter, for any threat to her security may make her frightened and angry.”

“Ah, now, Father . . .” Clare gave the stew pot a stir “. . . anger has no place in Flora’s heart. She is the gentlest of souls.”

“Hearts and souls are quite apart from this condition, Sister Clare, although we must still put them first. It’s her poor tired mind that suffers now,” he replied. Then, rubbing his hands together, he lightened the conversation. “So – what is it you’re cooking up for supper, Sister Clare?”

“Irish stew, Father, and home-made crusty rolls.”

“Well, now, Sister, your Irish stew is an experience not to be equalled anywhere and as for crusty rolls – I can hardly wait.” He grinned.

“You’re just flattering me to get an extra spoonful,” Clare said sternly.

“You bet I am.” Father Anderson laughed.

“Then take a seat, Father, whilst I put the finishing touches to supper. The other sisters will be along shortly. They’re all aware of the time but I think it’s the smell from the kitchen that attracts them.” Clare smiled.

Alison Cook