SR NATALIE FLEMING – EULOGY
Among the many people gathered here to farewell Sr Natalie I would like to especially acknowledge her sister Paula present with us and of course to also note and remember their brother John Joe and sister-in-law Mary and the other extended family members especially those from around their home in Knock, Co Mayo, Ireland. Natalie would of course be especially pleased to see her very good friend Fr Leon Russell here today to lead us in this farewell Eucharist and ritual.
In paying tribute to Natalie I would like to try and capture something of the significance of the piece of Scripture that says – ‘the Living and Dying of each of us has its impact on others’ and on each other. It alludes to our interdependence.
So, how do we remember Natalie in terms of the impact of her living and dying? How do we begin now to interpret her absence? How did Natalie impact on our lives? What can we surmise about Natalie’s perspective on being one of us – on being a John of God?
We can make an educated guess that at times – and most of the time we trust – she had a real sense of resonance with who we were and are and with what we are about. Its fair to conclude, I think, that she would have said ‘they’re really not a bad bunch, you could come across worse’. We can also conclude that on the odd occasion – in her typically humorous and witty way – she would have said ‘God get me out of here’.
We know that Natalie cared FOR and cared ABOUT people. For example, when Sr Brid was here recently, Natalie – though feeling quite unwell at the time – ensured that Brid was given a little memento of Australia before returning to Ireland.
Natalie’s care for people was evident in the high quality service and commitment reflected wherever her ministry took her, for example:
We also know Natalie for her great sense of humour, for her wit and for her love of parties and celebrations.
She was quite intuitive, which was no doubt very helpful in her nursing and as some would note she could almost hear the grass growing.
Natalie was of course very intelligent and had a remarkable memory, which meant she didn’t have to put too much effort into exam preparations or her various studies.
She was also quite insightful – for example, when students came to her in her role as nurse in New Norcia, she gleaned quite quickly, that a request for a band aid or something to ease a tummy ache was always more effectively managed when accompanied with copious amounts of TLC.
During the time that Natalie was in New Norcia she would return here to the Convent Community every 3-4 weeks for a few days. I remember on one of those occasions she expressed concern for the well-being of one of the monks who had been taken ill. She was called during the night to provide some nursing assessment and assistance.
Natalie was of course a very capable woman but she was also very familiar with suffering. We usually don’t have a choice in suffering and if we did we most probably wouldn’t choose it at all. None of us know what form suffering might take for us – even in the not too distant future. But we do know, based on evidence here in the Villa, that we can assist each other in managing suffering and that in helping the person who is suffering the carer is brought face to face with the Mystery of Suffering. We also, know that the challenges faced by another of living with pain of whatever kind, tends to have a mirror effect for us – in other words it reminds us of how it could be also for ourselves.
Natalie suffered deeply, especially over the past eight years. She was assisted in bearing her suffering by the wonderful carers here in the Villa – Lyn and the staff. Then there was the companionship provided by the sisters especially those who visited her on a regular basis. There were the sisters who kept vigil with her during her last days and nights. I know nobody will mind me singling out Sarto for special mention in this care support. You have been a true and faithful companion Sarto and to put a Scripture slant on it – you have been with her from the beginning.
And so, when we remember Nat, what might be our prayer for her – probably very similar to what we would wish for ourselves when this moment comes for each of us as indeed it will.
Goodbye dear Nat.
Delivered by Sr Pauline O’Connor, Province Leader