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Your Presence Gives Me Untold Joy

Posted on February 1, 2020, by Claudia Calzetta SL

Roberta Hudlow displays her many get well wishes.
(Photo courtesy of Claudia Calzetta)

When I sat down to write this article, I just couldn’t decide how to begin. There are so many “themes” that can be expanded about Roberta’s latest experience with jaw cancer. Shall I talk about the courage she exhibited before the surgery and then after? Or maybe speak about her upbeat and positive spirit, her ability to laugh, speak, tell jokes and stories from her room on the 16th floor of Barnes Jewish Hospital? Better yet, maybe talk about how she shared that she prayed before and after the surgery, singing in her head and heart, ”We give you glory, thanks and praise…” I’m guessing Charles Nerinckx would say Roberta was certainly… of good heart and received her affliction with courage. (p. 8 IATW).

A Message of Presence

Ultimately, I decided to settle on something else. On Jan. 1 many of us Zoomed in to wish each other Happy New Year and hear Barbara’s message to the Community. How lovely it was to see and to hear from so many friends. Barbara’s message was all about presence, specifically being present to one another in Community as well as to all others in our individual lives. This message resonated with me, and I felt optimistic and hopeful about this suggestion. Thank you, Barbara, for your gentle, confident encouragement.

The Community Responds

Perhaps another way to interpret Barbara’s message is to view it from the perspective of Community response, Community support and Community love. And what better example is there than how many of us responded to Roberta’s experience. If you were on the New Year’s Zoom call, you may recall that Roberta spoke briefly to all of us about the cards and gifts she received; 110-plus cards with some doubles and triples, 10 books and three flower/plant arrangements. As Roberta explained, all these expressions of care were unexpected and meant so much. After the meeting Roberta told some of us how hard it is to find the right words to explain her gratitude. A powerful dynamic happens when so many care and the effect can be overwhelming. Hmmm … maybe 110-plus members were prescient about this message and got a little jump on Barbara’s encouragement?

Witnessing Joy

On this same Zoom, Barbara mentioned a song by Rose Annette Liddell that has a refrain, “Your presence brings me untold joy.” For me, there were many times during Roberta’s experience that I witnessed joy. I saw joy each time I visited Roberta and saw her big broad smile as she opened yet another card, or two or three. I heard joy in Roberta’s laughter when she realized that the cards were still arriving even after she was back at her home. I know that each and every card allowed Roberta to feel Loretto’s presence.

From left, Mary Ann McGivern and Roberta Hudlow are all smiles at a holiday celebration.
(Photo courtesy of Claudia Calzetta)

The person, however, who comes to mind and who exemplified presence and love during all of Roberta’s experience was and is Mary Ann McGivern. Mary Ann was there for visits with Roberta pre-surgery, waited patiently during a 7-hour surgery, braving ice and snow storms, and now once again offers support during Roberta’s post-surgery radiation treatments. I saw joy in Mary Ann’s face when Roberta came home and once again settled in to a routine that didn’t include a hospital environment. I see joy now as Mary Ann witnesses Roberta’s daily improvements toward healing and good health. If you ever need someone for support, kindness and care, Mary Ann is the one! 

Loretto in ‘Its Best Loving Moment’

Lastly, a special shout out and acknowledgement for Loretto Link members who responded so graciously to the invitation to send individual greetings, good wishes and flowers to Roberta. Who would have thought that 110 individuals could collectively make such a difference?  The act of sending a simple greeting card, email or note made all the difference to Roberta and symbolized something much deeper. For me it symbolizes Loretto Community in its best loving moment. I believe that this support helped Roberta sustain her optimistic spirit. Days became lighter and brighter. Loretto coming together, uniting in heart, mind and spirit did this for Roberta. I hope that I can continue to sustain this ideal prompted by Barbara and make a conscious effort to being present in whatever way the spirit leads. Let Loretto be Loretto, “your presence brings me untold joy.”

Claudia Calzetta SL

Claudia Calzetta SL

Claudia (she/her) is a Sister of Loretto and has spent many years in varied forms of education — teacher, administrator and campus minister at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. She also spent six years as the Loretto Volunteer part-time coordinator in St. Louis. Claudia retired for approximately one year and recently has returned to this position. She loves gardening, traveling and baking French tarts and pies. She raises funds for Annunciation House in El Paso by selling her delicious desserts. Contact Claudia for more info.
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