5 years back, my family encountered a peculiar event.
Believe or not, but we received a letter.
Handwritten on what looked like pages torn from a notebook, with random blotches of ink, sealed in an envelope complete with a postage stamp.
Yes, a letter in 2013.
For a millennial child, receiving a letter by post was a strange thing.
I had only heard of letters when my parents would talk about their younger days when they would write to each other, a “love letter” as most would call it or in another instance, in history class, where we learned about pigeons being messengers who delivered these so called letters.
The letter was addressed to the former company that my father was employed at.
The sender probably believed that my father still worked there and wrote to the same address in hopes of reaching him.
A kind soul from the former office was generous enough to contact us and finally hand the letter over.
The letter was from a certain, “Sister Pauline”, a Carmelite nun.
Now who is Sister Pauline?
Flashback to 1996.
My parents were on a bus to pay a visit to Mother Mary’s shrine at Velankanni with baby me.
I can imagine how hard the journey might have been for a young couple with a 6 month old.
And true to my imagination, my parents now confirm that it was VERY hard. I would get extremely uncomfortable throughout the bus journey, and would cry until my vocal chords would paralyze.
My parents were tired and helpless and they did not understand what else could be done to calm this tormented baby.
As I continued wailing, a sweet looking nun in the bus, with the kindest of eyes, came up to my parents and asked them if she could hold the baby and see if she she could help calm me down.
My parents knowing that they had nothing to lose if they let her try her luck handed a chubby 6 month old me to the nun.
My mother recalls the moment as an “angel in disguise” who came to help us, because believe it or not, I actually did calm down. I stopped crying.
I can imagine all the people in the bus clapping and praising the heavens, “Hallelujah, this baby has shut up!”
Though I’m quite sure the people in that bus would have been much nicer than what they are in my head.
But I actually did calm down, my parents do not particularly remember what the nun did that helped me calm down, nor do I.
But from the stories I’ve heard growing up, the woman really had a heart of gold.
From that moment on, sister Pauline and my parents built a beautiful friendship and the rest of the journey was a peaceful one.
From then on, it was like we had a new member added to our family. Once we were back in Goa from our little trip, my parents invited her home and introduced her to the rest of our big family.
Since then, she’s been an inevitable part of our lives, through all the milestones our family went through.
Weddings, babies, birthdays, sad times, and so on.
Even after my Mom, Dad and baby me would move to Muscat to build our lives, Sister Pauline would still write to us, and Dad would write back telling her how big and naughty I was getting, he told her about the new baby on the block, my little brother as well.
It was a beautiful friendship, one that blossomed fruitfully, one that brought hope and joy.
Sadly, however, over the years, as Sister Pauline travelled around the country to fulfill the obligations of her charity and missionary work, it got tougher to continue writing to her as her address would keep changing.
Soon enough, we had lost all contact. My father now moved to a new organization, our addresses too had changed and we were carried away by the obligations of our own life.
Now let’s fast forward to where this story started, in 2013.
So yes, it’s 2013, I’m 17 years old, my dad is holding this letter and my mom, my brother and I are all huddled around him, trying to read the letter.
I wanted to hold the letter, feel it, run my fingers through the writing because I had never seen a hand written letter before and now that I had, it was so beautiful.
The joy in tearing open the envelope was unfathomable, there was so much mystery and excitement in knowing what the letter had to say.
Sister Pauline’s letter was written to us as a family, just trying to rebuild the connection that was once so strong.
In her letter, besides asking about our well being and talking about where she currently was (she was back in Goa which was how she finds my dad’s old office address)she also asks about me and I quote, “How is my darling Aurene?, how is her health? She must be a big girl now.”
After I read the whole letter, I sat down for a moment and had tears in my eyes.
Tears of joy.
I thought about all the places this woman must have been, all the lives that she’s touched, all the children she’d left a smile on, and 17 years later, after calming me down on that bus ride, she still remembered my family and me.
She came back home, to Goa, from her tiring mission, looked for my father’s address, and wrote to us.
She didn’t have the resources, she probably couldn’t access Email or didn’t have one, but that didn’t stop her.
She’s an old woman now…and I can imagine as she would have torn some pages of her notebook, sat by her window, to write, with her heart, in order keep a little fire burning that was put out years ago.
If I were in her place, I would have failed to do even that, despite having access to Email, or WhatsApp or technology in general.
Isn’t it a little sad though? because I realized how we take relationships for granted, how we take friendships for granted, how we take a little kindness for granted…but it shouldn’t be that way.
It should be cherished, held close to the heart, it should be burning bright, never close to fading.
My family and sister Pauline are now reunited, she comes over for Lunch when we go down to Goa and we visit her at the old age home where she works.
She is old now, but still has an angel like aura, still has the kindest of eyes.
Through her simplest of actions, she has become one of the greatest miracles of my life.