The journey through life we all take brings us into contact with many people and, if we are honest, the vast majority we come across mean little or nothing to us. However, every now and then we meet someone who in some way becomes an important to us – either because of who they are or of what they teach us: sometimes both.
This blog is a celebration of one such: the late Sister Cara Mary of Tymawr Convent near Monmouth.
When Marcia and I lived in Avonwick some twenty years ago, another remarkable woman, Greta Scott, lived not far from us. To be more accurate her home was there but she spent most of her time at Tymawr where she had acted as unpaid bursar ever since she had retired. Thus it was that Marcia came to know about Tymawr and to decide that she would visit the convent with a view to a week of silent retreat. I drove her up and we were met by a small nun with spectacles and a rather curious hearing system. She announced that she was Sister Cara Mary and was to care for Marcia during her stay. On that occasion I was with Cara for less than two minutes but that was enough to make a real impact on me – and I must admit that I was far happier leaving Marcia in her care than I had thought I would be.
Over the years, when Marcia was spending a week at the convent every six months, she and Cara became very close and one summer, to my delight, it was arranged that Cara would spend one week of her summer holiday with us in Avonwick. How many of us realised that some groups of nuns actually take a summer holiday?
The weather was wonderful and we had a wonderful time. We drove up to fetch Cara and the first thing she did on arrival was to disappear and change out of her habit into some casual clothes. ‘I have put that nun away in the wardrobe,’ was the way she put it.
Cara was certainly as deaf as I am and it could well be that this was an important factor in our relationship. Not just deaf but determined to continue to communicate with other people using whatever technology we could and putting as much effort into understanding as was needed. Not surprisingly we spent a good deal of time talking about the problems the deaf face and the various ways of trying to deal with what is, actually, a quite serious disability which can, depending on the causes of the deafness, be rather painful.
Cara had an interesting background. She had studied fine arts at The Courtlaud (alongside Anita Brookner and Anthony Blunt: ‘Such a poor muddled man’ amongst others) and had spent much of the war working at Bletchly Park before entering the Order and teaching.
Why was she so important to me? I think it was because in her eyes the church was totally inclusive. She would say things such as, ‘She’s a Christian although, of course, she doesn’t know it’. Having said that she was strict both with herself and others. If you agreed to do something – she would expect you to do it. Thus, having taken her vows she never gave a moments thought to turning her back on them even when life in the convent was for her was very hard.
Sadly, on her third holiday with us (this time at The Hermitage) she suffered a severe stroke and it was not long before she died. We can, however, look back at the five or six days she spent there with the certain knowledge that she was very happy.
PS Had a PET scan yesterday and expect further news next week.