On losing Lauren

In ten days, my roommate is entering a monastery. After Mass and Morning Prayer on Monday, she’ll slip through the enclosure door and into a wholly other world of mystery and prayer and joy. It’ll be a goodbye unlike any other I’ve said.

This has been quite a season of loss for me. There were the deaths of three grandparents, a kindred spirit moving to Michigan, a good friend entering seminary, our other roommate getting married, a break-in. And I’ve been left in the aftermath, sometimes grieving, sometimes rejoicing. In fact, it’s always been both.

Grieving and rejoicing. When Lauren leaves, I will, without a doubt, grieve her absence. I’ll miss my smiling companion who was always down the hall morning and night. My holy hour buddy. My job coach, life coach, relationship expert. My unfailing cheerleader and affirmer and challenger. My spiritual adviser and confidante. My friend and my sister. My loss is the Carmelites’ gain, I told her in a toast as a few dozen friends gathered in our cozy apartment one night to celebrate with her. And not just the Carmelites, but the Church, and the world. In the year and a half we’ve lived together, I’ve witnessed her discernment reignite and deepen, have watched for all-important letters in the mail, have gone to Mass and prayed by her side, have listened to her gush about St. Thérèse of Lisieux like no one else I’ve ever heard. I couldn’t help but relay the exciting process to those around me, from friends to priests to coworkers. Once she had applied, I updated my usual audience. In the slow-moving days and weeks that followed, people often asked me if she had heard back. We’re still waiting, I’d reply. One priest sincerely asked, Oh, are you entering, too? And when she finally received that auspicious letter one weekday afternoon, I miraculously happened to be home with her. I thought I’d burst with joy.

If I’ve learned nothing else from watching this divine romance unfold, it’s that my life is not my own. I don’t get to ordain the coming and going of friends. I don’t have control over the movements of the Spirit. I am not made for this world forever; I’m made, as we all are, for eternity. As my mom said when she heard the happy news, it’s like she’s deciding to go to heaven early. And that’s where the rejoicing comes in. I rejoice because Lauren is doing God’s will. Because she’s moving away from the things of this world, in an entirely radical and life-giving fashion. Because she’s entering a life of intimacy with Jesus, of prayer and supplication, without which this world might very well fall apart. Because she’s nearing our eternal home, and pointing us to that heavenly splendor as well.

While it’s natural to feel sadness at the departure of a dear friend, I can’t possibly avoid the joy that comes soon after. I may pay a few visits to her empty bedroom, may sit sadly in silence in our living room missing her company, may ache over the separation. But I’ll think of the cell she’ll now fill, of the joy and companionship she’ll find in her community, of the newly deepened union with God she has before her. I’ll give thanks for the countless meals around our table and late night conversations over glasses of wine and Masses and holy hours and the simple beauty of daily life together. And while I may be losing Lauren in a sense, the truth is, thanks to the mystical body of Christ, it really is quite a gain.




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