Reaching for the Divine by Danny Oz
Sister Mary stood on the roof of the eastern wing of the abbey. The view was spectacular in the daytime, but for the moment it was long enough before dawn that she and Sister Doris were working by lamplight. She watched quietly as the older woman double and triple-checked everything.
“Well, I’ve done all I can, it’s up to God to keep me safe now,” said her friend with a smile. Sister Mary looked again at the glider and her heart skipped a beat. Would it really work? Sister Doris had spent so much time on it, designed and built it herself, but Mary couldn’t help but wonder if it was safe. She had all the faith in the world in the older nun, it was gravity she didn’t trust.
The land around them was beginning to lighten in the false dawn, and the view was spectacular. The abbey had been built on a mountain. The drop from the east wing, over the cliff edge, was substantial.
Sister Mary’s face flushed and her heart pounded with the close contact as she helped Sister Doris into the harness. She was ashamed, such things often led to thoughts that were unworthy of one in the service of God. She would pray for forgiveness later. The older nun seemed not to notice the effect she had on her fellow.
But then, she never had. And why would she?
At last all was ready. The first rays of the sun were creeping over the horizon. Sister Doris shifted the glider’s wings a few times, making sure she was comfortable with the feel, the morning light painting both her and the machine in the same rich, warm hues. Finally she was ready to make her literal leap of faith.
“I know that you are in love me, Sister Mary.”
Shocked, the younger nun struggled with her words, embarrassed, trying to deny it and to explain at the same time. Sister Doris gave her the smile that had first stolen her heart, loving and mischievous at the same time, and told her it was okay.
“I have loved you too, since your first day here as a postulant.”
Sister Mary’s head swam with the thought. Sister Doris had, for so many years, tread that fine line between inspiration and damnation with her thoughts and ideas that were so very bold. That she had been allowed to build the glider at all was a small miracle in itself, and said much for the respect she had from the order, not to mention the Abbess. If Sister Doris wanted to do something, no matter how outlandish, it was generally seen that only good could come of it. Everything the nun did enriched the lives of the people and the world around her. She was seen by many to be a living example of the joy to be found in the service of the Lord.
And she loved Mary?
“But I am nobody,” said Sister Mary, finding her voice at last. Sister Doris looked at her with a love that ran so deep and strong the younger woman had to look away.
“You are the only one I have ever loved as much as I love my God. I see the divine in you, in everything you do, even in the simplest of tasks – tending the garden, washing floors, making food - how could I love God and not love you, when in the smallest of acts, you move and inspire me as much as He does with all His creation?”
Tears pricked at Sister Mary’s eyes. All this time, and the woman whose very vitality she saw as nothing less than a spark of the divine, saw those same qualities in her.
“Doris,” she said, shocked at her own boldness, “I am afraid I may lose you to this. I fear you may never come back, may die, and I’m not sure that I could go on if you didn’t return… Especially in light of what you have told me. But this is who you are, you dare more and so live more, and I could never deny you that life. So I shall not ask you not to do this, I shall merely pray that you come back to me safely.”
The smile Sister Doris always wore faded, and her face became both sad and loving. “Whether I come back or not, we may never be truly together, we both know this. So instead I shall fly as close as I can to my God, and in doing so, fly a little closer to you, my love. It’s why I insisted we do this in secret - I would share this first flight with no other. I care only for you and the Lord, and this, this is my love letter to you both. If I live, then we will each know the truth of the others feelings, and let that knowledge buoy our time together in this life. If I should die I will be waiting for you in Heaven, where if God is merciful and loving, and I know that he is, we shall have eternity together.” She blinked away the hint of a tear, and then the old smile and energy returned.
“And I think that the time has come.”
Sister Mary watched as Sister Doris prepared herself for the run along the rough built ramp that led over the edge of the parapet. Doris paused to kiss the crucifix around her neck, and to smile briefly with eyes full love at Mary.
Then, without another word, Doris ran forward and launched herself into the sky, and Mary watched as their love soared high above the morning sun.