Saturday, April 20 2024

Marks two years since a woman of a certain breed –chosen by God, unique and unforgettable for those like me who had the gift of knowing her – went to Heaven. I still can hardly believe it. I would like to remember the last moments I spent with her, with my soul sister, my confidant, my supporter, my teacher, and my favorite person. Here are some of them.

The last day I visited her at her home on Austria Street, she was waiting for me all dressed up and, even though it was the time of the covid pandemic, she wasn’t wearing a mask. She said, “Let’s not use masks… We’re at least two meters away from each other…”

Without mentioning her terminal cancer, she told me, looking out the window:

“I couldn’t believe it when they told me, I think I refused to listen at first… but then I thought, ‘Why not me…?’” I’ll never forget those words….

I, who knew her for so many years, and always saw her as energetic, determined, dynamic, and adventurous woman, can imagine what she must have been thinking after hearing the diagnosis:

“Lord, You take me out of the way, but I still have a long way to go, many souls to lead to the kingdom, laughter to share and joy to spread, hope to bring to those who anguish, strength I have received from You that I have not yet spread to others… But if You want it to be this way, Lord… I do too.”

She encouraged me to keep writing. She liked my writing. She put me in touch with people from her University Chair in Rome, and in the end (although I have told this story before), she took a ring off her hand and said, “I want you to have it.” It was a rosary ring, as rare and beautiful as any I had ever seen. It had been given to her by her sister. I realized that she was saying goodbye to me.

We had tea, and on my way out she showed me some books for sale. I, who am not much of a reader, preferred to hand her an equivalent amount of money and said, “For the flowers to Our Lady.” The next day I received a picture with flowers on the altar where it said, “Your flowers give joy to God…”

In August ’21 she had written to me, sending me a picture of her wearing a fun hat, which suited her very well. She told me that she had worn it and presented herself like that at a meeting held in her home, where she had handed out candy, which (according to her…) came from Europe. She was having fun and entertaining others, as if she wanted people to forget about her illness.

This is Elina. A woman for whom small details were everything: Exquisite, simple, strong, and present. Wherever she went, she left her mark, her stamp, her words of encouragement: “You can…!!! Do it…!!!”

I still have messages from her on WhatsApp. I simply cannot bring myself to delete them. And every now and then I listen to her voice messages just to hear her voice again, the same as always, crisp and full of life. In each message: a lesson, a reflection, a piece of wisdom.

A few days before her departure, I wrote to her asking if I could visit her (I was 500 km away), and she replied verbatim:

“Of course you can, otherwise I’ll be angry. This week my strength has been lacking. Help me to ask for strength. However, my soul is filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I have peace and joy in my heart. I have a hug to give you from Our Lady of the Smile. She is small but divine…”

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