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For fifty-two years of post-college adulthood, she lived in service to those in need, in the name of God.

Statistical records needn’t tell how many adolescent young women on the surrounding streets succumbed to the consequences of maturing biology once infused, never recovering from an invisible added burden inevitably carried alone.

Caught in a sticky circle of despair brought on by flatlined possibilities and its absorption of loss of hope, desperate measures swallowed them whole.  The faces of a few who overdosed, who faded faster than arriving assistance and died in her comforting arms steadied against a trembling interior, formed up in memory, sometimes at will, sometimes in nightmare.

Before her order shed their identifying black and white, back in the protest days of the Southeast Asia conflict and the war America made on itself declaring some of its own less than human, society worked in insidious and seedy ways.  One, a veneer of righteous prudishness overlay and crushed a legitimate failsafe option.  The resulting workaround produced the worst experiences and memories in the 74 years of Sister Janice Nolan.

The worst reached the convent steps and managed the doorbell before collapsing.  Jan wore too much of Doris Mellon’s blood, too little remained in Doris, the ambulance arrived too late.  Sometimes she hated the word ‘too’.  She never picked up another single point knitting needle, even when cleaning.  Her hands shook at the touch.

The sixties offered the first hard knock against decades of institutionalised injustice, from JFK optimism to the modernisations of Pope John XXIII.  Horizons broadened on the stains of shed blood and the solidarity of determined peoples.

The country stepped onto a greased slide of conservatism in 1980, the embryonic stage shallow but ominous.  Thirty years later, the looming threat of rolled-back gains left her no choice.

To be continued…

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