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Westra’s ‘All shall be well’ a lasting gift to all

FARGO — “All shall be well.” These were the last words my friend Vicky Westra typed into her blog, The Westra World, before her death on Oct. 13.

At her funeral, her cousin Rob reminded us how intentionally Vicky had always chosen her words. Undoubtedly, this was her parting, and lasting, gift to us all.

And while I’m counting on these words being true, right now, I’m struggling. Vicky had asked Bridget Cullen and me to read Scripture at her funeral.

“Who could say No to Vicky?” Bridget remarked. Vicky had drawn many to her, and we felt honored to be chosen to share God’s life-giving words and some reflections.

The day of the service, I worked hard to stay composed. But grief doesn’t ask permission to show up, and by evening, the familiar thump to body and soul hit hard. More than mere fatigue, I realized, it was loss.

Curling up into bed early, I fell into a long, restless night trying to confront that this beautiful friend with the gentle voice and accommodating presence is no longer physically here.

Fellow bloggers just a river apart, Vicky and I met online in 2010, not long before her terminal diagnosis. Soon thereafter, while planning a visit to the Carmel of Mary Monastery in Wahpeton to tend to a writing project, I had a thought. Could the peace I’d found at the monastery bring Vicky restoration? The sisters kindly agreed to an extra guest.

That visit turned into the first of many gatherings for the two of us. Over the next seven years, Vicky became my Carmel Companion.

At the convent, we happily captured God’s beauty of earth and sky through our camera lenses; giggled gratefully over the mystery of sharing space with a cloistered community; and delightedly inhaled the sacred sights, smells and sounds together.

The sisters came to love Vicky as much as I did. And though I initially instigated these rendezvous, Vicky eventually tapped me about going. It had become a need, a way to calm her soul in the difficult journey.

I miss her so much and know this longing will only grow in the coming months. But I’m gratified, too, for the very gift of knowing her, and the lessons she taught me, and so many, about living fully even in dying.

Having become conformed to Christ through her suffering and will, Vicky is now stepping into the bliss that awaits those who love him. Watching her forge this path with such grace has brought comfort, for as she said in an article I wrote in 2011, “If I can, you can.”

Dear Vicky, please pray for us from your new home, and if you would, fluff the pillows for the slumber party to come. I trust our adventures have not ended, but only just begun.

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” — Saint Juliana of Norwich

To share in Roxane’s and Vicky’s adventures at the monastery, visit Roxane’s blog at http://roxanesalonen.com/2018/10/me-and-my-carmel-companion/.