It struck how the last time I offered Sofia communion she kept eye contact and mouthed all the old familiar words of the liturgy. I leaned into her hospital bed and set the Bread and Wine aside so I could see her face and realized I was holding her and not the bread as I said “we give thanks for this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving…we offer you these gifts.” Sofia took the worst multiple sclerosis had and offered it back to all of us with humor, determination, intelligence, wit, charm, independence, hope, creativity, uniqueness, limericks, sweetness, tirelessness, truth and especially in the end grace. We all have Sofia stories. Alexia, her sister just told me that Sofia’s last joke was “What do you call a deer with no eyes?” “No eye deer!” Sofia’s mom, Helga tells the story of an impish Sofia taking off in her wheelchair even though her eyesight was horrible and raced down Timberlane, onto Woodmont Blvd. darting and dodging traffic all the way to the golf store by West End until the owner called her to come get Sofia. For years I’ve heard the stories of the Scrabble games with Michael, Steve, Hannah, Chris, Stephanie and Allen. Michael said he loved to play, especially after Sofia couldn’t move her own tiles anymore because it made it easier for him to cheat and have a shot against her. Her last meal was chocolate ice cream that she told the nurse was the “nectar of the angels.”
The Beatitudes we read today is a lesson on how to live. It teaches us about living into the truth that we are to spend our lives doing two things: 1. Love God, ourselves and each other with our whole hearts. 2. Be prepared to die (sacrifice our lives for love). Sofia taught us how to do both.
Whether it was through her poetry or pottery she showed her love to the community. One of her last hopes was to make vases for the tables of the Thistle Stop Café. She never gave up trying to create and support others, even as she was getting pretty worn down. In her darkest moments of struggling with loss of freedom or wrestling with her mortality she would turn her fear into a beautiful piece of poetry or roll her eyes in true humility and say, “Oh, well!”
She was still working toward her dream of a communal living space in Germantown up until her last weeks with us. It is unbelievable that she died so young, but she taught me so much about death. She knew what she faced, and she didn’t flinch. Her last words in the communion service to Helga, Andrea and me were just mouthed, “I love you, I love you, I love you” over and over and over so we wouldn’t forget. When we have walked or wheeled as far as we can make it and lived our lives in truth and steadfast faith, it makes perfect sense that our last words are love, love, love, love. Let Sofia remind us as the Saint she is, that it is love that is the last word of a life lived with faith and beauty that is so exquisite that it is heartbreaking to let it go.
Sofia Carla Maneschi June 22, 1975 - January 26, 2014
Peace and love,