questions in bubbles

What Can I Do? Thank you. Sr. Martha

 November 21, 2023

This past week I read the Facebook post by Fr. James Martin about the passing of his friend and mentor, Sr. Martha Buser. I have never met Sr. Martha (nor have I met Fr. James Martin though I follow him on X, aka Twitter) but I was inspired by her, in particular by what she wrote shortly before her death at 91 so I decided to share it here. To think that at 91 she was still looking for the next chapter in her life, asking, “what can I do?” I hope that I never stop asking “what can I do?” for others, for the world. Thank you, Sr. Martha, for a life well lived.

What can I do?

What can I do? People often ask that question. Maybe it’s because it’s an important question and maybe it’s because it has so many answers, you can get tired of it—we may get tired of mulling this question over, but progress probably is best made by those who ask that question.

What can I do? I can’t do what I did for a while and so it seems like a very simple question. I just find something else to do. So, what do I do about not being able to do what I used to, is grow content in what I can do, and explore the creative and fun things I can do.

One thing I have tried is that besides looking for new things to do, I look at who I am. Who I am is a beautiful, contented, fruitful woman in her nineties. I find myself in that position. Actually, I like being in this position for more than one reason. I don’t have to prove myself to anybody, especially not to myself. I can, as it were, rest on the oars and let the boat drift, and frankly, there is contentment in doing that, if that doesn’t last too long.

Surely there is something more creative to do than rest on your oars! One thing that may help others as it has helped me: I have found there are other people done with resting on their proverbial oars and are wondering what is next. Some people have found a new career, and in listening to others, I’ve learned that can be a struggle in discovering what is next. There are still others who have found new life and examining possibilities that I thought would never work but work they did.

Sometimes, when I examine what I have done with my life, I am joyful in the seeds that I have planted by the grace of God. Some of the things I have done have been very fruitful for me and some have been fruitful for others. So, it’s a good thing to remember that. That’s what memories are for—to keep us alive. The fire that once burned has now turned to gentle embers, still warming, but not in the same way.

Contentment seems to be an unspoken goal for all of us, but more perhaps for older people who have longer memories to bask in. Since I once taught a class of third graders, I used to laugh and say I had 100 third graders when actually I only had 30 third graders! I always counted 100 because there was Michael who was a real handful and Charlie who made up for the other 70. Fortunately, I got tired of doing that and found other grades to teach. Then, I gave up teaching altogether and went into a different ministry, and I found that this is what I became.

I’m trying to be calm, and not to become a bitter old woman who bores people with tales of the past or one of those who kept on doing what they did even when it’s long past that time. But now, I am wondering what to do when I can’t do what I did, and not be a terrible burden. I am looking for new possibilities, new horizons.

–Martha Buser, OSU.

What new possibilities are you looking for, dear reader????? Thank you to all of you for being part of my life! Wishing you a blessed Thanksgiving!

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