Carrying Sister Helen with me

Marissa Ebels with Sister Helen Bueche at their final banquet at the Marywood Dominican Center May 2, 2018

It always is a bit intimidating to realize just how much time has passed. The seasons in Michigan have been changing rapidly, and along with it a series of endings for many of the projects I have been working on, Sister Story being one of them. In the reflection of the experience, I have realized that this was nothing I could have mapped out myself. 

Everything about this was just as unique as the people involved. Sister Helen and I have cultivated a special relationship that I believe formed in a very peculiar way. I met with her on a weekly basis, asking her many intimate and personal details of her life, both of us knowing that the end goal was the interview process. Yet everything in between was up to us. Both of us went in nervous, with our own reservations, worries or baggage. But it was the complete trust in one another that allowed for such a close bond to happen. I don't think this relationship could have or would have happened in any other way but this.

While the formal ending to this chapter of my story with Sister Helen, it is really only the beginning of what we look forward to being a longtime friendship. As I talked to my boyfriend tonight over dinner, I realized that I myself had really become an expert on my sister's life. It's a humbling reminder that this is why oral history is important. I love my sister. I want the world to know what a phenomenal women she is. I want them to know of her work, her activism and her growth.

This project ensures that I have done my part in preserving her story, and I will continue to learn from her and carry those pieces of her with me in all that I do. There are so many fun projects we could do next -- from digitally archiving her photographs, to revisiting the places that she grew up, to mapping out her movement across the United States. Rest assured, I am already scheming our next grand adventure together.

We are planning on meeting next semester when school picks up in the fall. I made her a mug in my ceramics class that's perfectly lopsided. The glaze that was used was a bit more on the earthy side; I know Sister Helen loves nature.

There's something so delicate about the last week. I sent her emails with a song I think she'd like and a poet I knew she'd appreciate. I gave her a copy of a book I did a project on because she wanted to learn more about what I study.

Writing this, I have to admit that I am tearing up. Sister Helen has become such an incredible friend. August seems too far away. In my circle, we never say goodbye, we say, "I'll see you soon."

This is not our goodbye. We have so much yet to do.

About Marissa Ebels

Marissa Ebels is a Junior at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, studying Political Science with a minor in Women's Studies. She was raised in the Southern Baptist and Christian Reformed traditions from birth and is now non-denominational. Working closely within various religious communities, she has become fascinated by the lives of women religious. Marissa is passionate about sexual assault advocacy, interfaith activities, activist work, and Middle East politics. During the Spring of 2018 she was paired with Sister Helen Bueche, OP; a Dominican Sister.